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Seeking A New Job While Currently Employed : Tiptoeing Through the Minefield
So, you currently have a job, but you’re looking for something better. You’re getting tired, agitated, and maybe just a little stressed. This is a dangerous time – a time when job seekers can turn into fools and make crucial mistakes. So how do you avoid tripping over those pesky landmines, you know—your current boss, co-workers, and clients—and still be effective in your job search?
Here are some risky situations you’ll want to avoid so your job search doesn’t go down the drain:
Mine #1: Oops, I did it again! Ready, shoot, THEN target that email
You’ve done all the right things: Tailored your cover letter, crafted a killer resume, and found the right contact, Bill Smithers of “The Best Company In The World, Inc.” Now all you have to do is press send. So, you hit send, that’s it. So far so good. OK, next target. Ms. Jane Topboss at “Dream Company Corporation.” Let’s see… enter email address… browse… attach file… and… send. Oops! I think I sent Bill Smithers cover letter and Jane Topboss resume.
Avoid this landmine by taking the time to make sure you review and attach the correct file(s) to the correct email. One surefire way to blow your job search is to be in a hurry and accidentally send the right email to the wrong person or the wrong email to the right person. Do not send ANY job search related emails from your current job. Send all such emails outside of work. Take your time to make sure the right email is going to the right person, then hit the send button.
Mine #2: Potential employers call you at your current job
Jennifer Jobseeker has it all figured out. Since she was at work during working hours, it only made sense to list her work number as a contact number for potential employers. “Why would I use up my cell minutes and have to keep checking my home computer,” she thought. Ah, poor innocent Jennifer, completely unaware of the dangerous trip she was about to set off with the brand new patent leather Woodberry loafers she had just purchased as part of her job interview outfit. “At the end of the day, I can just grab all the incoming calls, review them, and if it’s an interview, I just cross that bridge when I get to it.” Then something went terribly wrong. Jennifer took a 15 minute break and then Mr. Murphy, Recruiting Manager. The associate answered the call, asked if he could take a message, and was surprised to learn that Jennifer had an interview scheduled for 11:00 a.m. the next day. Guess what the co-worker did with that information… you get the idea: the news spread around the office faster than Simon humiliated someone on American Idol, and Jane was completely bummed about her brand new loafers (metaphorically) and her current job ( literally.)
Use common sense when providing your contact information to potential employers. Never, never, never, NEVER use your current work phone number as a point of contact. Give out your mobile or home number to potential hires and tell them that if they get your voicemail, you’ll call them back as soon as you can – they’ll understand. Two more things to keep in mind: 1) Make sure your voice message is professional and not too cute, rude, or cheesy; 2) Never, never, never, EVER call them back from your work number – if you do, you will suffer Jennifer’s fate.
Landmine #3: Using your current company’s intranet or Internet access for job searches and interviews
This should be trivial. In most businesses, every keystroke on your company’s computer is logged and potentially traceable. Many IT departments now tag specific keywords and phrases and automatically generate reports detailing who is doing what on their laptops and desktops. These reports are then forwarded to management for review. You probably signed a computer policy when you joined the company. And guess what? In addition to the commandment not to play games, view any inappropriate websites, or conduct business outside of your company’s business, there is likely a clause about using company property for private purposes or profit. And unless you’re going to involve your current company in your job search with you, you definitely don’t want to violate that clause.
Mine #4: Don’t give up on your current job
Although you may have a STA (short timer relationship), it’s a good idea not to show it. Keep doing the best you can. Yes, it will be difficult. Yes, it will seem pointless; after all, you are looking for a new place to work. And yes, you will still need to support what you may think are mundane tasks and future former colleagues and clients. But be aware that you are being watched. Both cabins and hard walls have ears and eyes and see and hear everything. If you change your behavior even a little, your co-workers and boss will probably notice. There is something important to remember here. Most bosses don’t become bosses because they’re stupid. Most bosses become bosses because they are constantly observing the events around them and looking for ways to make things run smoothly. Your boss will know something is up if you’re slacking off. Whether you like and respect your current boss or not, you have an obligation to serve him or her, the company, your co-workers, and your customers as long as you are on the payroll. And that’s the real deal. Doing the right thing will make you feel better in the long run.
Commit to continuing to put in the necessary time and effort that you are being paid to do. Remember, you’re the one looking for work, so it’s up to you to figure out how to balance your current work situation with your job search efforts.
Mine #5: Attend a job or career fair that includes a booth for your current company
Let’s face it, you can often find great job prospects at a job or career fair. These events attract a large and diverse group of employers who are looking for qualified candidates just like you. So, since you tend to plan a day off in advance (very classy) so you can attend a job/career fair guilt-free. You put on your shoes, dust off your business suit, brush your teeth, comb your hair, go over a few interview questions in your mind, print out a dozen resumes, and head to the event. You’re ready, you’re confident, and you’re about to find your next best job! After all, you don’t call yourself Cory the Career Conqueror for nothing.
Imagine your surprise, accompanied by the “I just got punched in the gut” feeling, when the first booth out the door is YOUR company’s booth, with a few well-known colleagues and a person or two from your HR department. “Why Cory, what are you doing here?” asks the assistant administrator from HR as four pairs of eyes stare at you like some evil demon guarding a secret passage in the latest Play Station game.
Career and job fairs are great, just make sure you find out which companies will be represented there and if yours is, you may want to reconsider attending.
Mine no. 6: Citing current boss or co-workers as references while conducting a covert job search campaign
Consider the following from the movie script “Nightmare on Just Lost My Job Street”:
Scene 1: Christina has a terrible nightmare (dissolution…dream sequence…phone rings…)
“Hello Mr. Jones. My name is Megan Hiringpro from XYZ, Inc. Just a quick question if you don’t mind. Does Christina CareerChanger work for you?”
“Why yes, Mrs. Hiringpro. Why do you ask?”
“Oh, you don’t know? Christina listed you as one of her references, and we’re thinking of bringing her in for an interview, but we’d like to get some feedback from you first.”
Christina wakes up in a cold sweat to find she dozed off at her desk. “Oh, thank god it was just a dream,” he thought with relief. (Fade out…)
Scene 2: When Christina pops a Cool Mint Thin Strip into her mouth, her boss, Mr. Jones, stop at her cube (close-up of Christina as Mr. Jones asks)
“Christina, I can see you in my office for a moment.”
Christina, now realizing that it wasn’t a dream after all, accepts her fate and walks slowly towards Mr. Jones’ office.
“What was I thinking?!” she screams quietly to herself.
The scene ends (and so does Christina’s current job.)
This is hard. On the one hand, the people you currently work for and with are in the best position to speak about your qualifications. On the other hand, if you’re running a covert job search campaign, you can’t really give it away.
There are only two ways to deal with this situation, and each carries its own level of risk:
1. Disclose to your current boss that you are looking for other job opportunities
2. Put your job search on hold and find other references to use
As Christina found out, you really can’t have it both ways. It’s only a matter of time before we get in touch with your references. It is important to have a strategy in place and cover all the bases so that you are not surprised.
Running a covert job search campaign comes with risks. If you can’t or can’t have a proper conversation with your current employer about your job search, you should take the time and do your best to avoid the landmines you know exist on your path to your new job.
The best way to avoid landmines is to strategically plan your job search, constantly review the path ahead, and invest enough patience and perseverance to arrive at your new job safely and intact.
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