The best time to look for a job is while you are currently employed, but it can also be a real challenge to juggle your job search efforts with your daily management responsibilities. As an executive, you may have more flexibility than a junior level associate, but if you work from a corporate office, you must take extreme care to guard your privacy and maintain your professionalism. You may also need to grow an extra set of eyes and ears.
If your superiors or subordinates catch wind of your desire to make a career move, it could spell trouble. We all want to be flexible when we pursue new opportunities. Part of the job search and interview process requires meeting with new people and demonstrating drive, but this needs to be balanced with maintaining your existing brand reputation.
Here are a few tips to help you manage a successful executive-level job search while working full-time:
- Do not surf the web for career opportunities while at your office. Many corporations have the ability to check your search history and while it is unlikely that Big Brother is watching you in particular, it is not worth the risk. As an executive, the web is not the best place for you anyway. You should be leveraging your network and other contacts to identify opportunities.
- Unfortunately, unless your employer knows you are in the job market, you cannot put your résumé on job boards either. Even if your firm doesn’t have a subscription to an executive level job board, they may use a staffing firm that does. The last thing you want is for an external recruiter to share with HR that they came across your career information on the web.
- Take care when updating your LinkedIn profile. There are privacy settings that can be used to prevent your updates from being broadcast to all of your connections. However, much of the information is still public and easily accessible unless you use a privacy setting that may be too restrictive for a job search. If you do update your profile, be sure to word things carefully so it is not obvious you made changes related to your pursuit of a new role.
- The walls have ears. Even if you are lucky enough to have a corner office, avoid conducting phone interviews while at work. It would be better to come in late or leave early. If need be, you can take the call in your car on a cell phone. Don’t do this unless you know you have very good reception. A land line is always better for a phone interview. Unless you are 100% sure you will be uninterrupted at work, it is not worth the risk. Try to conduct your search activities outside of traditional business hours. Or, you can take a vacation or personal day.
- Do not send your résumé via your corporate email. This should be a no brainer, but you would be amazed at how many executives make this mistake. In addition, do not use corporate resources like paper, stamps, etc. If you start job hunting while at work, you will only increase the chances you will be discovered. You need to set the standard for the company. Others will emulate your behavior. Discretion and proper, ethical behavior should be exercised at all times.
- If you have to dress differently than you normally would because you are going on an interview, bring a change of clothing in your car. During the meeting, if the potential employer asks for references from your current company, let them know that your search is confidential. Explain that you would happily provide references from the people that you work with once a firm offer is extended.
- When attending networking events, don’t let the entire group know you are on the hunt. Instead, take business cards from those people that you are specifically interested in connecting with; indicate when you will follow-up. It is poor taste to publicly announce that you are seeking a new role while you are actively representing your firm.
Arrange your schedule to allow for some additional time out of the office to give you the flexibility you need to conduct an effective job search and still make sure that all of your corporate responsibilities are met.
It can be a challenge to spend nights and weekends identifying potential roles, but this is the safest way to conduct your search. I always say that looking for a new job is a job itself. Whatever you decide, your search strategy and conduct should be beyond reproach.
If and when you depart for greener pastures, you will leave as a respected and valued contributor. The world is small, particularly where business is concerned. Paths do cross again, and again, and again…