The Career Coach is In

Job searching in secret

What are the best ways to look for a new job without undermining your current job? 

The quickest and most effective job searches are ones that are done out in the open, so that you can fire up your entire network to help you find a job. But sometimes, that isn't possible. The stealth job search requires some modifications.

1. Networking is done to help with "long-term" planning.

You have to network to find a new job, but when you initiate the conversation, tell your contact that you are happy where you are and have no current plans to leave. Then explain that you still want to be proactive and do some thinking about possible next steps before it becomes urgent. If your company or industry is in economic turmoil, then you have a perfect pretext: "Given everything that's going on with my company, it just feels prudent to do some preliminary legwork."

2. Request confidentiality.

There are no guarantees that your contacts won't talk, but you can certainly be up front about requesting confidentiality: "I know my supervisor will be upset/angry/anxious if she hears that I am doing anything regarding a job search, even if I don't intend to leave anytime soon, so I would appreciate it if you would keep our conversation confidential for now."

3. Be ready to answer the boss's concerns.

You don't want your boss to find out, but be ready in case she does: "I have no immediate plans to leave this position, or even to start a job search, but given the economy, I thought that I should at least tend to my networks and talk to a few people. I'm sorry if you got the wrong impression." Unless you have a great boss and a great relationship, however, immediately after using this line, step up your efforts. Now that the cat is out of the bag, there is no guarantee that an unfriendly boss won't take some negative action based on this information.

4. Dress up for work.

One of the biggest give-aways that someone is interviewing is a noticeable step up in the quality of their office attire. If you want to be able to interview and network without anyone noticing, then wear suits to work on a regular basis, especially on days when you will be present in the office the entire day. After a while, people will get used to this and won't automatically assume you have an interview. Alternatively, plan to change at the gym or at home before going to an interview.

5. Ask interviewers to keep your candidacy quiet.

Again, there are no guarantees, but you should tell an interviewer that you like your job and you don't intend to leave it unless you find the perfect fit. Ask them to please refrain from contacting your current supervisor or company until they have decided on you as the candidate. Most companies understand that good candidates are often employed and need to be lured away. If an interviewer doesn't want to honor your request, that would certainly raise a flag on how the company will treat you when you actually work for them.


Karen Chopra

 |  June 7, 2010; 5:16 AM ET  |  Category:  Career Change , Interviewing , Job Search , Networking Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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