10 ways your boss knows you're job searching
You think you're so smooth – the James Bond of covert job searching. Where he used wrist-mounted dart guns and camera-implanted rings, you have deceptive "dentist appointments" and a conveniently angled computer monitor to conceal secret résumé tweaking. Unfortunately, while you smugly sip a shaken martini – uh, iced coffee – you may not realize that your cover was blown. Your boss is onto you, and it's no wonder.
Below are 10 clues you left that basically scream: "I am job searching!"
1. You became a LinkedIn superstar overnight. If managers suspect you're looking elsewhere, your LinkedIn profile is often the first place they'll snoop, says Jenny Foss, founder of the career blog JobJenny.com and author of "Ridiculously Awesome Job Search Kit." "It's where a lot of people tend to get busted," she adds.
A robust LinkedIn presence is crucial to any job search. You know that. Your manager knows that. And your manager probably knows that you know that – so she'll be concerned when you go from having a bare-bones profile on Monday to one jacked with additional work history, new connections, status updates and recommendations by Friday. "Don't go from zero to 500 overnight, because that can be quite obvious," Foss cautions.
Foss also points out that recommendations from others are time-stamped, so it looks fishy to have five new accolades on your profile, all written within the same week. "They don't look like they're coming organically," she says. "It looks like you're out shaking the bushes, trying to get people to say nice things about you."
No, this doesn't mean you should abandon your LinkedIn profile for fear of a suspicious boss. But it does mean you should be more careful. For one, turn off your activity broadcasts so that every savvy move you make isn't announced to your entire network. Here's how: From the homepage, hover over your photo in the top right corner, and click on "Privacy & Settings." From this page, click "Turn on/off your activity broadcasts."
If the timing of your job search allows, Foss recommends beefing up your LinkedIn profile gradually (and thus inconspicuously). Or better yet, work on it when you're not job searching.
2. You've suddenly become a Twitter thought leader. Similar to quick LinkedIn overhauling, Foss says employers will likely notice if you abruptly go from tweeting cat GIFs and "Game of Thrones" spoilers to posting thoughtful, industry-focused content and participating in job-search Twitter chats. These are generally good moves for your job search, but bad ones for keeping it under wraps, so again, take it slow.
3. Your boss received your résumé from a contact of a contact. You're networking – yes! But you're networking so thoroughly within your industry that word gets back to your boss. "The world is small," says Andrea Kay, career consultant and author of "This Is How To Get Your Next Job," so this kind of thing does happen. When sharing your résumé and other job-search materials with new and old professional contacts, explicitly state that your hunt is confidential, Foss says.
4. Your co-worker blabbed. "I'm always amazed at how many people tell their co-workers about their job search," Kay says. "That's one of the worst things you can do." Ideally, you wouldn't tell any co-workers, but you may have to if you want them to serve as references. In that case, Kay says, "you need to pick people who you really trust, who don't have a hidden agenda and who won't let it slip."
5. You're taking four-hour lunches and have way too many dentist appointments. Yes, it is that obvious when you're interviewing elsewhere and go MIA, with or without a flimsy excuse. Schedule phone interviews for personal hours, like a lunch break, and take vacation or PTO days for lengthy in-person interviews. "That way, you're not feeling pressured during the interview to get back to work – which can affect how you handle the interview – and you're not stealing time from your employers," Kay says.
6. You dressed 10 times nicer than usual yesterday. People (read: your boss) will notice if you go from sporting a uniform of jeans and a T-shirt to showing up in a tailored suit on interview day. This is all the more reason to take the day off from work to interview, but if you don't, dress as usual at the office. And then, Foss says, "leave the premises, and stop in a McDonald's parking lot on the way to the interview to change."
7. Your company's human resources staff saw your résumé on a job board. When you post your résumé to a job board, such as Monster or Indeed, there's a chance your current employer could see it. In fact, Foss says many HR staffers and managers regularly search for their company names within job board submissions specifically to see if their employees are looking for jobs.
There's often an option to post your résumé anonymously, so do that, Foss says. "Or forgo that option and stick with LinkedIn," she adds. "You're way more likely to be found by recruiters and hiring managers there anyway."
8. You left your résumé in the freaking printer! Yes, it happens. Print all application materials from home, the library, a print shop – anywhere besides your current company's office.
In fact, create a hard and fast rule to keep work and job searching separate. That means no sneaking out for a phone interview. No browsing job boards. No applying or networking with your work email address. "You don't watch porn at work, and you don't work on your résumé at work," Kay says. "You just don't."
The reason is twofold: For one, logistically, there are simply too many opportunities to get caught job searching. Résumé copies will be found. Computer servers will be checked. Co-workers will notice when you're clearly elsewhere, either literally for interviews or emotionally (more on that later).
And – oh, right – ethics. "You're not being fair to your employer if you're using the company's dime to get the heck out of there," Foss says.
9. You've been avoiding your boss. When she consults managers, Kay says many of them suspect something is fishy when their employees stop talking to them as often, whether it's to give an update, ask for an opinion or just say hello. As Kay puts it: "You're not doing the things you normally would have to keep the relationship going."
10. You've just been acting weird, OK? "This is a hard one for people to understand how they're doing it, but it's an easy one for managers to pick up," Kay says. In many cases, you're disengaged, or as Kay describes it: "not being totally mentally present." Maybe you used to chime in a lot during meetings, and now you're quiet. Maybe you're not producing as much as you used to. Maybe you're not excited about a new project you've been asked to manage.
Or maybe you've become bolder in arguing against decisions you disagree with, Foss says. "Any variation to what's expected of you or from you could raise an eyebrow," she adds.
Job-searching employees often send these subtle signals without expecting their managers to notice, Kay says. But they do.
"They say: 'I wonder why she kept her head down in the meeting; I wonder why she's not eager to take over that project; I wonder why she's leaving early a couple days a week," Kay says. "You're planting questions in their head."
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