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By Joyce Lain Kennedy
DEAR JOYCE: Considering today's job market, I certainly don't want to be fired. But my job is, in a word, awful. How about tips for changing jobs on a hush-hush basis? -- Y.R.
Looking for a job when the boss is breathing down your neck isn't easy, but you can do it honestly and discretely. Here are a few tips on ethics and stealth:
DON'T STEAL OFFICE PROPERTY OR TIME.
If you must send or receive e-mail, tweet, check up on your contacts on social media or make phone calls, use your own equipment, such as a laptop, netbook, digital tablet or smart phone.
Search on your own time by leaving the building when it's your normal routine (coming early, staying late, eating lunch out). Search inside only when you're assured of privacy.
Bosses legally can monitor company equipment to see what you've been up to. And remember, bosses pay more attention to employees whose behavior raises suspicions.
REVIEW YOUR ONLINE PRIVACY SETTINGS.
Do you announce your roving eye on a social media page? Don't. If you're working with recruiters, insist that your resume not be released to anyone without your agreement. Recheck your resume for dead giveaways such as these examples:
-- You removed your name and contact information but forgot to delete your resume's page two identification with your name ("Mary Smith Page 2").
-- You wanted to impress and included your current job on your resume.
-- You named too many employers and brands, making your identity easy to guess. Instead, describe them in generic terms (example: midsize gardening supply distributor and well-known brands).
Dressing for interviews now and then is so obvious. If you normally come to work in casual attire, keep a change of clothes nearby. Or start dressing a bit better every day and comment that you've been reading self-improvement books and think it's time for an upgrade.
WATCH THE LITTLE THINGS.
Getaway clues include these behaviors:
-- You use more sick days than usual. You take longer lunch hours. You come in late in mornings and disappear in afternoons, claiming client calls or dental appointments. You keep having car trouble or floods in the kitchen. Your hair is fluffed, your makeup is perfect. Solution: Try to schedule job interviews at night and on weekends.
-- You boost your attendance at professional meetings, especially when you take on new visibility by holding office, heading projects or speaking publically.
-- You ask farewell questions, such as: "How much does COBRA continuation of health benefits cost?"
-- You begin regularly taking your personal belongings home.
-- You're seen at a job fair and offer a lame reason: "I'm checking opportunities for a sick friend."
None of the little things by themselves are cause for discovery, but a combination of them can wave a red flag under your boss's nose.
WHAT TO DO IF YOUR BOSS FINDS OUT.
A crucial part of your under-the-radar search is networking. But talk travels. If your boss gets wind of your desire to depart and calls you out, don't lie and don't cave in.
Say that no one really wants to venture into the unknown, but for the following reasons -- enumerate reasons that you've practiced saying in anticipation of this moment -- you feel forced to look elsewhere. Ask if there's any chance to work out your concerns where you are.
Your goal is to remove emotion from the discussion and perhaps win an improved situation in your current job, or at least to buy time.
If your situation slides downhill fast, ask for a quid pro quo. That is, if you're not forced out before you're ready to leave, you'll train your replacement on your own time.
If nothing else works and your boss is rational, negotiate agreement on a reference statement of why you are soon to be an ex-employee.
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