Keep Your Job Search Confidential from Your Current Employer

By Caroline Ceniza-Levine


You do not want to appear uncommitted to your job until the last possible moment

Start stockpiling your personal time now, so you can easily take off for interviews when they arise

What lengths would you go to keep your job search confidential from your current employer? This aspiring career changer is starting a second LinkedIn profile so his current industry connections will not see his job search activity:

I opened a separate LinkedIn and will be closing this one. I've used this one extensively for my current position and have done very little networking toward the career I truly want. I work for a great organization and great leaders. All of them are connected with me here. I don't want them to find out that I am looking elsewhere. What do you think? – O.R.

I don’t think you should start a whole new profile. I would make sure that your privacy settings are set for not sharing your activity with your network, so that when you update your profile or connect to people, your current colleagues and boss don’t get notified about each change. Sure, there’s a possibility that someone in your office notices that you’re connecting to people in a completely different industry and concludes you’re in job search mode. But most people are too busy thinking of themselves to notice. On the other hand, if you start a whole new profile, you lose all the connections you have already made, which is more valuable than the small risk your old profile somehow outs your search.

That said, I do think gainfully employed job seekers should keep their job search quiet, especially at the early stages. Your search may take longer than you expect, and you don’t want your workplace (or your boss) to get uncomfortable. You may decide not to leave, and then you’ll have raised a red flag for no reason. You do not want to appear uncommitted to your job until the last possible moment . Avoid these four telltale signs that broadcast you are in job search mode:

Spikes in social media activity

When you’re in job search mode, you get more active on social media – reaching out to old contacts, connecting with new people, following companies, and joining groups. I recommended that change in your LinkedIn privacy setting so that people don’t see that spike in activity. Even if each activity can be chalked up to general networking, the sheer volume suggests you’re looking for a new job.

Noticeable upgrade in your office wardrobe

Another telltale sign you’re on the hunt is if you suddenly start wearing a suit, when your office is dress casual. This is tricky because you may have an interview in the middle of the day, and you may not have time to change. Anticipating this conflict, ideally you start dressing more formally well before you have an interview. Keep the jacket off till you need it, but slowly upgrade the rest of your wardrobe so that when you do wear a full-on suit, it’s less noticeable.

Extra-long lunches and mid-afternoon breaks

Speaking of that interview in the middle of the day, this is exactly the conflict you want in your job search – this means you’re making progress! Start stockpiling your personal time now, so you can easily take off for interviews when they arise . If you can arrange to work remotely even one day per week, that will make it even easier to come and go. If you normally don’t eat lunch away from your desk, start doing that even if it just means you go outside and walk around the block for half an hour. You want your colleagues to get used to not seeing you in the office all the time.

Slowdown in productivity or performance

So far, managing the above three telltale signs of job search should have no impact on your employer. However, if you’re so focused on finding your next job that you neglect your current job, then this slowdown in productivity or performance does impact your employer – and negatively. Don’t let this happen, not only to keep your job search quiet, but because it’s the right thing to do. You don’t want to burn bridges with your soon-to-be former employer (remember, you may decide to stay!). You always want a strong reference from past colleagues. You would want the same courtesy if one of your directs was leaving your team. Avoid the slowdown by staying extra vigilant about meeting your deadlines and keeping the quality of your work high.

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