When Ja’Naea Modest of Champaign, Illinois, went to a job fair at a middle school on her lunch break, she thought she was doing everything right. She changed her clothes, headed over, filled out the application and returned to work, assuming no one would be the wiser.
Little did she know a local TV news crew was filming the event, and she ended up literally broadcasting her job-hunting intentions to her current employer.
If you, too, are thinking about finding a new job, the time may be right. The near-record unemployment rate presents the ideal conditions for looking for a new position that will boost your salary and/or your responsibilities. In fact, one survey finds that nearly 60% of employees say they would jump ship due to a more appealing offer.
But even if something better is around the corner, you don’t want to tip your hand to your current employer that you are looking. And while Modest’s scenario is rare, fortunately, it is still important to cover your tracks when you’re job hunting while already employed.
Here are five tips to help you hunt for a job on the sly (and watch for TV cameras).
Use LinkedIn discreetly
Your first stop will probably be to spruce up your LinkedIn profile and that’s smart, but you want to make sure not to be overly obvious with your online tracks, says Wayne Breitbarth, author of The Power Formula for LinkedIn Success: Kick-start Your Business, Brand and Job Search.
If in the past you’ve used your LinkedIn account sparingly and all of a sudden there’s a flurry of activity, that could present a big red flag to your boss. But there’s an easy way to avoid sending a notice every time you make a change. Just go to your “Settings and Privacy” and in the “Privacy” menu, make sure the “Sharing profile edits” button in the “How others see your LinkedIn activity” menu is toggled over to “No.” That will turn off the notifications to your network about the profile changes you are making and you can update your profile as much as you like.
Also, Breitbarth recommends you make the most of the platform’s job-assistance capabilities by setting your career interest preferences in the LinkedIn Jobs Tab; setting up job search alerts; and “following” companies, where you’ll be notified of job postings and employment changes at the company.
Work with a recruiter
Not only do industry-specific recruiters often have a line on jobs not readily detected, but they can also discreetly send out messages on your behalf. “Recruiters are used to maintaining confidentiality during the search and are well versed in how to contact you at work without raising suspicion,” says career coach Toni Patterson.
They will also know which companies to avoid — which can be hard to decipher in some blind job postings — and then relay your confidentiality concerns to potential employers.
Interview on the sly.
You don’t have to end up on the TV news to have people in the office wonder about your interview plans. Dress and timing are the two places you’re most likely to slip up, says Debra Boggs, co-founder of D&S Professional Coaching.
First, avoid coming to work overdressed. Instead she recommends leaving a pressed suit or dress in a garment bag in your car — drape it flat on the seat, not hanging up where everyone will notice it walking by — and leaving early enough to calmly change and freshen up in a public restroom, one that is neither at the interview location or your current office.
And then make sure you take ample time for the meeting, reminds Boggs. “If you’re interviewing with more than one person, try to take a half day off and not squeeze it into the middle of the day,” she advises. That way, you can be flexible if the company wants to extend your interview or have you meet additional people. And of course, then you won’t feel rushed traveling to the interview site and can arrive on time, calm and organized when you walk in.
Another option would be to schedule it near the end of the day when you won’t have to head back to the office, suggests Patterson. But be careful about having too many “doctor’s appointments,” as that can raise suspicions…or make people wonder if you have a mysterious ailment.
Stay completely off company systems
While a phone or video interview might be another way to avoid too many meetings, make sure you plan those offsite, rather than in a conference room at your office. There’s too much risk that someone might pop their head in to greet you, and you’ll be distracted by the need to stay covert.
And don’t ever use your work computer, much less your work email, for job hunting. Your employer might be reading communications even if you are unaware, and it could be a violation of company policy to use any equipment for personal uses.
Finally, don’t check out just yet
Even if you have a wandering eye, remember who is still signing your paycheck — and that the grass might not actually be greener. So, maintain your focus on your current work, and who knows … a new opportunity or salary bump may pop up right where you are.