LinkedIn is today rolling out a new feature the company says will help you look for new jobs without letting your boss find out. The innovation, called Open Candidates, “makes it easier to connect with your dream job by privately signaling to recruiters that you’re open to new job opportunities,” according to an October 6 post on LinkedIn’s official blog.
If it works as planned, Open Candidates will help job seekers overcome a persistent challenge in a job search. I often advise my clients to be cautious about letting employers know you are seeking a job. This feature shows that LinkedIn and its recruiter customers are aware of how much of a problem this can be.
LinkedIn says the Open Candidates enrollment capability is accessible from the social network’s “Preferences” tab on the “jobs” homepage.
In the typical job search, you want to let people know that you’re in the market. It’s important to expand your network, and you never know who might provide an introduction to the right person or a lead to the right opening.
But there’s an exception to that rule, and the exception arises when you’re currently employed but looking for greener pastures. In that scenario, you may not want to let your boss know that your loyalty is far from absolute.
<< It can be hard to juggle your job search with your actual job. >>
Hiding your intentions is perfectly understandable for many reasons. If your job search doesn’t bear fruit, at least immediately, you don’t want to be known as the guy with a burning desire to be anywhere but here. When you become that guy, your prospects at work can take a catastrophic hit. Even if you’re unhappy where you are, there’s no reason to make things worse.
Given the variability of jobs and employers, you may or may not need to go to great lengths to protect your privacy. Some employers monitor employees more closely than others. Some jobs allow employees more control over when and where they’re expected to work. In general, though, a few strategies apply to almost everyone.
Use Your Own Time and Tools
Whether you view this as a way to protect your privacy or as a matter of ethics, one rule should always be enforced: Keep your job search separate from your job.
- Don’t use company equipment for your search.
- Don’t use your work email or your work phone for contacts.
- Don’t print or copy your resume on the company machines, as this is virtually a karmic guarantee that you’ll leave a copy for someone else to find.
- Don’t spend your workday on your resume, your LinkedIn profile or anything else your search requires.
If that behavior comes to light, the consequences will be significantly worse than the consequences you’d face for the simple act of looking for a new job.
Looking for a new job from your current place of business can also negatively affect your prospects.
If a potential employer becomes aware that you’re searching on your current employer’s time, for example, she’s likely to wonder if you’ll approach your new job with the same lack of commitment. This will not be seen as an endearing quality.
Watch the “Tells”
At the poker table, a “tell” is something you do, often unconsciously, that gives other players a clue to the cards you’re holding. In the workplace, there are tells that can alert your boss to the fact that you’re looking to move on. Tells come in two flavors:
First, there’s your behavior in the workplace itself. For example, when someone whose daily look is business casual shows up in a suit and tie, something is up. The same holds true for someone who suddenly has an unusual number of “dental appointments” that take her out of the office.
In addition, there’s a more subtle sort of tell that happens when a person’s behavior changes. If you’re suddenly unwilling to take on a new project that you’d ordinarily have loved, people tend to notice, and they wonder what’s changed.
• To minimize the danger of this kind of tell, it’s often enough to be aware of the messages you’re sending so that you can work around specific issues. If you’re dressing up for an interview, find a way to change clothes en route. Try to schedule appointments at lunchtime or after hours.
Second, there’s your identity in the wider world. If, for instance, you’ve paid little attention to your LinkedIn profile since your last job search, and you suddenly make dramatic changes, your boss may notice, and he may leap to the obvious conclusion about what the point of all this new activity might be. Always assume that people will notice.
• One way to avoid this problem is to pay attention to services like LinkedIn as a regular part of your working life. It’s an investment that has value even if you’re not looking for a new job. If it’s too late for that, however, you can take steps to lock down your LinkedIn settings, at least minimally. Restrict who can see your connections – select “only you” – and turn off notifications of changes to your profile. You’ll be a little safer, and you won’t do damage to your ongoing search.
Take the Time You Need
It can be hard to juggle your job search with your actual job, especially given that the search often qualifies as a part-time job of its own. Since you should do everything you can to search on your own time, and since your time is not unlimited, something has to give. Sadly, that particular “something” is your free time.
It helps to go into the search with that sacrifice in mind, but it’s a worthwhile sacrifice for a number of reasons. You’ll have to devote evenings and week-ends to your resume, your cover letters, your research and all the rest of the tasks that make up the search, but there’s certainly an advantage to doing those things when you can focus, when your current job isn’t competing for your attention.
Or consider your options for scheduling an interview. You may be able to squeeze it in during lunch, but there’s always the chance that something will come up to make you late or that your interview will be running a little long and you’ll be distracted by the need to get back to the office.
Instead, consider taking a vacation day or a personal day. You’ll have time to prepare. You can dress however you want. You can give yourself plenty of time to get to the site, and you won’t be worrying about getting back to work before people start wondering where you’ve gone.
In our completely imaginary survey of how people prefer to use vacation time, not a single subject chose “Go to a job interview” as an option with the slightest appeal. With so much at stake, though, and with so much energy put into getting this far to begin with, it can turn out to be one very smart sacrifice.