Thursday, September 9, 2010

Remember discretion during job search

When I was head of human resources at TV Guide, I frequently met with candidates I was recruiting over breakfast at a restaurant near my office. One morning while I was having breakfast with a prospective candidate, in walks one of our employees and he sits down at a table with a recruiter I knew.
Up until that moment I had no idea he was looking at other opportunities. Moments like that are jokingly referred to as "career limiting moves." Now that I knew this employee was actively job hunting, I had to begin considering how I would fill his position if he left. Raises, promotional opportunities are off the table, reserved for employees expected to stay around for a while.

Even if you are unhappy in your job and are seeking a new one, it pays not to advertise that fact indiscriminately. How can you look for a new job without broadcasting the fact to your current employer? Here are some tips that might help you avoid the fate of that unlucky employee who I happened to run into that morning at breakfast.
Most of the experts I spoke with emphasized the importance of conducting your job search away from the office and not on work time. In that regard, the advice of Lavie Margolin, author of "Lion Cub Job Search: Practical Job Search Assistance for Practical Job Seekers," was representative:
"Designate certain non-working hours during the day to source for jobs on the internet. This can be early morning or evening hours. Use the weekends to do your networking. Follow up with phone calls and in-person meetings during this time. Respond to employer messages during your lunch hour. Find a quiet place away from work to make calls and have your schedule handy. Try to set up interviews before working hours begin, during lunch hours and just after traditional work hours."
Do not use company e-mail addresses or phone numbers on your résumés. Nor should you use your office computer or a company-provided PDA. Your employer can track e-mail you are sending from their computer and can determine what phone numbers you are calling from work and who is calling you. If you are doing your job search on company time, not only do you risk getting fired but, as professional résumé writer Kathy Sweeney notes, "potential employers will wonder if you will be searching for work on their dime someday down the road."
While you can use the internet to further your job search, do so carefully. Use job boards to identify possible opportunities but avoid posting your résumé. It is not uncommon for companies to search job boards to see which of their employees have active résumés posted.
Krista Canfield of LinkedIn offers the following advice as to how you can use their website to conduct a "stealth job search." She advises you start by controlling your privacy settings. Most job seekers who are quietly looking will choose the "No" option to "Publishing profile updates, recommendations and companies you follow" and "Notifying your connections of status updates."
LinkedIn also has a feature that enables you to "follow" companies you’re interested in. This allows you to get updates on new hires, promotions, changes and even job opportunities at the companies you are interested in, so you can pursue opportunities as they arise. While you’re viewing the company’s profile, you can also see if anyone in your network either works at the company or knows someone who works there.

Most important, conducting a stealth job search requires that you be proactive and increase your visibility. Join discussion groups online, volunteer through professional associations and charitable organizations, assume leadership roles and seek out opportunities to speak and write in areas where you have expertise. This will not only facilitate building connections but will demonstrate your competence. By becoming more visible, job opportunities will come to you.
While you need to inform individuals in your network that you would be interested in other job opportunities, limit the people you tell to those you trust. Be especially cautious about talking to co-workers. Even your friends at work may feel they have a duty to the company to tell someone you are looking for a new job. That also goes for suppliers and clients.
Your trusted contacts, however, can act as additional eyes and ears, informing you of opportunities that come to their attention. Stay in touch with them directly through targeted e-mail messages and phone calls. Avoid using "blast" e-mail or postings on your LinkedIn profile that may end up in the hands of someone who you do not want to find out that you are looking for a new position.
A veteran human resources executive, Lee E. Miller is the author of "UP: Influence Power and the U Perspective — The Art of Getting What You Want." E-mail questions to

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