One of the most common questions I’m asked by clients is how to job search discreetly so that only select, trusted people know their intentions. If there’s any benefit to being unemployed, it’s that you don’t have to tiptoe around the fact that you’re actively looking. There’s nothing to hide!

However, most people I work with are employed, so it makes sense that they don’t want their current manager to know. If they have a presence on LinkedIn and other social media platforms, it can be particularly challenging to keep a job search quiet.

Here are six tips for launching a confidential, but effective job search: 

  1. Change your privacy settings on LinkedIn. Your job search strategy probably includes connecting on LinkedIn with hiring managers and recruiters at your target companies. If you are also connected to your manager or co-workers on LinkedIn, they will be able to see your connections and activity. To avoid this, go to your privacy settings and make sure that only YOU can see your connections. Test this out by clicking on a few people in your network who are first-degree connections. Even though you are directly connected to those individuals, for some of them, you should no longer be able to see their connections.

  1. Don’t share profile changes when updating your LinkedIn profile.  LinkedIn has updated this feature so that the default setting is “Off” for notifying your network about any profile changes you make. (Still, it doesn’t hurt to check your settings, just in case!) Next, update your profile, making it visually attractive and robust before you start your search. Review the information in each section, making sure it’s accurate, add any new information or skills that you’ve acquired, and so on. LinkedIn profiles are more likely to get read than cover letters, so make your profile information count.

  1. Share your “career intentions” privately with recruiters. A few years ago, LinkedIn created a feature titled “Show recruiters you’re open to work.” This allows you to privately share your job search intentions with those who have a LinkedIn Recruiter account. To try it out, go to your profile and click on “Open To” under your photo, and then select “Finding a new job.” Fill in the required information in the pop-up window, and then select the option stating that you only want recruiters to see it. Finally, select “Add to profile.” (Unlike the “Open to Work” feature which adds a banner to your profile picture, your status will not be visible on your public profile, and your present employer is excluded.)

  1. Reach out to your network. I can’t stress enough the importance of reaching out to your network and others you know to discuss job opportunities. It’s even more critical when you are trying to keep your job search confidential. You can job search without posting on social media by scheduling phone calls, lunches, Zoom meetings, coffee dates, etc. in which to have job search conversations. Instead of posting inquiries and announcements online, call and email your contacts one-on-one and engage them directly in your job search. This personal approach is one of the most effective strategies I’ve seen for landing a new role.

  1. Inform your network that your search is confidential. If a contact is going to share your resume with others, request to be informed beforehand where your resume will be sent, to ensure you don’t have any professional or personal issues with that person or employer. A well-meaning contact may inadvertently forward your resume, or discuss your job search, with a shared connection you’d prefer didn’t know about your job search. You can say something like, “Thank you so much for helping me, and just to confirm, this is a confidential search. If you could let me know ahead of time who you might be contacting, that would be appreciated.”

  1. Do not use your work email or computer for job search activity. This tip sounds obvious, but it’s not. More people use their work email and work computers for job searching than you might think. There is no guarantee of privacy because many companies monitor computer activity. I recommend using your personal computer as much as you can for your job search. If you must use your work computer for search tasks, make sure they’re less obvious ones, such as doing company research. This might limit your search to nights and weekends, but it’s best not to take any chances here!

Keeping your job search confidential doesn’t mean it can’t be effective. By using the tips listed above, you can make sure your career activities are productive and successful, while you remain cautious. For more on this topic, listen to episode 117 of the Career UpRising podcast The Confidential Job Search on iTunes or at www.careeruprising.com/podcast.
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