Embarking on a career transition involves exposing yourself to certain risks, including your activities being discovered by your current employer.
Although there are few ways to completely shield yourself from being found out, there are many ways to protect your privacy and minimize your risk across different platforms. Here are a few tips:
Personally, I don’t recommend uploading your resume to major career boards because I find a more direct and controlled approach brings higher quality opportunities. If you want to learn more about this, I write about job search strategies in my e-books.
Additionally, posting your resume on a job board can bring you less than reputable propositions – including slick and highly convincing marketing companies that some say take advantage of job seekers with bogus job offers. If you do opt for posting to a major job board (and even if you don’t), I generally recommend leaving your street address off of your resume. Your city, state and zip, along with your other contact information, is sufficient.
If your LinkedIn network includes your employer and team, be careful with your activity updates. Requesting lots of recommendations or updating your profile several times in a short period could be a red flag to your employer.
Ask for and give recommendations slowly, over a period of time if possible, instead of all at once. You can adjust your profile settings so your network isn’t alerted when updates to your profile are made.
If you join any job search or recruiting groups, adjust your settings when you join so that the icon doesn’t show up on your groups page.
Opting for a website which is a nice touch because it works for you 24 hours a day. If it includes your photo, an audio clip, or a video, it can create a strong first impression. Most D.I.Y. website and blog platforms allow you to password protect your site if you are worried about overexposure, and you can give out your password at your discretion.
Sometimes during a job search interview process, your credit can be looked into as part of the screening. If you want to learn how to protect your credit and financial information, I wrote a detailed blog post about it.
Secret Job Search
My late friend Mark Hovind wrote about the secret job search. I think this is both a safe and smart idea for high profile executives who mustn’t get caught vetting new opportunities. Basically, Mark suggests recruiting the help of a friend (preferably another top executive, mentor, or past boss) to field interested parties for you. Once your friend gives you the basic info, you can decide if you wish to reveal your identity to the potential recruiter, private equity firm, venture capital firm, or company.
You may be working with a firm to send out a mass recruiter distribution for you, or you may be contacting top recruiters one-by-one. Whichever method you use, you can share both in your introductory letter to them and on the phone with a statement like, “I would appreciate you keeping this inquiry confidential.”
If your company has reorganized, been bought by an investment firm, merged or acquired you could add, “I would not want to disturb my company for simply considering alternatives as a result of our merger, acquisition etc…” or, “My current position is secure and I would ask that my inquiry be kept confidential.”
Often, executives present me with the following question:
“Should I join LI Jobs or post in my profile that I am looking for another opportunity?”
Let’s talk about overexposure for a minute and dispel a few myths. I will begin back in my recruiting days… Companies used to pay me handsomely to bring those three “perfect” candidates that matched exactly what it was they were having such a hard time finding (often no easy task). Unfortunately, if he or she was currently in a job search or between companies, that candidate lost some cache – even if the candidate was a perfect fit. Because search fees are substantial, there was a lot of pressure on me to bring my client company candidates they perceived they could not find on their own; and I think that is the key – client companies didn’t want to pay me a fee to “find” someone who was already “available.” They frowned on that.
That is why recruiters are not looking for people who are looking for jobs.
Now this is just a hunch, but I believe my theory should be given serious merit by job seekers who are thinking of posting their availability on their LinkedIn profile.
I will add, yes, it is probably not likely, but it is possible that you might lose out on a position because you did not post that you were “available.” In the end you must make your choices based on your own unique circumstances. I think as a whole though, executives need to look at the problem of branding and overexposure. What, after all, are we trying to create with our “branding” message?
One of your goals should be to communicate a story line that demonstrates your unique value. This can be done by communicating your “specialty” strengths and attributes, your leadership skills and your quantifiable results, or what happens when you do what you do. Tie it all up in a short message that says, “this is the promise of the experience you are going to have by knowing/working with/hiring me.” In this message we want to create cache, allure and intrigue. In my 17 years’ experience as both a recruiter and resume writer/job search coach, I haven’t seen anyone accomplish this by screaming from the rooftops that they were in the job market. I know some might disagree with me, but please consider that my perspective is based on real world experience working closely with well over 1000 executives to date.
What do you want to convey in your job search? Leadership. Confidence. Control. A professional attitude. You are not desperate. You are not “eagerly seeking your next opportunity.” The more people think they may not be able to have you, the more they will want you – it’s just human nature. This special place is not reserved for the select few – everyone that cares about optimizing their career should strive to market themselves in a compelling way. This is marketing 101. And in a job search, one of the best investments you can make in your career is learning how to create a marketing plan for yourself and how to market yourself. No ad says “BUY ME! BUY MY PRODUCT!” No, the ads are geared to make us WANT the product. Of course, we’re not products; I’m just making a marketing observation.
So even if you find marketing distasteful (or worse, disingenuous), if you can’t communicate why someone should hire you, then how are you ever going to have a chance to help them? Your dream job at your dream salary isn’t distasteful is it? Exactly. Learn how to market yourself or pay someone to show you. Your ROI will be tremendous.