How to conduct a secret job search (and keep your current job)

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Siri, play the theme from Mission: Impossible. We’re about to conduct a secret job hunt!

What’s a secret job hunt? This is a situation when a potential candidate starts a job search and puts out feelers for new opportunities while they’re still employed elsewhere. A secret job hunt varies drastically from unemployment, where candidates may be much more vocal about their interest in finding a new job. Candidates have to be much more subdued and discrete. The goal is to find a new job that is the perfect fit without having your current employer catch on. It’s a hunt that can sometimes take longer than anticipated, which is why it’s key that candidates stay employed with a steady paycheck.

If you’re ready to start your stealth job hunt, you’re also committing to be mindful of your behavior in and out of the workplace than ever before. Here’s a taste at the secret sauce successful stealthy job hunters swear by.

1. Don’t take your job hunt to work

The first rule of Fight Club is not to talk about Fight Club. This is also true of a secret job hunt. Here’s a quick cheat sheet of job hunt don’ts to avoid practicing in the workplace:

  • Don’t look for — or apply to — jobs on the clock. This is a pretty obvious rule of thumb.
  • Don’t spend a significant amount of time updating your resume or cover letter. If you fall behind on projects or assignments, you may have a difficult time accounting as to what you spent your time doing to your manager.
  • Don’t tell your coworkers. This is always tricky because many coworkers become friends in the workplace. But, there’s also a little thing called the office grapevine. Ears are everywhere. Your current role could be in serious trouble if someone found out and reported the speculation to your boss.

The best secret job hunts are conducted from home. Keep them there.

2. Be mindful when scheduling interviews

A secret job hunt means taking a variety of interviews, which may range from phone calls to video calls or in-person meetings. Scheduling interviews must be done with a bit of mindfulness. Let’s review a few dos and don’ts:

  • Don’t schedule all of your interviews on one day. I know this sounds ideal, especially if you think you need to take the day off for it. However, scheduling back-to-back interviews is stressful. It often means coming up against a time crunch to race from one interview to the next and confusing the duties of one position with another.
  • Do practice intention when taking interviews. You don’t need to accept every interview offer, especially if the employer informs you from the outset that the pay be lower than what you currently make or that the position is actually part-time.
  • Do schedule interviews at hours that work for you. Don’t feel pressured to conduct an interview at an hour of the day where you know you cannot slip away from work. Try to schedule in an interview before or after you head in for work to better minimize any sick or early out excuses.

3. Pay attention to your LinkedIn activity

Most stealthy job hunters are active LinkedIn users. Exercise care with your LinkedIn activity. Employers may notice in their feed a spike in an employee’s number of new HR connections — or if they comment “I’m interested, DM me the details!” on job opening status updates from other connections.

4. Stay fully engaged with your current employer

It’s a scenario that happens far too often during a job hunt: A candidate goes on a series of promising interviews. They often begin mentally planning to exit their role, even though they have not yet received a job offer, and start to slack off with their current employer. Suddenly, the interviews come to a screeching halt. Maybe they decide to go in a different direction or announce a hiring freeze. The once-promising interviews are no longer sure things. Worse yet, you’ve fallen behind significantly in your workload.

What’s the best way to keep this worst-case scenario at bay? Stay engaged in your existing role. Maintain a consistent, steady workload and even ask if you may take the lead on additional projects. The benefit of doing this is twofold. You’ll maintain your existing track record for hard work and be able to fulfill new initiatives that will help your resume and portfolio to further stand out.

A version of this post previously appeared on Fairygodboss, the largest career community that helps women get the inside scoop on pay, corporate culture, benefits, and work flexibility. Founded in 2015, Fairygodboss offers company ratings, job listings, discussion boards, and career advice.

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