Looking for a job while employed and collecting a paycheck may seem like the best of both worlds, but it adds a few extra challenges that you’ll need to account for.
Recruiters and companies often prefer to work with still-employed candidates, since they are more likely to have up-to-date skills. However, applying for jobs while employed can spell logistical nightmare for you. Unless your boss has warned you of upcoming layoffs and has authorized you to use company time for a job search, you will have to channel your inner Jason Bourne and make your next steps stealthy.
How do you successfully start looking for a job while employed?Here are some tips.
1. Update your LinkedIn profile.
A recruiter or a potential employer will check your LinkedIn profile when your resume shows up. Don’t wait until the last minute – update your profile now!
Here are a few things to consider before you jump into editing. First off, consider turning off notifications, so that your profile updates are not broadcast across your network. Second, don’t tag your profile with “looking for a new job” – your employer may be watching. Lastly, keep your listed skills updated and consistent with what you do at your current job. A dramatic change in your online profile, particularly if it does not reflect the position you currently hold, can serve as a tip-off.
2. Don’t post your resume on job boards.
Nothing kills a discrete job search faster than receiving 15 messages from recruiters, including three voicemails on your work phone. Don’t post your resume on job boards. The best new opportunities come from networking, and the risk of missing a great job on a board is more than offset by assurance that your boss won’t come across your resume online.
3. Don’t drop hints.
It can be frustrating and unsatisfying to stay quiet about your search. You might want to commiserate with your co-workers if an interview did not go well, or hint to your boss that you do not care about a recent reprimand because you are virtually out of there already. Fight the temptation, and keep quiet. Telling one co-worker is often the same as telling them all!
This advice extends to social media. Some employers monitor Facebook and Twitter accounts of their employees. Even if they don’t, you never know who is connected to whom through the virtual network. Stay away from posting job search-related updates, from the obvious “Wish me luck! Heading into my second interview at ABC company this afternoon!” to a more vague “Something exciting is in the works! I cannot tell you now, but come back next week for an update!”
4. Schedule interviews outside work hours as much as possible.
You can only have so many 9 AM doctor appointments in a week before you raise suspicion! Consider breakfast and lunch meetings, or ask for a slot after work – many companies will accommodate your request, especially if you are upfront about your need for discretion.
If the interview is scheduled during working hours, consider taking a vacation or personal day. Some might say that calling in sick is an option, but I would advise against it. Your boss might still expect you to jump on an 11 AM conference call from home, and you would have more explaining to do. Bite the bullet, and take a day off so you won’t be distracted or expected to work.
5. Stealth helps.
Your ninja stealth should extend to what you wear to the office after an interview. If you show up to work in a suit and tie when you normally wear jeans and a blazer on a Friday, heads will turn and people will ask – forcing you to either talk before you are ready, or lie. If your normal look is business casual (or casual), consider taking a change of clothes with you to wear after the interview – or stop at home for a quick change on your way to the office.
6. Don’t sabotage yourself.
All too often, a job search that is meant to be undercover is revealed through self-sabotage. Don’t be that person who checks out from daily responsibilities, or picks fights with a “could not care less” attitude. Stay focused on your work, and keep conflict at bay as much as you can.
On the same note, don’t use the company network or phone to look for a new job. Always assume that your employer is looking. Getting fired over inappropriate use of company resources won’t help your search.
7. Don’t include your co-workers or boss as references.
This may sound obvious, but if you have been at your current company for a few years, it might seem natural to put down your boss’s name as a reference. If the potential employer makes the call before making you an offer, you run the risk of surprising your current manager before anything is finalized.
Keep in mind that reference checks are meant to be the very last step in the job search – not a screening tool for recruiters and hiring managers. Protect your personal and professional network, and don’t offer reference names until the end of the process.
8. Ask your prospective employer to be discreet.
Most hiring managers and recruiters assume that your current employer does not know you're looking for a job while employed. I recommend being clear and specific about your need for discretion. If you are keeping your cards close to your chest, and your recruiter is unwilling to honor that preference, pick another professional to help in your search.
9. Get efficient.
One of the most challenging aspects of your situation is that you have a full-time job in addition to your search. How do you find the time to dedicate to the new opportunity while staying focused and productive at work?
The key to looking for a job while employed is to plan ahead and get organized. Update your online profile and resume, and create a great cover letter layout, so that you are not starting from scratch when the search begins. Whether you use a personal organizer or an app, prioritize tasks, set deadlines, and keep an up-to-date calendar to avoid double booking your appointments.
10. Don’t act prematurely.
Hope is not a strategy! Take deep breaths, and stay away from doing or saying anything rash just because you had a promising interview. You don’t have a new job until you have received and accepted a job offer and have the signed paperwork. Anything you do or say until then must be carefully considered.
In other words, searching for a job while employed requires you to tread lightly, be patient, and stay discreet.
That being said, sometimes a job search reveals that grass only looks greener on the other side. If you discover how much you enjoy your current job, there is nothing wrong with calling off the search and staying where you are. The interview process would not have been a waste, because you will have earned a newfound appreciation of your short commute, interesting assignments, or a good working relationship with your boss. After all, no job is perfect – and if this process helps you rediscover your passion for the parts that you love, so be it.
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