Should I tell my boss? 7 top tips for job searching while employed

Even if you are employed, at some point, you’re probably going to have to start job hunting. This is partly because most companies in Canada do not offer opportunities for advancement. Research conducted by me and my friend Peter Harris shows that if you want to move forward in your career, there’s about an 80% chance that you have to move on.

And of course, there are other reasons you might want to find another job: more money, better work-life balance, a change, you hate your boss, etc.

So, how do you go about looking while already employed?

One question I see coming up a lot is whether you should tell your current employer that you’re looking for other work. And the answer to this is an unequivocal no.

Personally, I hate this. It feels wrong to hide from your employer the information that you’re about to leave them, and that they’re going to have to find someone to replace you. But the reality is that 90% of the time, they’re going to start looking as soon as you tell them. And if you don’t find anything, you’re going to be the one in trouble when they let you go.

Of course, there is a chance you might negotiate them into offering you a raise or promotion, and not have to leave. Maybe they don’t know you’re unhappy, right? But think carefully before you do that. The countdown to your dismissal begins the moment you say something. You can always try to negotiate a counter offer after you have an offer in hand.

Meanwhile, it’s important that you don’t get caught job seeking by your current employer. We can’t guarantee that won’t happen. But you can limit the chance.

Here are some tips and tricks for job searching will employed:

Don’t job search at work. Don’t use the company computer, time, or email address. One common mistake people make is to use their work email address or phone number to apply for jobs.  That makes sense because these are the easiest ways to reach you during the day- and because the company name lends credibility. But it sends a terrible message. Your current employer might be screening your emails, which can get you fired. But also, it communicates to prospective employers that you are willing to use your current employer’s assets to further your own agenda. Which makes you look like a bad hire.

Use a personal cell phone or a home phone and a personal email address on your job applications, and check them from your own devices, not your employer’s phone or computer.

Schedule interviews during non-work hours. Admittedly, this isn’t always (or even usually) an option. But do so if you can. If you can’t, you’re going to need some plausible excuses for getting out of work for interviews.

Bring a change of clothes to work. You’re going to want to dress it up for the interview (those first impressions matter) but if you usually work in jeans and you start showing up in a suit, or something more formal, this sets off alarm bells for employers. They know this gambit. Bring a bag, and they’ll probably just assume you’ve joined a gym.

Alert the prospective employer to the fact that you don’t want your current employer to get wise. Just tell them at the interview that you are on the down low. It might feel awkward, but most employers will be understanding, and do not want to be the reason you lose your job.

Don’t tell anyone at work you’re job hunting. People can’t always be trusted, even if you think they can. And, unless you have a very close friend who you’re absolutely positive won’t tattle, you’ll have to look outside your current workplace for references.

Use judgment on social media. You might not want to post “Hey, everyone! I’m looking for a new job! Hit me up with any leads. Thanks!” on LinkedIn or Twitter. And even if you think your Facebook settings are secure, you never know who knows who, so be prudent there also. Tapping your network is one of the best ways to find new opportunities, but save it for individual communications or face to face encounters.

Manage your LinkedIn settings. LinkedIn is a good networking tool, but the site does some weird stuff, like broadcasting to everyone when you make even the slightest tweak to your profile, unless you tell it not to. Updating your profile is a sign to your employer that something is going on. So, go into your settings and turn off “sharing profile edits.” This is just good practice anyway. Nobody needs to have to read about everything you do in their feed.

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