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9 Tips on Going Incognito During Your Job Search

Updated: Jan 13, 2023

The last thing you need is for others to know what you are doing at work. Do not, I repeat Do NOT share your intent to look for another position. If you want to get fired that may very well come to light and happen sooner than you expect. No one will know if you follow these tips outlined by Robin Ryan, from Forbes.

Photo by Polina Zimmerman from Pexels

1. Don’t job hunt at work.

Define the time you can spend on this - lunchtime, before or after work, or on weekends. Likely that comes to about 5-7 hours per week. You don’t want to tip off coworkers that you’re on the hunt. Use your personal email and your personal cell phone if possible. Be careful who you text and who’s watching. Keep your phone on password protect and don’t let friends answer it for you or play with it.

Define your next move. Are you looking for a promotion? Is it a lateral career move or are you hoping to change careers? You need to go to Indeed to do some research identifying the next job and being clear on the title you seek.

2. Get your résumé and cover letter ready.

Take the time to create an effective résumé. Maybe you need professional help, especially if it’s been many years since you have been looking for a job. Today’s employers are looking for a very targeted résumé laced with your past results and accomplishments. Go online and read about Resume Writing and get through the Applicant Tracking System (ATS). Many job candidates never send a cover letter anymore. HR Managers say that if one is attached they usually read it. So to stand out, write a persuasive cover letter that outlines clearly how you can do the job. Open with a powerful first statement that explains your key strengths for doing the job. Mention skills and experience that hit the top requirements in the job listing. Always be sure your name, email and phone number are on the cover letter too.

3. Update your LinkedIn profile.

LinkedIn logo

Before you start making changes, turn off notifications so 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. If it’s been a few years since

you’ve updated the Profile, read this series of LinkedIn articles to help you develop your personal brand and be able to tap into the SEO needed to get recruiters’ attention. Update the “about” section and be sure your current job lists some key accomplishments. Check the Skills section since LinkedIn recently changed it. They now allow you to take a test and get a badge verifying you have a specific tech skill, Java, Photoshop, MS Project, Python, etc. This new article on Skills Assessment explains the details and what tests are available.

4. Remember loose lips sink ships.

You can share the search with a trusted friend outside of work or with your partner but watch out to not broadcast the fact you are looking. Keep your attitude at work on work and don’t develop a “I’m out of here asap” attitude as it may come through to others. I know one client told her work BFF and within a day it got back to her boss; seems the detail was too juicy for the work BFF to resist telling another worker or two. Outside of work, watch what you say on social media. No badmouthing your current employer! Some employers monitor Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts of their employees. Even if they don't, you never know who is connected to whom through the virtual network. Don’t ask for luck on your new job interview or inquire publicly what it is like to work at XYZ Company. Network with discretion.

5. Get prepared for job interviews.

Read a few books about job interviewing and write out answers to prospective questions you think you may be asked. Have a good answer as to why you want to leave your current employer. Noting that you want more challenge, seek to move up or that the company is experiencing a downturn and is preparing for layoffs are good reasons for moving on. Schedule interviews outside work hours as much as possible. Many employers will accommodate your request. If the interview is scheduled during working hours, consider taking a vacation or personal day. Some might use calling in sick or say they have a doctor’s appointment, but you can only do that once or twice. One client said she called in sick only to get a call from her boss minutes before the interview was to start wanting her on a conference call from home. She stumbled trying to think of how to get out of it. If you need to, take a day off so you won't be distracted or expected to work. This strategy allows you to show up and be professionally dressed in attire that is often viewed as “interview attire” and not usual work dress. No one sees you leaving and returning to your home.

6. Clarify your references.

You offer these at the end of the job hunt process during the interview stage. Ask the employer to not contact your current employer. Almost all will respect this request. That said, you need references that can attest to your ability to get the job done. Former managers who have left the company are ideal. In David’s case he used a vendor and a former boss who had just retired. Just be sure the person you list is not going to tell your current employer. Always be sure to reconnect with references and get their permission and current contact info.

7. Cherry pick!

Not all jobs are created equal. Only apply to the ones that look like good fits with companies you’ve researched and like the culture. This step saves a lot of time wasted on applying for just anything and getting overloaded. You still need to do your day job, so carefully selecting where to apply (and having LinkedIn advertising your skills 24/7) is the better strategy.

8. Get an employment letter.

Before you rush in to tell your boss you’re leaving, get something in writing that outlines your date and agreed upon salary, and any other key details. Sometimes your current company may try to keep you. They may meet or beat the offer, or they may just say bye-bye. Don't expect a counter offer. Do be considerate and offer two weeks’ notice, which is as long as you believe the current boss won’t fire you in a rage. Yes, that happens. If that’s a concern, give notice on the last day you want to work.

9. Make copies.

If there are any documents, contacts, files, etc. you want from your current employer be sure you have gotten all that copied off your computer before you give notice. You’ll instantly lose access and some of that info may be useful in the new job. Copy it, and put it on a backup drive or on a home or personal computer.

Following these tips will definitely make your job hunt go smoothly. No need to worry about your boss finding out. Soon enough you'll get that new job interview you want. Be subscribe to our blog for more tips and tricks. Reach out to Isabella for speaking engagements, training, or coaching.

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