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How to Job Hunt on the Sly

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How to Job Hunt on the Sly

By Michelle Yozzo Drake

Here's a story from the F-P Files (as in "Face-Palm"...as in you'll want to slap your face with the palm of your hand when I tell you this one...):

The other night I was practicing a little life-work balance when the phone rang. Elbow-deep in a bowl of bread dough and dusting my laptop in a fine sheen of flour as I prepared for an upcoming speaking engagement, I wisely let the answering machine pick up. The next thing I know, I'm listening to a garbled stream of sobbing and hiccupping and what I can only assume were words tucked in here and there. "Ginny...call me," was the only thing I could make out, so I immediately washed up, pushed my computer aside, and called her back.

"I got FIRED!!!!" she wailed and my heart immediately went out to her. I consoled her like the friend that I was, assuring her there would be other job opportunities, before my inner strategist took over.

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When she'd calmed down enough to speak in full sentences, I firmly told her that before we hung up, we'd figure out exactly what went wrong and develop a plan of action!

"Well," she started. "I've sort of been looking for a new job on the side, and my boss found out somehow. I have no idea how that could have happened!"

Poor Ginny. I'm an employer myself so I understand her boss's perspective, but I couldn't help sympathizing with her. If you're not happy in your current job, you've got every right to find a new one. The trick is to do it without losing your current job!

Even though it was too late for Ginny, I decided that I'd share with you my best tips for being a job hunter on the sly.

1. Assess your risk. Ginny was a full-time employee, not a temp or a contractor. People in those types of working relationships have a lot less to lose because it's assumed that they're looking for something permanent at either their current company or somewhere else. A full-time employee, however, is expected to stick around! And if your boss finds out you're looking, he or she may not only feel betrayed, they might figure, "Well, if she's getting ready to leave, I should just cut my losses - and her from this position."

2. Discretion, discretion, discretion! Oh, and did I mention...DISCRETION! Ginny apparently wasn't clear on the definition of the word, so here it is: "Discretion: The quality of being judicious, esp. with reference to one's own actions or speech; prudence or decorum." Learn it, know it, PRACTICE it when you're looking for a new job!

3. When job hunting online, be DISCREET with your resume and information. When Ginny was first hired, she found out about the job through an online ad with a major employment website (rhymes with "schmonster") and even though she knew her employer used it frequently to fill positions, she posted her resume there anyway...and who do you think came across it online? Her boss! He was searching for someone to add to the team and apparently, she fit all his requirements! There is no such thing as anonymity in today's day and age. I'm not saying you shouldn't use employment sites, but maybe a better tactic than posting your resume is searching the site for the jobs that fit and submitting your resume directly to the employer.

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4. Choose who you speak to about your job search VERY carefully. Ginny couldn't keep her search a secret from a few of her co-workers, and one of them accidentally let it slip to another who passed it on to the woman down the hall who told a sales rep who.... Rule number one of Job Search: Don't talk about Job Search (at least not at work).

5. Tone down your networking. Ginny went to a conference last week attended by her co-workers, company clients and company vendors, and there she was chatting about her job search! To people that are directly connected with her company! While you want to put feelers out there for a new job, either network outside of your company's circle or make sure you can absolutely trust whoever you're speaking to and know that they'll be 100% (say it with me) DISCREET.

6. Do your job hunt from home on your home computer, give out ONLY your home contact info, and set up a non-work-related e-mail account to manage job search correspondence. I won't tell you what Ginny did, but I think you can guess. Just a reminder: most companies monitor online activity, the "forward to" and "reply to" buttons can be very tricky, and cell phone conversations are rarely private at the office.

7. Stay focused on your current job and continue to put forth maximum effort. If you're suddenly only "phoning it in" (GINNY!) that's a red flag to your boss. He'll start to wonder how committed you are to your work and that's just a quick step away from wondering if you're looking elsewhere for a new job.

8. Make sure that anyone you interview with understands that your current employer doesn't know about your job search. Your boss might be totally willing to give you a great reference after you've had a conversation with him about your career direction and you've handed in your resignation at least 2-3 weeks before your final work day. He will not, however, be as accommodating if he's blindsided with a call from a potential employer! Not that Ginny knows anything about that....


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�Courage is being scared to death � but saddling up anyway.� � John Wayne