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5 things NOT to do when looking for a job while still employed

by Boris Joaquin

Everybody deserves to grow in their careers or get a better job with better pay, better benefits, and better opportunities for growth. As an employer myself, why would I keep my people from pursuing something better? But I would have a hard time supporting such an effort if this was done in a way that was indiscreet, unethical, and downright disrespectful. So, allow me to share 5 things NOT to do when looking for a new job while you’re still employed.

Do not job hunt during office hours. Please do not do this. When you accepted the job offer and signed the contract with your current employer, you gave your working hours to them. It is simply unfair and unethical for you to use office or business hours to window-shop for a new job. It is very likely you will receive personal emails from the HR of your prospective employers during business hours, because that's when prospective employers will be at work after all, but please respond to it only during your break time. Use any break times you get during the day to make phone calls and respond to email. Remember, when you are at work, your current employer is paying you for your time.

Do not use the office phone, computer, and especially the email for your job search! Never use a company-issued telephone and computer to correspond with your prospective employer. Consider any equipment owned by your employer off-limits when it comes to your job searching and applications. Don't even use the company-issued email address! That is so wrong in every possible way. Not even through your office internet connection. In this digital age, there is a chance that your employer could be monitoring your communications in the workplace.

If you have to conduct any business related to your job search while you are at work, use your own personal mobile phone and connect with your own data plan. In sending emails, use your personal account. Or, as most are doing, coordinate via LinkedIn. Never give your current work email address to communicate with prospective employers.

Do all calls related to your job search or coordination with your prospective employer away from your employer's premises. Even though you are using your own cell phone and data plan, someone could be eavesdropping on you the old-fashioned way – by merely listening. Conference or break rooms may seem like private places, but you never know who will walk in on you. My suggestion is to go outside or take a walk to a nearby coffee shop on your break time or after office hours.

Do not schedule a job interview during work hours. As much as possible, schedule job interviews before or after work or during lunchtime. Most employers are already sensitive to employed job seekers anyway and would be willing to accommodate lunch time and after office interviews.

Scheduling job interviews over lunch breaks or after work can still be a challenge, I know, especially with the limited availability of top executives conducting the interview. So, if you must do it during office hours, please file a leave for the rest of the day. Because if you leave the office during the day, your manager or colleagues will definitely know something is up. If you must go on leave, please file a vacation leave and cite “personal reasons." Don’t lie and say you’re sick and have a doctor's appointment. They will eventually deduce that when you move to your new job. It’s better to leave your current job with your integrity intact.

Do not discuss your job hunting or applications with co-workers. Once someone else knows about it, there is no way to predict how far the news will go. Well, I can – as far as your manager's office. The most effective way to turn something secret into public knowledge is to share it with just one person. You can't expect other people to guard your secret if you can't keep it to yourself. To ensure that you keep your boss from finding out about your job search, don't talk about it with anyone at work.

Do not use current employers or colleagues as references. A new employer who is close to getting hired may ask for a job or character reference. If you don't want your current boss to know about your activities, you obviously can't put him or her as one of your references. Most prospective employers will be understanding about this. Just use former employers in this list of references. Prospective employers are usually satisfied with a reference from a previous employer instead of your current one.

Do not come to work dressed to kill (like you’re about to slay an interview). Your boss and coworkers will be suspicious if you show up for work wearing a suit when you normally dress casually. Find someplace to do a quick "Superman-change” into your interview attire. No phone booths around these days? The bathroom of a coffee shop will serve the purpose.

There you have it. Remember that working professionally includes being ethical and respectful of workplace authorities and people in general. If you cannot follow these simple ethical rules of engagement, your current and even prospective employers will not give you the value and respect you deserve as well.

If a prospective employer insists you meet during office hours and you are currently engaged at work, making telling a prospective employer, “I am sorry, I cannot do that at the moment. I would like to continue exploring my employment opportunities with you but I am currently employed and I would like to respect my employer,” would make them see you with high regard – higher than the first impression they got when they reviewed your resume.

Boris Joaquin is a top ranked corporate trainer, executive coach and consultant. He is an Investors in People (UK) specialist, one of the founders of Breakthrough Leadership Management Consultancy which carries Salt and Light Ventures and founder of Project Purpose Philippines. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter @borisjoaquin

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