The time comes when you get tired of the same job. The promotion has been given to someone else, there’s a managerial shuffle, or a complete organisational reshuffle that’s making your current position feel like it’s impossible to maintain and keep your sanity.
Whatever the reason, there comes a time when you know (or feel like you know) that you’ve reached a tipping point in your current position and you’re ready to move on for the sake of your career. Problem is that job hopping isn’t always taken kindly by current employers. Not only the boss, but it could plant seeds of doubt over your capabilities, loyalties, and commitment to tasks assigned to you by department managers.
The most difficult time when you really need to go into stealth mode for a job search would be when you’ve a performance review pending. That’s when you need to pull out all the stops and run your job-hunting operation covertly.
Keeping the lid on your intentions to move on from your current employer
1. Don’t tell people
As obvious as that sounds, you’d be surprised. Trust nobody in a workplace. Office politics will take over and your covert operation will be the words being spoken from everyone’s lips around the office. It’ll start as a rumour but it’ll reach the ears of the very people you don’t want to know. Suspicions will be raised, and you’ll find yourself being watched more.
Even if you’re not being scrutinised, you’ll get paranoid and it could affect your work. Keep your intentions to a need-to-know basis. Only those you can trust who are outside of your workplace, such as friends you don’t work with or people in your professional network that you trust to keep a lid on it… confide in those people and only for advice to help you move on. Not to provide them gossip on your secret job search.
2. Maintain your integrity
Integrity is high on every recruiter’s wish list. One way to jeopardise that instantly is to arrange for interviews on your current boss’s time. That’s not cool! Your employer is paying you a wage to do a job. Not to hunt for another job. If the interviewers even suspect you’ve arranged to attend the interview when you’re supposed to be working, it’ll not bode well. Expect it to be noted.
When you’re interviewing with any company, make them aware of your current situation and request that they keep the procedures confidential. They don’t need to contact your current employer for a reference until things get serious. Until then, use recommendations from past employers, or supervisors that you still have contact with. If you don’t have that, use character references.
Arrange for interviews to be done outside of normal office hours. This isn’t unusual activity for senior managerial positions. In fact, it’s been known for bosses to meet with candidates during their travel time. A working breakfast, working lunch, or an interview over coffee is possible in the early stages of recruitment.
Show your integrity from the get go by respecting your current employer and the responsibility you have to them, anything less will cast a shadow of doubt over your integrity and that will hinder your chances of landing the job.
If you really can’t get an out of office hours’ appointment for an interview, never call in sick. Take a personal day. You don’t need to explain why you need it. Just request it. Even a half day.
3. Don’t change your appearance at work on the day of an interview
Say your current position has a dress down Friday; you’ve worked there for years so you can’t exactly conveniently forget about it or claim ignorance. Everyone’s in casuals and you’re strolling in after arranging an interview over lunch with your best gear on, full presentation mode primed for interview first impressions. Red flag automatically.
Keep a change of clothes in your car for a quick toilet change, or schedule enough time for you to get home and changed before you head back to work.
4. Pay for things out of your own pocket
It does cost money to look for a job. You will have phone calls to make and materials to print. Don’t pass the cost onto your current employer. It’s unethical and it’s going against #2 above of maintaining your integrity.
Resist the urge to use work phones, printers, copiers and paper. And most certainly don’t list your office number and extension as a contact number with target companies.
If you have a work phone, do not use it. They have itemised bills and it’ll show a change in your regular usage, which can set alarm bells ringing. Nor should you be using your work email. In fact, in work, do nothing for a job search. It’s completely visible and even your emails aren’t confidential.
Employers are legally allowed to open your mail and work e-mail, use automated software to check e-mails, check phone logs, and they can even record your phone calls when you use a work telephone. For internet browsing, there are logs detailing every website you visit so - don’t do it. Not even on your own phone connected to the work internet.
5. Use the Net Wisely
Online job searching is a necessity but you can limit the information that’s made public. For online job sites, you can request that basic identifiable information isn’t made public but only shown confidentially to potential recruiters.
For social activity, there are a few controls you can use to keep your visibility and alerts to others to a minimum, or eliminate them completely. Obviously, the natural etiquette of Facebook and Twitter applies. Just don’t do it, if you need to reach someone confidentially, do so in private and never public. Preferably move the conversation to face-to-face when possible.
For LinkedIn, since it’s the network of professionals, you most certainly don’t want current bosses finding out you’ve suddenly become highly active on the platform.
To control your data on LinkedIn, there are a few tweaks you can make to your settings that limit the information about your activity being shared.
- Go into your privacy settings and select the option that reads “Sharing Profile Edits”. And slide it to “No”. This will stop your connections from being notified of any changes you make to your profile. Like updating your profile image to a more professional looking head-shot, which is a dead giveaway that you’re looking for a new job.
- While you’re in privacy settings, go to the section for “Who can see your connections” and select the option that reads “Only you”. Why would you do that? Because when you’re networking for new opportunities and reaching out to target companies you want to be hired by, by default, anyone (including your boss if they get suspicious) can turn to your profile, click your connections and see every connection you have on LinkedIn. Not what you want to be happening when you’re trying to keep your job search on the down low.
- A definite change that needs made is to your communications settings. Go to Privacy | Communication settings | Messages from Members and select “change”. In here, you can add a custom message to people on LinkedIn, which shows when someone is about to message you.
- By default everything is checked including that you’re interested in receiving messages about “job opportunities” and “career opportunities”. These settings are no use when you’re trying to fly under the radar for new career opportunities. With them activated, anyone from your current place of work can go to your LinkedIn profile, click to send you an InMail and see instantly that you’re interested in hearing about new job offerings and career opportunities. Any suspicions your boss has could be confirmed instantly with just that one check. Deselect “career opportunities” and “job offerings” in this setting.
The best time to look for a new job is when you’re in a job, but to keep you on good terms with your existing employer, you’re best not to rock the boat. You never know what’s available anyway. Things could improve at your current position such as positive changes that make you reconsider your current position. You want to keep that Ace card close and not be forced into a situation where you have to move jobs.