Keeping your job search secret from your current boss

In the past, people developed their careers with a single employer, working their way up the corporate ladder for their entire working lives. They received fair wages, earned seniority-based promotions and retired on schedule. These long, rewarding relationships were built on loyalty and trust.

These days, businesses are primarily loyal to themselves. They must deliver shareholder growth in a competitive, global marketplace, which requires a clear, uninterrupted focus on the bottom line. Meanwhile, employees remain loyal to their own lifestyles. They need steady income to feed their families, send their kids to school and afford their homes, cars and hobbies. Plus they crave change and excitement. They can’t count on a single employer to meet all of these needs.

This means that for many people, life is a series of job searches. Every six months to 10 years, depending on the circumstances, lots of dedicated professionals and laborers become ambitious job hunters. They write new resumes, comb through help-wanted ads and spread the word about their career goals to family and friends. They go through the same process again and again throughout their lives.

If this sounds like you, and you are currently employed, here’s something that you need to remember. When you are job searching in a disloyal (or self-loyal) economy, confidentiality is critical. If your current employer learns that you are seeking new employment, you can lose your job. Protect yourself by following these guidelines:

Watch out for e-mail. Thanks to e-mail communication, it’s easy to network with colleagues and friends. With a few taps of the keyboard, you can gripe about your present employer, ask about outside job opportunities or solicit referrals. However, e-mail messages can be easily (and accidentally) forwarded to unknown recipients. If you need to run a private job search, pick up the phone instead.

Be skeptical of online networks, job boards and distribution services. You may love the idea of broadcasting your qualifications to thousands of employers at once. But these online strategies also expose your information to countless Internet users. Your boss may be one of them.

Clean up your resume. Carefully revise your resume to support your confidential job search. Never give out your work contact information, and replace details about your present employer with more generic terms. For instance, you can change “XYZ Inc. in Everett” with “global manufacturing company based outside of Seattle.” Once you land an interview, you can talk about your experience in more depth.

Take an honest approach with recruiters and interviewers. Right from the start, tell recruiters and interviewers that you are running a confidential job search. Make sure that recruiters do not submit your resume to unknown companies. Also, request a written job offer before giving a recruiter or interviewer permission to contact your current employer.

Choose the right references. When preparing a reference list for potential bosses, don’t include anyone from your place of business. In addition, remind references of the confidential nature of your job hunt so they know to be discrete in networking situations.

Getting back to basics, here is one final tip to help employed job seekers protect their present positions: Never, ever search for a job on company time.

Eve can be reached at