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Career Advice : Hiding Your Job Search From Your Boss
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Hiding Your Job Search From Your Boss

Kate Lorenz,

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Whether you hate your pay, commute, boss or just everything about it, you're desperate for a new job. With strong hiring forecasted and growing worker dissatisfaction, more people are poised to make the move to a new job. One of the biggest job seeker groups expected are those currently employed. In fact, four-in-ten workers plan to change jobs this year.

No wonder people want to find new jobs. They have taken on more responsibilities and toil longer hours for the same pay. Leaders are seen as out-of-touch and incapable. Burnout is rampant. And the fear of losing one's job often postpones badly-needed vacations to recharge, causing even more burnout.

But who has the time to look with a schedule that includes working 50-plus hours a week, going to school, caring for a family, running errands and trying to squeeze in some shut eye?

Simple. You do it at work.

While many aknowledge the less-than-ethical practice of surfing the Net for jobs while at work, we still scour job boards, company Web sites and list-servs. 11 million people on average search for jobs online every week. And job site traffic spikes on weekdays during lunchtime hours.

Experts say to treat a job search like a full-time project, but how can you do that while working in a an open office and the boss looking over your shoulder? Here are some tips for conducting that stealthy search while still employed from Neil Lebovits, president and COO of Ajilon Professional Staffing in Saddlebrook, N.J.

Be smart about e-mail.
Play it safe, Lebovits says. You need to keep your current job until you have a new one. E-mail watch policies vary by company, so you'll want to use a separate account, like Hotmail, when discussing job search-related items. Plus, employers would rather receive correspondence from personal accounts than from competitor addresses. And most importantly, you don't want to send a message to a potential new employer that you conduct job searches on company time.

Don't wear your interview suit to your biz casual office.
Nothing sets off a red flag like wearing a suit to your dressed-down office. So how should you handle the wardrobe dilemma? For both men and women, suit bottoms (i.e. pants, skirts) are always passable for business casual. Lebovits suggests bringing a shoulder bag/duffle with a jacket in it, and change en route to/from the interview. For women, it is especially easy to wear a casual shell under a suit -- once a jacket and stockings are removed, no one will detect an afternoon interviewee. For men, make sure your shirt stands on its own without a tie and you can easily make the switch.

Be discreet when gathering references.
It all comes down to discretion. Former co-workers who have left to go elsewhere are usually the first ones to turn to if you want to keep your search confidential. However, current co-workers are really the ideal names to pass along to your potential employer. Put a significant amount of thought into who will keep your confidence at your current job. "Oftentimes, people find peers rather than managers to be safer bets," Lebovits says. "As long as your reference can speak to your work ethic, enthusiasm, drive and accomplishments, you don't need to search high and low for a senior executive to speak on your behalf - go with who knows you best."

Use your time wisely.
The breakfast interview is an ideal forum. Meetings scheduled at 8 a.m. are often over in time to arrive at work by 9 a.m. If they run over, any number of reasons can be offered for a delayed arrival. "I'd caution the use of excessive creativity when devising excuses for taking time off," Lebovits warns. "'Personal time' for a relaxing respite is still an acceptable reason for taking vacation time. Those who offer the 'sick' excuse run the risk of being asked to log on and work from home, or at least make themselves available." The best maneuvers are those when an interview can be tacked on to other pre-planned time off (long weekends, etc.) or non-work hours.

Never stop giving your all at work.
Never stop giving your all, Lebovits advises. Job seekers often experience intense paranoia at their current job. If you devote yourself fully to what you're doing in the hours you're there (and job search with a vengeance in the hours when you're not), you'll continue to get the praise and recognition to keep you on track at your current job. In the end, the possibility always exists that you'll stay. Don't shoot yourself in the foot by causing suspicion where you are and maybe not landing anything else.

Kate Lorenz is the article and advice editor for She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues. Other writers contributed to this article.

Last Updated: 24/09/2007 - 3:50 PM

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