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How to Look for a Job Without Your Boss Knowing

Steps to take (and avoid) for a successful stealth search

(A version of this article originally appeared on Jobhunt.org.)

If you want to look for work while you have a job, you need to be careful. It’s not unusual to hear of someone getting fired for job hunting and the Internet has made it easier for bosses to discover their employers are on the prowl. Employers tend to view a job-seeking employee as disloyal and a potential threat to reveal company secrets.

So you’ll want to maintain a low profile on your hunt.

Below are seven steps to protect your job and identity, plus five types of risky behavior to avoid:

7 Steps for a Stealth Job Search

1. Do your job search at home. You have no guarantee of privacy at work, even during "personal time." Your employer may monitor your e-mail, Web surfing habits and even voicemail messages.

2. Keep your search quiet in your social networks and online. Don't announce your intentions on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, a blog or e-mail sent to all your contacts.

(MORE: Has LinkedIn Crossed an Ethical Line?)

Similarly, don't hire a distribution service to post your resumé at dozens of job sites or to e-mail it to massive numbers of employers and recruiters. If you do, the resumé could easily become visible to someone in your employer's organization.
3. Be very careful when posting your resumé on a job board. Don’t post it for all the world to see on any job sites, with your name and the name of your current employer visible. Only post the resumé as "private" or "confidential.” Any job alerts resulting from the postings should be sent to your personal email address.

4. Use your personal cell phone number and e-mail address on your resumé or LinkedIn profile. Displaying your work number and email is a great way to blow your cover. Doing so also makes it impossible for you to stay in touch or hear from potential employers if you leave or lose your job, since you'll have given up access to your work e-mail account.

(MORE: How Good Are 'Over 50' Job Boards?)

5. Disguise your current employer's name on your resumé. You don't want your job search to be outed by your boss or a recruiter stumbling over your resumé on a career site like Monster or CareerBuilder.

Substitute a veiled description in place of your employer's name. If you work for IBM, for instance, instead of noting IBM on your resumé, you’d put "Multinational Fortune 50 Information Technology Company."

If your job title is unique to your employer, replace that, too.

(MORE: 6 Ways to Crack the 'Hidden' Job Market)

6. Let Google track job opportunities for you. Develop a list of ideal potential employers and sign up for free Google Alerts about them. This way, you’ll automatically get in your inbox the jobs posted on those organizations’ websites and news about the firms that Google picks up.

Have the alerts sent to your personal (not your work!) e-mail address. (See Job-Hunt's "Using Google Alerts" article for tips and detailed information.)

7. Join local professional and business organizations. Once you sign up, be an active member. Not only will having a broad network of people in your field help you spread the word in a low-key way, it’s the best insurance against a long, painful job search if you lose your job.

5 Things to Avoid Doing

Here are five types of risky behavior to avoid when conducting a stealth job search, three of them related to LinkedIn. You can find no-no’s in my article on Workcoachcafe.com, “20 Ways You Can Blow Your Cover In Your Stealth Job Search and Lose Your Job”:

1. Don't use your work phone to discuss your job search — such conversations may be overhead.

2. Do not print job-search documents on the work copier.

3. Resist the temptation to announce that you are “seeking a new position as…” in your LinkedIn profile.

4. Don't upgrade your LinkedIn account to the Job Seeker level, which would make the job seeker “badge” visible on your LinkedIn Profile.

5. Don't post your job search activities on a “public” job-search related LinkedIn Group. The contents of these groups are digested by search engines, which means they can be found by any employer. Postings in private LinkedIn Groups are not available to search engines; a private LinkedIn Group has a padlock icon beside the Group name — be sure your group has one!
© Copyright, 1998 – 2013, Susan P. Joyce. All rights reserved.

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