There can be some benefits to letting your boss know that you are looking for another job – for example, they might offer you a raise in an attempt to keep you around.
But being open about your job search can also backfire, because being seen as a flight-risk may have a negative effect on your reputation. You might be seen as disloyal, less trustworthy, and less reliable. If your current boss thinks less of you, they’ll make for a poor reference down the line. They may even decide to terminate your employment before you’ve landed a new job, leaving you totally unemployed – which not only hurts your bank account, but also your chances of getting a new position.
That’s why the prudent thing to do is keep your job search secret – which is easier said than done. Some very small, seemingly inconsequential mistakes can lead to word getting out.
So, to help you keep your job hunt a secret until the time is right, I offer these five tips:
1. Trust No One
People are terrible at keeping secrets. Research shows that keeping secrets is a source of mental and physical distress, and the bigger the secret, the harder it is too keep. If you share your job search secret with a close colleague, there is a reasonable chance that this secret will be shared with someone else. Secrets are fragile things; best to keep your job hunt to yourself if you want to be sure your boss doesn’t find out. It doesn’t matter how much you trust your colleagues. Your closest work friend may have one too many at the next happy hour, and then – bam: secret’s out.
2. Schedule Interviews Outside of Work Hours Whenever Possible
If you are taking a day or a half-day off here and there to interview, your manager is likely to become suspicious. This means you need to disguise your interview activity and cover your trail.
If possible, try to schedule interviews outside of your workday – early mornings, evenings, weekends, and even lunch hours are better than taking an unexplained half-day.
Not all potential employers will agree to this arrangement, but some might if you are considered a valuable enough candidate.
3. Don’t Make Any Radical Changes at Work
When you’re focused on finding a new job, it can be easy to grow disengaged at work. This may lead to a noticeable performance drop. You might start missing deadlines, volunteering for less overtime, going to fewer social functions with your coworkers, etc.
If your manager notices changes in your work or habits, they may wonder what you’re up to. Try to continue with business as usual as much as you can.
4. Don’t Update Your Social Media Profile
If you’ve added any of your colleagues or your boss on social media, they’ll receive notifications about your profile updates. If you suddenly post a new, professional-looking picture, change your job title, or – God forbid – mention your job hunt on social media, you’re basically asking for trouble.
But even if you haven’t added any of your coworkers on social media, you don’t know who could be looking at your profile. Better to be safe than sorry and keep social media changes to an absolute minimum.
On LinkedIn, you can switch off your activity broadcasts so your connections are not automatically notified of profile changes. This should help you to keep your job search secret.
5. Don’t Change Your Dress Code
A big clue that you may be interviewing is coming to work in your interview attire. Even if you have to get changed at the gym, in the car, or in a public toilet, make sure you don’t wear your interview attire to work. Ever.
Keeping your job search secret is crucial, because it gives you the flexibility to interview and test the water at other firms without negatively impacting your current role. It also enables you to slide comfortably back into your current role, should your job hunt turn up nothing worth leaving for.