I often get asked what the best approach is for secretly hunting for a new job when you already have one. What I’ve noticed is that people seem to be quite afraid they’ll be found out and should go to great lengths to hide any and all job search activities. It made me start wondering where this fear comes from. Are they scared that they will be fired for lack of loyalty? Does it stem from their own guilt that it could be considered “cheating” on their company?
Based on my own experiences over the years, both first and second hand, I’ve found that these fears are mostly baseless. If you think about it, no company promises to be loyal to you. They can and will lay you off without reason. Technically, you are a business expense and if you aren’t helping to grow or sustain the company in some way, they may let you go no matter how much of your blood, sweat, and tears you’ve given them. It’s just business. It’s not personal. If you agree this is true, then you shouldn’t feel guilty or disloyal for seeing what other options are out there for you. After all, you didn’t sign a marriage certificate to your company!
Before you embark on that job hunt, take a little time to first consider the answers to these questions:
- Have you had an honest conversation with your manager about your future at the company?
- Have you been very clear about what you want and what it would take to make that happen? Many people (especially women) don't ask for what they want. Don't assume that opportunities, a raise, or a promotion will be offered to you. You have to ask for them!
- Are you sure that your current company is no longer the right fit for you? Do you know what type of company would be a better fit?
- Beyond your actual job responsibilities, it’s important to assess whether your current company is the right culture fit for you. If not, take some time to identify the environment and culture that will enable you to do your best work and don’t settle for less in your next move.
- Have you assessed the competitive landscape for your job in your industry?
- It’s important to know how valued you are for your expertise and knowledge in today’s economic times. If you work in a highly competitive industry where talent is a premium (e.g. engineering), a job search could tell you more about your financial worth and if you’re being compensated commensurately at your current employer. On the flip side, if you sense that there could be some downsizing in your department soon, it’s smart to be shopping for other options and seeing what else is out there. Basically, make sure you don’t have your head buried in the sand or are unaware of your professional value.
If you’re still convinced that it’s time to look for a new job, there’s no need to go into stealth mode to make it happen. Here are a few of my tips for looking for another job while you are still employed:
Tip #1: Tell (almost) everyone you know that you’re open to opportunities elsewhere
If you are currently employed, most of your network won’t even think of you when a job opens up at their company or elsewhere. You need to let people know that you’re open to new opportunities and what you’re looking for specifically. Keeping your job search a closely guarded secret will only make it harder for you to find interesting opportunities. Ok, so there are a few people you shouldn’t mention this to...any of your co-workers. It’s important to keep your job hunt under the lid at your workplace until you have an offer in hand. That being said, even if your manager did find out, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. It will open up a much needed conversation and instantly give you an idea of how much the company values you and wants to keep you there (or not).
Tip #2: Start networking on LinkedIn without raising any eyebrows
Did you know that you can hide your activity history in LinkedIn so others don’t see how actively you’re adding new contacts or whether you’ve updated your profile? Just go to the Settings section of your LinkedIn account and turn off your activity broadcasts as well as modify who can see your activity feed. You can easily change your settings back once your job search has ended and you have a new job to announce. (Check out my article on job search strategy for more tips on leveraging LinkedIn.)
Tip #3: Consider internal transfer options
If you think you are in the right company but hitting a dead end in your current position or department, start networking internally to see what else is available which could be a good fit. If you have been a strong performer, you have a good chance of making an internal transfer happen. I know this is an obvious tip but there are major benefits to sticking where you are that shouldn’t be overlooked. You already have relationships built, some tenure, and have the ability to get up to speed more quickly than if you started from scratch somewhere else. Frequent job hopping (less than 2 years at a company) can raise red flags for recruiters and hiring managers, so make sure you’re leaving a company for the right reasons and you’ve exhausted all of your options.
Bottom line, your job search doesn’t need to be top secret but do use good judgement on how you approach this process and make sure you’re making a move for the right reasons.