Conducting a Job Search While Employed – Don’t Let Your Boss Find Out

Does the tough economy have you worrying about job security?


have something to be concerned about if your boss finds out you’re job hunting. This is not to suggest you can’t – or shouldn’t – look for other opportunities, particularly if you feel your current situation is at risk. However, discretion is essential.

First rule: don’t tell anyone at work that you’re looking. Even if the person sitting in the next cube is your best friend, keep your search to yourself. Even if you know jobs are going to be cut, and even if other people are talking freely about alternate employment – keep quiet. Information like this tends to leak. An innocent slip of the tongue can do a world of damage.

Especially if the threat of layoffs is looming, an “every man for himself” mentality tends to take over. Expect that someone will use the knowledge that you’re looking against you. Think of this as musical chairs with serious consequences. There are a limited number of seats – and nobody wants to be the guy left standing in the end.

Second rule: be careful who you tell outside of work that you’re looking. Mention the fact that you’re on the hunt to the wrong person, and word might get right back to your boss. Networking is fine. You’re going to have to tap into this resource if you hope to have any success uncovering the vast number of jobs that are never advertised (remember the hidden market). However, when attempting to uncover useful information, subtlety is the order of the day.

A corollary to the second rule: make sure you know who you’re talking with before you share information that you’ll wish you could take back later. Consider the candidate working the floor at an industry trade show; he’s excited to meet an executive from a company on his target list of potential employers. During the course of the conversation, he indicates he’s aware the VP Sales position is open, and would welcome the chance to interview for the job. Later, he finds out this same executive played golf the following day in a foursome with his boss. Oops.

This was an oops for another reason: the candidate met the executive on the floor of the trade show while representing his employer at

. Never forget who you’re working for. You run the risk of being tagged as disloyal if it’s perceived that you’re looking for work on the company’s dime. Loyalty is important. People aren’t going to line up to hire you if they don’t think you can be trusted.

You can conduct a successful job search while employed; people do it all the time. But don’t shoot yourself in the foot – you’ve got to be discreet.