OPEN VERSUS QUIET JOB SEARCHES
Bill Kaufmann, President of My Greener Future
Your job search strategy is determined by how open or secret you plan to communicate. You may have excellent contacts that would be of great value, but if you can’t connect with them because you have to keep your search very quiet, their value turns to zero.
One of the determinants for an open or quiet search is your comfort zone. A fully open job search is of course easier, as you don’t have to be secretive with anyone. You can devote a wide-open communications strategy. A limited search means you must segment your communication targets to specific contacts, like past companies, associates in other states or very trusted friends.
For “quiet searches” you have to decide on the degree of quietness. If it’s too quiet, very few people can assist your efforts, as almost no one will know about your search. If it’s too “noisy” you may find it awkward when the word gets out into sensitive areas. If you were in the retail sector, contacting other retail organizations in the region would be near impossible, as the retail network is very active. Other sectors are less communicative because of competitive factors or geographic distance.
Segmenting your contact list of people and organizations and opting them in or out of your communications circle is the only way to accomplish a quiet search. You’ll need to carefully calibrate your degree of openness. You should segment the type of communication to individuals (telephone versus email or letter), by geography (the furthest away initially), and by levels of confidentiality (who can you trust the most versus the least). Using the telephone for personal contacts may make the most sense since you can make your search more secure without a paper trail. You’re able to tailor your “script” to the individual and your sense of their discretion. Please note however, no matter how quiet your search it will leak out sooner or later.
You have to assume as time goes by that someone in your current organization will get a call saying, “I heard John/Sally is looking for another job”. It will be a random call and you’ll have no way of knowing who is calling whom. If the call is received by a friend of yours or a close associate you work with, they may come to you and ask, “Is this true?”. Or in the worst case, your boss comes to you and asks the question, “What’s going on?”. Whatever the case, be prepared to respond to the question.
No matter what your situation, you have to assume that sooner or later your boss will ask you about your seeking another job. You can lie (a very bad mistake) or you can try to turn it into a career discussion. You can talk about opportunities in the current organization (or lack of) versus the external world. You can talk about the need for developmental responsibilities, as you would like to stay in the current organization. In other words, convert the negative into a positive if you can, by asking your boss for their assistance in expanding your responsibilities or opportunities. See if you can get an action plan for the next 6 months. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. Be prepared for either one. While it’s difficult for the boss to fire you on the spot, assuming your performance has been positive and documented, the atmosphere can turn a bit chilly. When this happens accelerate your search with wide-open communications and contacts. You probably have 6 to 9 months.
How you handle this conversation is important, for now and in the future. You may want or need references in years to come. The better shape you leave a company the better your reference.
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