How to Search for a New Job without Your Current Boss Finding Out

You’ve decided to look for a better job. But since you don’t want your current boss to show you the door before your next position is a sure thing, you need to go into spymaster mode.

hide job search from boss

Loose Lips Sink Ships…And Job Searches

Even if your best friend works at the next desk, keep your mouth shut. Don’t share your job search with him or with any of your coworkers. If you do, someone will tell the boss—you can count on it. 

Don’t use your office phone, computer, email account, other office equipment, or your work time to look for another job. First, using your current company’s resources to land your next job is unethical. Second, it’s careless. We’ve all heard about bosses finding employee resumes on the office printer. Don’t be that guy.

Be wary of discussing your job search on social media—and if you choose to, use filters to limit who is able to see your posts. Your manager shouldn’t be able to find out about interviews from a Facebook post. As for LinkedIn, you should be updating your profile regularly—don’t wait until you’re seriously looking for a new opportunity. Sprucing up a long-stagnant profile signals a job search is underway.

Give Your Next Boss What She Needs Without Giving Away Your Plans

Although you should tell interviewers your job search is a secret, your potential boss needs to know what kind of worker you are. Your current boss—that would be the one you’re keeping the job search a secret from—is one of the best judges of that issue. Fortunately, there are workarounds.

If you have a written copy of your last glowing (it was glowing, right?!) performance review, provide a copy to your interviewer. If that appraisal includes a few areas you need to work on, not to worry. Just be sure to explain how you’ve addressed any criticism. If you have other words of praise in writing from subordinates, clients or customers, or your boss’s boss, provide those as well.

Check in with bosses from prior jobs and past managers at your current organization who have moved on, and ask if they’re willing to be a reference. Let them know the person or company likely to contact them and the position you’ve applied for. If you excelled in your previous role in ways that are relevant to the new opportunity, remind your former supervisor so she can tell your prospective employer.

If you’ve worked as a volunteer, ask the person you report to if he’s willing to be a reference for your next paid position. Again, let him know what job you’re applying for and the relevant skills that carry over.

Don’t Wear Your Interview Suit To Your Current Jeans-Are-Ok Job

When you have an interview during lunch or after work, dress your best, but do so carefully. If your current job operates like casual Friday is every day, don’t ditch your jeans and arrive to work in a suit. Your boss and coworkers won’t wonder why you’re dressed up—they’ll know. Bring clothing you can change into after you leave the office.

When you have a firm job offer and a start date you’ve accepted, you can share the news with your current boss—and your boss should be the first person at the office you talk to. Be tactful and respectful, and let her know what you’ve learned and enjoyed about your position. Remain professional for the remainder of your time at the company—you never know when (or where) you’ll run into these people again. You have every right to be excited, but don’t break out the champagne until you’ve left the building.

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