Perhaps you saw the story about a photographer and editor who accidentally included a section of her cover letter applying for a job with Buzzfeed as a caption sent to all of the AP's newspaper clients. In one accidental click of the mouse, she made two major mistakes at work. She posted an inaccurate caption for a photo (a major gaffe for an editor, whose main job is to pay attention to details) and simultaneously alerted everyone that she was looking for a new job (not a great move for anyone hoping to keep their current job).
What does this widely publicized mistake teach employed job seekers? Do not conduct your job search while on the job; it could cost you your current position and put future opportunities in jeopardy, too. Avoid being marginalized at work because everyone knows you're looking for another job.
Keep these tips in mind when you're looking for a job to avoid getting trapped between a rock and a hard place at work:
Don't conduct your search while in the office or using work equipment.
Did you know your boss is probably spying on you? Yes, it's perfectly legal for your employer to monitor what you're doing while on the job or when using company equipment. The bigger your organization, the more likely it is that monitoring software is installed to track what you're doing while at work.
That means if you're spending time surfing job boards, reading job search advice while at work or using your work-issued computer or emailing cover letters to potential employers, your employer may know about it and could dismiss you as a result. (Check your company's policies; it could be against the rules to use your computer for any personal business at all.) It's inconvenient if you don't have your own computer and use your work laptop for personal business, but be aware your work computer is fair game for your employer to track and avoid using it to conduct job search business.
Don't leave a digital trail.
Using LinkedIn and other social media tools will help you land a job, but if it's important to keep your search confidential, you'll want to be careful not to leave a breadcrumb trail online leading your boss to uncover your job hunt. Some important steps to take to maintain privacy on LinkedIn:
Hide your activity updates in LinkedIn.
There's no need for your current boss to receive an alert every time you update your status, is there? While making changes to your LinkedIn profile doesn't necessarily mean you're looking for a job, frequent curation and consistent updates that may be necessary when you're in an active search could land you in hot water. Visit your "Privacy and Settings" on LinkedIn and select "Turn On/Off Your Activity Broadcasts." Make sure to uncheck the box that allows LinkedIn to let people know when you've made changes to your profile.
Be stealth when you research.
If you're visiting a lot of profiles via LinkedIn, you may not want to let people know. While your in the midst of your research, change the setting in LinkedIn labeled "Select what others see when you've viewed their profile." You may want to temporarily change it to "Anonymous" during your in-depth online investigations.
Join groups privately.
When you join groups on LinkedIn, you have the option to not advertise your membership on your profile. Just scroll down to "Groups" on the bottom of your profile and hide any group's icon from your page. Be aware, public groups are not good places to post about your job search or to rant negatively about your current employer. Even if you hide your membership, someone could still see your updates in that group.
Don't assume you are anonymous in any social network.
If you're participating in Twitter chats, Google communities or hangouts or any online forum, assume your boss has access. Unless you are exceptionally good at maintaining your anonymity, you should assume everything you do or say online is public. That includes updates to your "friends" on Facebook.
It's a challenge to maintain a confidential job search, but situations such as the one of the photo editor remind all of us how easy it is to make a mistake. Be careful and attentive when you're on the prowl for a new job and you'll be much more likely to be successful keeping your plans to yourself until you're ready to make a big announcement.
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