It’s a delicate balancing act. You need to search for a new job. However, you don’t want your current employer to know that you’re thinking of jumping ship. This is understandable, since your employer may take steps to hasten your departure. Even in a best-case scenario, you’ll likely be treated “differently” once your intent is known.
That’s because this situation is similar to continuing to live with your spouse after you’ve declared your intention to file for divorce. There’s a cloud of suspicion and mistrust in the air. Any time you appear startled when the person walks into the room, it gives the impression that you were doing something secretive and possibly dishonest. The other party starts withholding information from you. It’s generally unpleasant.
Depending on the type of work you perform, the company may be suspicious that you’ll attempt to copy confidential company information, or that you may reveal the organization’s secrets to its competitors. Or there may be a sense of betrayal that you’re trying to leave the company, especially if the company feels that it has been a good employer. As a result, you may be considered ungrateful, and other employers and managers may distance themselves from you.
If you quickly get another job, this uncomfortableness will be over soon. However, if the search drags on and on, revealing your intentions will cause you plenty of heartache. It’s difficult for your employer to plan “around” you and this uncertainty. Should the company start looking for your replacement? Should it continue to include you in high-level staff meetings? Is your name taken off the list for upcoming conferences and continuing education? Should you be included when updating and swapping out laptops, software, cell phones, etc.?
These are just some of the issues that may arise when it is revealed that you’re looking for another job. Therefore, you need to keep your search as secretive as possible. Following these tips will help you maintain this guarded secret.
Don’t Search On Company Time Or Using The Company’s Computer
First of all, that just a lack of integrity on so many levels. Your employer is paying you to perform a service for the organization. It’s bad enough that you’re not working, but it is twice as bad that you’re actually using their time and equipment to search in your efforts to leave them.
If you’re not stopped by the integrity factor, consider this: Your company has a right to monitor anything that you do on company time or with company equipment. So the organization can track your phone calls, read your text messages, view your email correspondence, etc. because after all, it’s theirs. And finding out that you are abusing company time and equipment can make for a very uncomfortable work environment.
Don’t Use Your Company Email Address Or Phone Number
This is another integrity issue that could come back to bite you. Listing your current employer’s email address is a blatant disregard for the company. Let’s go back to the example about living with your spouse when you’re about to file for divorce. If you’re involved in another relationship, would you give this person your soon-to-be ex’s phone number as a way to contact you? Would you ask them to send mail to the house that you still share with your spouse knowing it could be intercepted?
Also, consider the impact that your actions have on potential employers. If you would abuse your current employer’s email system, why would another company trust you to be faithful to them? And, since most companies have caller-id systems, what happens when a potential employer calls you at work, and the secretary notices the company name of a competitor?
Before you send out any resumes, you need to set up a personal email contact, which fortunately, is free. Also, if you only have a company-issued phone, consider getting a voice mailbox from a phone company so you can call in to hear new messages.
Don’t Tell Your Coworkers
Hopefully you have a good relationship with your coworkers. However, you need to remember all of the juicy gossip that you’ve received from them over the years. If they will tell you the business of other employers, do you really think that they won’t share your personal business as well? The only way to be sure is to keep this information to yourself.
Don’t Go Overboard On Social Media Sites
If you’re looking for a job, it’s understandable that you might use social media, but remember that you’re leaving a digital footprint that may leave red flags. People will take notice if you start connecting with and “friending” recruitment managers. Totally overhauling your LinkedIn profile may also send red flags. The best way to avoid looking suspicious is to make sure those recruitment manager connections are just a small part of a lot of other types of connections. Also, keep your LinkedIn profile updated on a regular basis, so it will appear that you are just performing routine maintenance on your profile.
Guard References And Contact Information
At some point during the interview process, you will be asked for references, and you will likely be asked if your manager can be contacted. This is a very delicate situation. While you need to make sure that your references can accurately attest to your skills and abilities, you also need to be sure that these are people that you can trust to maintain confidentiality – especially if they work with you.
The manager situation is even stickier. If you ask potential employers not to contact your present manager, they may think it could indicate that you have a contentious relationship and perhaps this person would shed light on your shortcomings. So explain that your employer doesn’t know that you’re looking for a new job and you will consent to having this person contacted only if you’re a serious contender. Also, try to find out if and when your manager will be contacted. On one hand, you don’t want to give your manager a heads-up if no contact is ever made. On the other hand, you don’t want your manager to be blindsided if contact is made before you’ve had a chance to explain that you’re searching for a new job.
Searching for a job while maintaining your current position can be a sensitive and potentially career-damaging exercise. However, by using integrity and maintaining confidentiality, you can succeed at finding a new job without burning your bridges.