The Dos and Don'ts of Searching for Jobs From Work

Woman working in office
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Can you safely job search from work? If you’re sitting at your desk, silently hating your current gig, you might be tempted to while away the hours looking at job postings or uploading your resume. Or maybe you’re thinking about 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. Many people job search during the workweek 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.

To be safe, you should avoid using company resources, including work time, to further your job hunt.

You don’t want to get fired for looking for a new job – and you could be. It’s much easier to leave on your own terms than to be forced to so 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

According to research from The ePolicy Institute, an electronic policy training and consulting firm, at least two-thirds of employers monitor workers’ email, and half have fired employees as a result. What’s more, they’re in their rights to do so.

"The federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act makes clear that workplace e-mail [is] the property of the employer, and employees should not expect privacy when sending, receiving, downloading, uploading, printing or otherwise transmitting electronic messages," said Nancy Flynn, founder and executive director of The ePolicy Institute, in an interview with The Society for Human Resource Management.

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. 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.

Dos 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.

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 workday 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 making comments about their employer. The same goes for what you write on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites. 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. If you’re like most people, your LinkedIn network includes contacts from previous employers, your 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.

Key Takeaways

Job Searching at Work? Big Brother Is Probably Watching: According to research, at least two-thirds of employers monitor email at work.

Don’t Use Employer Resources for Your Job Hunt: These include your corporate email account, network, computers, etc.

Be Discreet on Social Media and Your Personal Blog: If your job search is secret, don’t talk about it online.

Use Your Network, But Be Cautious: Keep your contacts in the loop, so they don’t accidentally reveal that you’re looking for a new job.

Article Sources

  1. U.S. Department of Justice. "Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (ECPA)," Accessed Sept. 25, 2019.