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Home  > Article

Job Seeking On-the-Job

By Aimee Whitenack

You may have already discovered that looking for a new job while you're employed can involve a few Clark Kent impersonations (i.e., transforming into a suit-and-tie interviewee in the confines of a phone booth or the back seat of a cab), but what else should you know about a stealth job search? We've gone out and searched for a few tricks of the trade.

He asked if I had gotten lost, and I had to say I was at lunch with my uncle. Meanwhile, here I was starving." -Nicole Terry, soon-to-be job switcher

Q: You work in an office where everyone wears flip-flops and khakis, but you're wearing a suit and tie on a Tuesday. Why?

A) Your Great Uncle Bernie passed away; or B) You have a job interview.

There are no rules when it comes to conducting a job search while working full-time. For the most part, you'll have to make your own judgment calls, but are there any guidelines for sending a resume on the company fax machine or using Internet access at work to search online job postings? We talked to job seekers in a number of industries to find out the secrets-and ethics-of job searching while on-the-job.

Official Property of Company XYZ
"Not only are you wasting your current employer's time, but use of the company's resources is somewhat bold," says Liz Martin*, who is looking to make a career move. Martin, however, doesn't mind being "bold" every once in a while. She admits to browsing online job postings at work, because "the high speed connection makes searching for jobs much easier, and it is silly to spend double the time doing your searching from home." She also emails contacts from work, but says there's little reason not to set up a personal Yahoo! or hotmail account to do so.

Martin draws the line, however, at working on her cover letters or resume during the workday. "The fear of being interrupted by a boss or suspicious coworker may lead to sloppy errors or incomplete work." If you print out a resume or cover letter, she says, there's a good chance that someone will see it coming off the printer before you can nab it..

Nicole Terry, another job seeker, simply won't use company resources for her job search. "I figured the company I was interviewing with would think I didn't respect my current company, and it would portray me in a negative light," she explains. When looking for her present job, Alexandra Harris* went out of her way to stop at Kinkos before work to fax her resumes, and made all of her phone calls from the pay phone in another building during her lunch hour. Making calls from work was not an option. "I was in a cube and would have had to whisper, but I wanted to seem animated," she says. Harris didn't think it was appropriate to use her cell phone, either. "I didn't want to seem like I was on the go." She thinks that a quiet pay phone is the best option because you can prop yourself up and take notes. She adds that if possible, you should use a calling card instead of coins.

The interview
So what if all of your stealth resume sending and phone calling pays off and you land an interview? When do you schedule your meeting? For Terry, this was relatively easy. Her workday ended at 4:00 p.m., so she scheduled interviews in the late afternoon. The one interview she scheduled during her lunch hour ran late, and it was awkward trying to explain her absence to her manager: "He asked if I had gotten lost, and I had to say I was at lunch with my uncle. Meanwhile, here I was starving." Harris scheduled interviews during lunch or after work as well, and says interviewers were always accommodating--the real dilemma, she says, was getting on a suit and a pair of pantyhose in a cab!

Martin once told her boss that she had a doctor's appointment when she had to get to an interview ("There's no need to make up elaborate stories-stick to the basics," she says), though Harris says she'd have a hard time justifying the lie. If you're interviewing out of town, however, you may have little choice but to take vacation or personal days if an employer requires an in-person interview. "You have to be even more organized if you're looking to relocate," says Harris. "I'd want to have five interviews lined up in one day."

When all is said and done
As you can tell from our veteran on-the-job job seekers, employees are just as worried about the image they present to prospective employers as they are about getting caught looking for a new job by a present boss. Asked what they think their manager would do if he or she did, in fact, discover a resume at the printer, most job seekers say "not much." That said, some employers will likely be angered or insulted if they uncover your job search.

When your boss does find out that you're leaving, it's best if the information comes directly from the horse's mouth (after you've gotten another offer). That's one reason everyone agrees that it's okay to use one or two trusted coworkers as references, but that using a current boss or manager is inadvisable (unless your boss knows you're in a special circumstance, such as looking to move back home to Arkansas, and has agreed to help).

As for additional tips, Harris says to recognize that searching for a job while you're employed can be very frustrating, because it often takes longer and happens in fits and spurts. "Everything seems like baby steps. You just don't have the time to blast out 20 resumes at once," she says. While some actions along the way may seem a bit unethical, most job seekers say that a little rule-bending is inevitable. The key, everyone agrees, is to use your common sense.

*Names have been changed.

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