The Do's and Don'ts of Searching for Jobs From Work

Woman working in office
••• Georgijevic / E+ / Getty Images

Can you safely job search from work? What’s the best way to handle it when you're sitting at your desk all day and you don't like your job, or you want to find a better one? The temptation of course is to while away the hours looking at job postings, perhaps uploading your resume, talking to contacts who could help, or sharing the trials and tribulations of your job search via Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Messenger or WhatsApp.

If you were to do that, you certainly wouldn't be the first (or the only) person to do so. Most people job search during the work week rather than on weekends, and many do it from work. Given the way companies monitor employees, it's unwise to use your work computer or email account for job searching.

You don’t want to get fired for looking for a new job – and you could be. It’s much easier to move on when it’s most convenient for you (and on your terms) than having to find a job because your employment was terminated. There are also ethical issues with job searching on your boss's dime (even if you can't stand him or her).

Who is Watching You Work

 A Proofpoint survey found that 41 percent of large companies read employee email. Almost 26 percent have terminated employees for email policy violations, while another 45 percent have disciplined employees for violating email policies. A full 20 percent of surveyed employers had disciplined employees for improper use of blogs or message boards, with 13 percent having taking action for social networking violations, and 14 percent disciplining for improper use of media sharing sites. A survey from Alfresco reports that 98% of the employers who responded monitor employees' digital activities, with 87 percent tracking email and 70 percent looking at web browser history.

What you do online, at least when you're doing it from work, is your employer's business and not much of it is private. And the number of companies reading your email is important to note for anyone seeking employment. In fact, almost 20% of the companies surveyed had employees whose primary job is to read and analyze email.

Therefore it's important to be careful. Here's what you can do to make sure you don't get in trouble job searching from work, or (even worse) lose your job before you're ready to move on.

Do's and Don'ts of Job Searching at Work

The best way to job search discreetly from work is to do all of your job-hunting activities on your own device. It’s also important to manage your time carefully, so you don’t get caught spending your employer’s dime looking for a job to move on to.

Email Account: Do not use your work email address for job searching. Use your personal account and don't send resumes and cover letters from your work email account or use that email address when you apply online. Another option is to set up a free email account using Gmail or another email provider, specifically for your job search. It will make it easier to check the correspondence you’ve sent and to track applications when you have everything in one easy-to-access place.

Computer and Phones: Don't use your employer's computers or phone system. Keep your resume, email correspondence and anything related to your job search in the cloud or on your home computer, tablet and phone. Use your personal phone for job searching calls and texts. Check for voicemail discreetly during the work day so you don't miss important calls.

Check Your Privacy Settings: Before you start job searching, check the privacy settings on all your social accounts. Make sure that your posts are viewable by the right audience. There may be some content that might benefit your job search, if it’s work-related. Other posts might make a prospective employer think twice about hiring you. Check your LinkedIn settings. You probably don’t want your employer to see how busy you are updating your LinkedIn profile, so adjust your activity broadcasts accordingly.

Going Online: If you have a blog, be careful what you say on it. People have been fired for comments made about their employer. The same goes for what you write on LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook and other networking sites. Twitter can be dangerous as well. Employers can (and do) read what you post or write there. On the flip side, social media can give you terrific exposure. Post news and information about your industry and career field (where relevant), especially on LinkedIn. It will help you to be noticed by employers.

When and Where to Job Search: Use your lunch hour or your break for job-hunting activities. On your lunch hour, visit a bookstore, coffee shop or library with internet access, and use your phone, tablet or laptop. This is also a good time to return phone calls from prospective employers, especially if you can take an early or late lunch to catch them in the office.

Be Discreet: Be careful who you tell that you're looking for a new job. If you inform co-workers you can be sure that it will get back to your boss, one way or another. Do tell your family so they can take messages for you (if you’re using a landline) and so they don't inadvertently call work to say someone is calling about an interview. When you’re talking to networking connections, ask them if they would treat your job search confidentially. Advise them that your current employer isn’t aware of your job search and you’d like to keep it that way.

Build Your Professional Network: Each of us should have a network of colleagues and contacts to use for building our career, whether we are currently job searching or not. Most people's LinkedIn network has a lot of contacts from previous employers, their current employer, vendors, customers and colleagues. Staying in touch with those contacts and keeping abreast of what's happening in your field can help your employer as well as yourself. Yes, you're positioning yourself for the future, but you're also using a tool that can help you to learn about new products and make connections that could help your company succeed.

Use Your Network: You can kill two birds with one stone: building your network on professional networking sites like LinkedIn can help you and your employer. For example, a web developer used his LinkedIn network to find someone to help with usability testing for his company's new website. During the process he also made a new contact who could help with his future job search.

If You Get Caught: If despite your best efforts, your boss catches you job searching, here's advice on what to do next and how to limit the damage. You may be able to get yourself out of a difficult situation, at least for the time being.