We’re all, at some point, faced with the awkward situation of job hunting on the sly. For whatever reason, whether it be salary, toxicity in the workplace, or just plain ol’ needing a change, it’s time to move on to greener career pastures – but how do you do that without setting off alarm bells?
Conducting a new job search is, in and of itself, an inherently stressful process: having to sneak off to do quick phone interviews, dealing with rejections, interview preparation, the search itself, frustrating applicant tracking systems with cumbersome job application forms, and, to top it all off, having to worry about tipping your current boss off.
Outlined below are just a few ways you can ensure that you conduct your job hunting on the sly – no “dentist” appointments needed.
Schedule interviews after hours
It’s always ok to ask your interviewer if they can meet you after hours. Employers are, for the most part, accommodating and understanding of the fact that you work full-time and that it can be tricky to request time off, especially if you’ve been searching for a job for a while. There are only so many doctor appointments one can have!
I’ve had good luck explaining to potential employers that since I work full-time, it’s difficult to step away for a couple hours and that I would prefer we conduct an interview completely after hours. Michael, the owner of Full Stack Talent, was incredibly accommodating when I interviewed with him. He met me at 7pm at the office since I worked over in Largo and couldn’t meet earlier. It paid off, as you can see!
So, don’t be afraid to ask. It may not be doable for your interviewer to meet you completely after hours, but they may be able to meet you halfway and extend their regular interviewing hours from 3pm to 4pm, so that you can at least request less time off from your current job. Needing to leave one hour early instead of 2 can be easier to approve – and less suspicious.
Keep interview clothes in your car
Do you work at a company with a fairly lax dress code? Have you been wearing a t-shirt and jeans for your tenure, and would it be really weird if you randomly showed up to work all dressed up?
If the answer is yes, you have 2 options:
1- The long con. Start dressing up a bit more at work. Show up with slacks. Start wearing button-ups with your jeans. Heck, throw on a sports jacket. That way, it’ll be less jarring when you show up in a suit.
2- The easier, and saner, option: keep a change of clothes in your car. Duh. Leave for your interview 5 or 10 minutes earlier than you normally would, stop at a coffee place, buy some delicious liquid gold, and change in their bathroom. Simple, and no one needs to glance at you quizzically that way.
A quick caveat: this won’t work super well for smokers. In Colby’s words: “You can’t leave clothes in your car because they’ll reek of Ciggy Von Ciggersons.”
For God’s sake, don’t post your résumé online
You’d think this one would be a no-brainer, but how many people end up getting caught because of a poorly-placed résumé on a job board, or even the “open to opportunities” button on LinkedIn? LinkedIn does their best to hide your search from your current employer, but it’s not a perfect, guaranteed thing. So, assume that yes, your employer can see that. By all means, keep your profile updated as much as you can, but please, for the love of God, hide your updates from displaying to your network! Doing otherwise is the equivalent of shooting yourself in the foot and wondering why you’re bleeding.
If you’re unsure where the “share with network” option is, it’s at the bottom of the page when you edit your profile. Simply slide it to “Off.”
Keep working hard
It can be hard to stay motivated when you know something better will soon come along, but it’s important to keep giving 100% while you’re searching. A drop in performance or participation can light the signal fires, so keep attending events, and keep working hard. Don’t just do enough to get by. Take initiative with new tasks, help your colleagues, and keep learning. Slacking off will be a dead giveaway that you’re looking to leave, so leave the slacking off for when you’ve put in your notice (I kid, please keep working hard then too!).
All in all, these steps will help reduce awkwardness at the office. There might still be instances where you have to lie to the people around you (like if a coworker asks why you look so fancy, or if your boss asks why you need to leave an hour early), but with the mitigation outlined above, it should be minimal – especially if you’re discrete with your job hunting and doing it on your own time and property. Just keep a straight face at work and remind yourself that it’s only temporary. When you’re able to land a better job and hand in your notice, it will all be worth it. Keep your head up, and good luck!