The job search can be a bit weird if you already have a job—everyone does it, or no one would ever have a new job. But it has to be done in a top secret way, because you can’t let your boss know what’s going on. Even if he or she knows you’re unhappy, you don’t want this person knowing that you tried to leave—especially if you don’t get a new job right away. And even if you have a great, open relationship with your boss and she wants you to do what’s best for yourself, it’s still awkward. You don’t want to be marked as a flight risk…so how do you manage the process without tipping off the boss?
Don’t check out from your day-to-day work.
If you’re clearly not putting time and effort into your daily work, it’ll be a first sign that something is off. It’s not only bad practice in general to let your performance suffer, but it’s also a clear sign to your boss that you’re trying to get out the door, one way or another.
Don’t use your boss as a reference.
This one probably seems obvious, but you’d be amazed at how many people think they have to use their current boss as a reference. I once had a friend who listed her current boss’s contact information on a (stealth) job application, then freaked out when the new company actually called the current boss. If you need a reference but don’t want to tip your hand with your current boss, use a trusted colleague who is familiar with your work and can vouch for you.
Don’t use your work computer.
At this point, it’s safe to assume that Big Brother is always watching—and in this case that could include your boss. Don’t use your work computer to search for new jobs, work on your resume, or reach out to potential employers. There’s a good chance this runs afoul of your company’s computer usage rules, for one, and if you’re applying to competitor companies, it could be a legal issue as well. So make sure you’re doing your job hunt stuff on your own time, on your own devices.
Don’t shout about your plans on social media.
If you’re not Facebook friends with your boss or connected on LinkedIn, you might think it’s safe to talk about your job search or send out a “hire me!” blast. Don’t count on that “friends only” post to stay private. There’s nothing stopping one of your other contacts from letting it slip that you’re hunting, or from sending your boss a screenshot of your “I hate this place, get me out of here” rant. If you really don’t want your boss to know you’re looking elsewhere, don’t post anything on social media that you wouldn’t want him or her to read.
Ideally, your boss won’t know about your job search until you have an offer in hand and a lovely resignation letter ready to go. But if you practice some basic discretion, it doesn’t have to feel like a Cold War spy mission, either.