Long gone are the days when you’d start work at a company fresh out of school and retire from that same company 35 years later. Millennials will change jobs, on average, four times before they reach 32 years old. There are a number of reasons for this high turnover rate, including going back to school for a college or graduate degree, changing industries, or the lack of employee development or raises within a company.
Beyond just how to find a job or how to get your first job, there are a ton of issues to think about when you’re navigating the workforce early in your career. If you’re already in a position but want to search for a new one, it can be hard to know how to find a job when you don’t want your boss to know you’re looking.
Here are some tips for how to find a job when you need to keep it a secret:
1. Don’t Use Your Work Computer
Maybe this sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s worth touching on: do not use your work computer for your job search. Your work computer is not your personal computer, so technically your employer has access to everything you do on it and every document you save to it. I’m not trying to make anyone paranoid — it’s just something to keep in mind as you’re updating your resume and downloading job descriptions or writing cover letters. If you’re applying for jobs, wait until you’re on your personal computer, at home after work or on the weekends, as you’re gearing up when you start looking for a new job.
2. Don’t Use Your Work Email Address Or Phone Number
Along those same lines, do not use your work email address — for emailing out applications or as your contact email address for potential employers. Even if you’re starting a career at 30, you’ve probably had a personal email address since you were about 12. If not, or if you want to change it, open up a free Gmail account with a professional-sounding handle — some combination of your first and last name that’ll be relatively easy to read off to people over the phone. Use that, as well as your personal phone number, when communicating with potential employers. Even if you have a habit of using your work phone number for personal calls, stick to your personal cell phone number for your job search.
3. Keep It To Yourself
In almost all cases, it’s a good idea not to tell your coworkers that you’re looking to leave your job. If you have one or two very close friends at work you feel you can trust not to say anything, go ahead and let them know. But as far as everyone else is concerned, you’re just humming along like it’s business as usual. Also, if you’re updating your resume on LinkedIn, make sure that your profile updates are private. You can do this by checking that the “Notify Your Network” setting is turned off. That way, your updated information will still show up in a Google search, but LinkedIn won’t send a blast to everyone you’re connected with — including coworkers — that basically tells them you’re updating your resume all of a sudden. You can also turn on the “let recruiters know you’re open to opportunities” option in your privacy settings, which won’t spam that update to your network, either.
4. Recruit References Who Aren’t Your Boss
It can be hard to think outside the box when it comes to references, but if you don’t want your boss to know you’re looking for a new gig, you’re certainly not going to ask them to serve as a reference. Instead, think about people you’ve worked with at previous companies. If this is your first full-time gig, reach out to former coworkers who have since left the company and ask them if they’d feel comfortable recommending you. If you’re right out of school, you can also ask a former professor or a boss from a part-time or student leadership gig — anyone who can speak to your skills, work ethic, and qualifications for the position. If your potential new employer is insistent about wanting a reference from your current boss, you can tell them that you’re willing to tap your direct supervisor for a reference once you have a solid offer from the new company in hand.
5. Schedule Interviews Strategically
It can be hard to balance going to interviews when you’re still working full time and don’t want anyone to know you’re looking for a new job. If you can, schedule phone and in-person interviews when you know you can get away from the office and be uninterrupted. For example, a few years ago when I was job searching, I had a few first-round phone screenings that were all requested within a few days’ time. I took a vacation day and did three phone screenings in one day, from the comfort of my living room. That way, I could make sure I wasn’t going to be interrupted as I wasn’t taking these phone calls at work, and I could get all three of them done while only taking one day off. It’s also fine to do a phone interview in your car over your lunch hour, or while you’re on a break.
6. Exit Gracefully
While it can sometimes be very tempting to leave your old company in a lurch — that’ll teach them to undervalue you! — it’s generally not a good idea. Once you have a signed offer letter and an official start date for your new gig, let your boss know as soon as possible, and ideally with two weeks’ notice. That way, you won’t burn any bridges or violate any company policies by not giving enough notice that you’re leaving. Submit your resignation in writing, and even if you don’t mean it, say something along the lines of “I will do my best to prepare for my departure and ensure that training my successor is easy.” Most industries can be pretty incestuous, and you never know when you’re going to end up working with these people or needing to rely on them again someday. If you can depart on civil terms, it’ll better prepare you for any future interactions than if you metaphorically burn the place down as you leave the building for the last time.
Looking for a job is no fun, and trying to find a better gig while balancing commitments at your current job and searching on the sly is even less of a party. With these tips, though, and an amazing interview strategy, you’ll find a new, better gig and any annoyances and unhappiness you have with your current hustle will just be a blip in the rearview mirror.
A grant writer by day and personal finance fanatic by night, Marisa is an avid traveler who lives in Pittsburgh, PA. When she’s not reading or writing for work or play, she enjoys running, thrifting, and searching for the most authentic Mexican food in the city.
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