But while looking for a job when you have a job might be preferable to searching while unemployed, that doesn’t mean that the secret job search is easy.
Above all, you can’t afford to let your employer know that you’re looking: most workers in the U.S. are employed at will, which means that your boss can fire you for any reason or no reason at all, as long as it isn’t discriminatory. Fail to keep your job search under wraps, and you could lose the gig you’ve got.
So, OK, you’re convinced: you need to keep your job search a secret. But how? Start with these tips:
1. Keep It Off Social Media
There are very few advantages to being unemployed, but here’s one of them: you can update your social media profiles to let people know that you’re looking for opportunities. When you have a job, you have to keep your search hush-hush.
As much as it might pain you, don’t update your LinkedIn profile to say that you’re looking for a new job. Chances are, you’re connected to your boss, or to someone who’ll spill the beans. Instead, update all your social media profiles to reflect the best possible version of you, so that hiring managers can see your skills and qualifications — and not embarrassing college party photos or anything that isn’t safe for work.
2. Don’t Use Company Time, Equipment or Resources
The boundaries between work and life are pretty blurry these days … but they’ll get crystal clear in a hurry if the boss catches you using your company laptop to send out resumes. As tricky as it might be to schedule, keep your job search outside the office. You don’t need the stress of wondering whether you’ll get caught — and in today’s heavily monitored workplace, chances are that you will.
3. Schedule Your Interviews With Care
Finding time for job interviews is arguably the hardest part of the stealth job hunt. If you can, avoid lying. Instead, get creative about scheduling.
“Try to schedule interviews for either the beginning or the end of the day or on your lunch hour,” suggests Alison Doyle at The Balance. “If you have vacation time you can use, schedule multiple interviews for the same day.”
4. Line Up Other References
If you accept an offer, chances are that you’ll have to submit to a background check, and thus to your new employer talking to your old one. Until then, try to keep the two from talking. That means getting references that aren’t associated with your current job. Even if you trust your colleagues, it’s better not to let your search get out until you’re ready to make a move. (See above re: at-will employment.)
5. Keep Doing Your Job
The most important thing you can do while job searching is to keep doing your current job well. That will avoid raising suspicion among your teammates, and it will also keep from burning your bridges. Remember: most industries are small worlds. You might be eager to leave your job now, but you’ll see some of these folks again. Make sure they’re left with a good last impression.
Tell Us What You Think
Have you successfully conducted a job search while working somewhere else? We want to hear from you. Tell us your secrets in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.