While no one’s calling it a rebirth of the Roaring Twenties, there are signs the economy is thawing sufficiently for workers to contemplate what a year ago was unthinkable: looking for another job.
The voice in your head that screamed, “New job? You’re lucky to have this one!” may not be as loud as it once was. So if you’re underpaid, overworked, unappreciated or all three, the time may be right to look elsewhere.
Consider the case of John Flexman, an HR executive at a natural gas company who filed suit in January after he was dismissed for merely posting his resume on LinkedIn and checking a box indicating that he was “interested in career opportunities.”
To spare you a similar fate, @work sought out advice for navigating these treacherous waters.
Keep quiet: Many workers apparently don’t know rule No. 1, so we’ll spell it out for you: Don’t tell your current employer you’re looking for a new job. It’s the easiest way to free up an extra 40 hours a week for your search.
“I’m amazed that people don’t know you need to be discrete,” says Eileen Sharaga, a Manhattan career psychologist and president of Career Resources.
You might not feel great about conducting a covert search, but it’s generally accepted as the way to go. After all, notes recruiter Kathy Harris, managing director of Harris Allied, “as soon as you tip off your employer that you’re looking for a job, it lets them know you’re not satisfied and gives them the opportunity to look for another candidate.”
This veil of silence applies to co-workers as well, unless you’re sure you can trust them to keep their lips sealed.
Take it outside (the office): Tempting though it might be, don’t copy your resume on the company copier or spend endless hours on a work computer researching prospective employers.
“Manage your job search on your own time,” says Charles Purdy, senior editor at Monster.com. “The mistake people make is, ‘I’ll sneak away and say I’m going to lunch when I’m actually going to an interview.’”
Instead, stock up on your personal days and schedule interviews then, says Sharaga.
Don’t fear judgment: There’s no getting around the fact that you’ll be dealing in subterfuge. But prospective bosses understand it comes with the territory.
“You don’t need to worry that hiring managers live in some alternate universe where they don’t understand people look for other opportunities,” says Purdy.
But he adds you should have an upbeat response at the ready when asked why you want to leave your current position.
“The answer has to be about the opportunities you expect at the new company, not about bad-mouthing the old one,” he says. “That’s where you can start to look like someone who’s maybe not trustworthy.”
Focus your search: A great way to let everybody in your industry — including your current employer — know you’re job hunting is to send out an avalanche of resumes or, in particular, post it online, even anonymously. Your company searches resume postings just like everyone else’s, and they’ll find yours.
Instead, focus your search on specific companies or openings.
Using a recruiter is a good way to ensure a search will stay covert.
“The whole backdrop of confidentiality and professionalism is something [recruiters] get,” says business strategist Patty Azzarello, CEO of the Azzarello Group.
Be creative about references: Since asking your boss to write you a reference “just for laughs” might send up a red flag, you’ve got to expand the pool of potential cheerleaders.
A trusted former employer can be a good resource, but so can vendors, customers, (trusted) co-workers and even non-professional associates such as someone you volunteer with or a fellow Little League coach.
If caught, ’fess up: If your boss confronts you because he’s heard through the grapevine you’re trying to leave, don’t try to bluff your way out. Instead, tell the nicest version of the truth you can muster.
“Say, ‘Yes, I decided to explore this other opportunity that was presented to me,’” says Azzarello. “This looked like a good fit, and I’m not certain this company offers that opportunity to grow. Am I wrong about that?’”
Aim to “assuage and placate,” says Sharaga, making clear you’re searching “not because you’re unhappy or you hate this boss, but because you feel that you need to test the waters.”
Don’t burn bridges: Don’t phone it in at your current job when you’re looking for work. And if and when you do give notice, don’t dog it then either.
“I’ve found you can make a great impression on the company you’re leaving,” says Azzarello.
And why should you care?
“Because these people may turn up in your life again in different situations,” says Purdy. “So that co-worker who resents you for leaving a whole lot of unfinished work on her desk — in three years she could be a manager at a company you want to work at.”
workers, Charles Purdy, Eileen Sharaga, natural gas company, Patty Azzarello, John Flexman, employer, employer