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Seeking A New Job While Currently Employed : Tiptoeing Through the Minefield

So, you currently have a job but you are looking for something a little better. You are getting tired, uptight, and maybe just a little stressed out. This is a dangerous time - the time when job seekers can turn into wing nuts and make key mistakes. So, how do you avoid tripping over those pesky landmines, you know - your current boss, workmates, and customers - and still carry out an effective job search?

Here are some of the risky situations you are going to want to tip toe around so as to not have your job search blow up in your face:

Landmine #1: Oops, I did it again! Ready, fire, THEN aim that email

You've done all the right things: Tailored a cover letter, crafted a killer resume, and found the right contact, Bill Smithers at "The Best Company In The World, Inc." Now all you have to do is hit Send. So you do, hit send that is. So far so good. OK, next target. Ms. Jane Topboss at "Dream Company Corporation." Let's see?type in email address?browse?attach file?and?send. Oops! I think I sent the Bill Smithers cover letter and resume to Jane Topboss.

Avoid this landmine by taking the necessary time and making sure you have reviewed and attached the correct file(s) to the correct email. One sure way to blow up your job search is to get in a hurry and mistakenly send the right email to the wrong person or the wrong email to the right person. Do not send ANY job search-related emails from your current place of work. Send all such email outside of work. Take the necessary time to make sure the right email is going to the right person, THEN hit the send button.

Landmine #2: Having potential employers call you at your current workplace

Jennifer Jobseeker had it all figured out. Since she was at work during work hours, it only made sense to list her work number as her contact number for potential employers. "Why burn my cell minutes and have to keep checking my home machine," she thought. Ah, poor innocent Jennifer, totally unaware of the dangerous trip wire she was about to trigger with the brand new patent leather Woodberry loafers she had just purchased as part of her job interviewing outfit. "After all, I can just grab all incoming calls, screen them and if it's an interview call just cross that bridge when I come to it." Then something went terribly wrong. Jennifer took a 15 minute break and that's when Mr. Murphy the hiring manager called. A coworker took the call, asked if he could take a message, and was surprised to learn that Jennifer had an interview scheduled for 11:00 am the following day. Take a guess at what the coworker did with this info?you've got it: The news spread around the office faster than Simon humiliating someone on American Idol and Jane was knocked completely out of her brand new loafers (metaphorically) and her current job (literally.)

Use common sense when giving out your contact info to potential employers. Never, ever, ever, ever, EVER use your current work phone number as the point of contact. Pass your cell or home number along to potential hiring folks and just let them know that if they get your voice mail, you will call them back as soon as you are able - they will understand. Two other things to keep in mind here: 1) Make sure your voice mail message is professional and not too cutesy, rude, or profane; 2) Never, ever, ever, ever, EVER call them back from your office number - if you do you will suffer Jennifer's fate.

Landmine #3: Using your current company's intranet or internet access for job seeking and interviewing

This should be a no-brainer. In most companies, every key stroke you make on your company computer is recorded and can potentially be tracked. Many IT departments now flag certain key words and phrases and automatically create reports detailing who is doing what with their laptops and desktops. These reports are then passed to management for review. Odds are you probably signed a computer use policy when you joined the company. And guess what? In addition to mandating that you can't play games, view any inappropriate sites, or conduct business outside of what your company is doing, there is likely a clause about using company property for private purposes or gain. And unless you are going to include your current company in the job search with you, you definitely do not want to violate this clause.

Landmine #4: Don't slack off at your current job

Even though you might have S.T.A (short timer's attitude) it's a good idea to not let it show. Keep doing the best job you can. Yes, it will be hard. Yes, it will seem pointless; after all you are searching for a new place to work. And yes, you will need to continue to support what you may think are mundane tasks and soon-to-be former coworkers and customers. But be aware that you are being watched. Cubicles and hard walls alike have both ears and eyes and they see and hear everything. If you change your behavior even slightly, your coworkers and your boss will likely notice. It's important to remember something here. Most bosses don't get to be bosses because they are dumb. Most bosses get to be bosses because they are continually observing events around them and seeking ways to keep things running smoothly. Your boss will know something is up if you are slacking off. Whether you like and respect your current boss or not, you are obligated to serve him or her, the company, your coworkers and your customers as long as you are on the payroll. And it's the right thing to do. You will feel better in the long run if you do the right thing.

