Job searching while you’re still employed always put you in the best position. Most employers want to hire someone who is currently working, rather than someone who is unemployed – there’s inherent value when someone else is employing you.
Being employed allows you to proceed with confidence, in that you’re coming from a position of strength. You have a job to fall back on. You’re not desperate, and the entire scenario means less pressure for you. These factors also bode well if you land an offer while you’re still employed. You can leverage your current situation when it comes time for salary negotiations for the future gig. Also, you can let your current employer know you have another offer in hand, and initiate a discussion about a higher job title or salary in your existing company.
Those are the positives of job searching while employed. You also need to be aware of the potential negatives and how to effectively navigate them. The biggest risk is that not only your boss will find out, but really, that anyone at your current company will find out. Yes, adults do still tattle-tale. And if your boss hears your news from another source besides you, he may view it as disloyalty. That could lead down a slippery slope of the supervisor cutting you out of meetings, taking you off projects, or limiting your contact with clients – worst case scenario.
There are several steps you can take to conduct an effective, discreet job search. Although you can concentrate 100% of your efforts to offline methods such as informational interviews and direct contact, you don’t have to keep your job search offline just to keep it discreet. LinkedIn can absolutely still be your best friend in getting your message and brand out to the widest possible audience.
1) Leave the red flags off your LinkedIn profile. The trend now is to write in your headline or summary that you’re “seeking new opportunities.” The highly erroneous belief is that recruiters search for that phrase or somehow pay more attention to it. However, if you think about it, virtually everyone on LinkedIn is looking for opportunities – that happens both passively and actively.
Even when people say they aren’t looking, you know what? If someone found them on LinkedIn and offered them $500K for a job that was right up their alley, they’d consider it. Everyone on LinkedIn is open to an opportunity. Therefore, you need not highlight this about yourself by using such language anywhere in your profile.
2) Frame your LinkedIn summary like an executive bio. A bio presents your expertise, what you’re working on right now, and highlights from your professional history. This may be quite close to what your company would write about you if they put your bio on their web site.
Writing your summary in this style communicates to your audience exactly what you bring to the table. Since you’re mentioning your current employment, this is another strategy unlikely to raise the red flag in front of your employer’s eyes.
Use your “bio” / profile to highlight recent successes or high-profile projects that you’re working on. If your employer comes across that, it hardly looks suspicious. On the contrary, it looks like you are showcasing not only your individual work, but also the company as a whole.
3) Adjust your account settings so that only you can see your connections. Doing so allows you to build your connections with recruiters, HR specialists, and relevant decision makers at the companies you want, without showing a burst of activity no your profile.
To keep your connections private, go to “privacy and settings,” then to, “privacy,” and change, “who can see your connections” to “only you.” You can take similar steps to hide your LinkedIn groups from your profile, so your employer will not see that you’ve recently joined a job search group.
As you embark on your job search, consider what your employer would do if he did find out? Think about when this has happened with someone else in your workplace. It’s well within the realm of reality that when your boss finds out, he makes moves to keep you there. That’s happened more than once. Either way, whether you stay with your current organization, but perhaps take on a higher role, or move on to the job you really want, going through the exercise of job searching while employed lets you know how much the market values you, and allows you to take stock of your own power.