Commit to yourself to keep putting in the necessary time and effort that you are getting paid for. Remember, you are the one looking for work so it's up to you to figure out how to balance your current work situation with your job search efforts.

Landmine #5: Attending a job or career fair that includes a booth for your current company

Let's face it, you can often find excellent job leads through a job or career fair. These events attract a large and diverse group of employers who are looking for qualified candidates just like you. So, being the go-getter that you are, you schedule a vacation day in advance (very classy) so that you can attend the job/career fair guilt free. You polish up your shoes, dust off that business suit, brush your teeth, comb your hair, go over a few interview questions in your mind, print up a dozen or so resumes and head to the event. You are prepared, you are confident, and you are going to find that next best job! After all, you don't call yourself Cory the Career Conqueror for nothing.

Imagine your surprise, accompanied by that "I've-just-been-punched-in-the-gut" feeling, when the first booth inside the door is YOUR company's booth staffed by a couple of well known coworkers and a person or two from your Human Resources department. "Why Cory, what are you doing here?" the admin assistant from HR asks, as four pairs of eyes bore into to you like some evil demon guarding the secret passage in the latest Play Station game.

Career and job fairs are great, just make sure to learn what companies are going to be represented there, and if yours is, you may want to rethink attending.

Landmine #6: Listing your current boss or coworkers as references while conducting a stealth job seeking campaign

Consider the following from the movie script "Nightmare on Just Lost My Job Street":

Scene 1: Christina is having a terrible nightmare (dissolve?fade to dream sequence?phone rings?)

"Hi Mr. Jones. My name is Megan Hiringpro at XYZ, Inc. Just a quick question if you don't mind. Do you have a Christina CareerChanger working for you?"

"Why yes I do Ms. Hiringpro. Why do you ask?"

"Oh, you don't know? Christina has listed you as one of her references and we are thinking of bringing her in for an interview but would like to get some feedback from you first."

Christina wakens in a cold sweat and realizes she has dozed off at her desk. "Whew, thank goodness it was only a dream" she thinks with relief. (Fade out?)

Scene 2: As Christina slips a Cool Mint Thin Strip into her mouth, her boss, Mr. Jones, stops by her cube (close up of Christina as Mr. Jones asks)

"Christina, may I see you in my office for a moment."

Christina, now realizing it was not a dream after all, resigns herself to her fate and trudges slowly towards Mr. Jones' office.

"What was I thinking?!" she screams silently to herself.

Scene Ends (and so does Christina's current job.)

This is a tough one. On the one hand, the people you are currently working for and with are in the best position to speak about your qualifications. On the other hand, if you are conducting a stealth job seeking campaign, you can't really let on that you are doing so.

There are only 2 ways to handle this situation and each carries its own degree of risk:

1. Reveal to your current boss that you are looking for other job opportunities

2. Keep your job seeking under wraps and find other references you can use

As Christina learned, you really can't have it both ways. It is just a matter of time before your references will be contacted. It is important to have your strategy in place and all the bases covered so that you are not taken by surprise.

Conducting a stealth job seeking campaign carries risk. If it is not possible or appropriate for you to discuss your job seeking with your current employer, you owe it to yourself to take the necessary time and effort to avoid landmines you know exist on the path to your new job.

The best way to avoid landmines is to plan your job search strategically, continually scan the path ahead, and use as much patience and persistence necessary to arrive safely and intact in your new job.

Dr. Dan Strakal has been an expert on the changing workplace, job transition, and career development for nearly 20 years. He acts as a trusted client advisor and consultant within the corporate sector, government agencies, civic organizations, small businesses, and educational institutions. He also provides business, executive and career consulting, coaching and workshops for individual clients and is the coauthor of and contributor to two books, Better Job Search in 3 Easy Steps and Better Job Skills in 3 Easy Steps. Dan is often called upon by the national and international media as an expert and has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Self Magazine, SmartMoney.com, Computerworld, Diversity Inc. Magazine, Chief Information Officer (Australia's Magazine for Information Executives), the Radio America Program: News You Can Use, KBS Radio Canada and many other media outlets. He is on the Board of Directors of the Career Planning and Adult Development Network and is a Platinum Member of the Career Masters Institute. More info at http://www.capable-consulting.com


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