So many people dislike their jobs.

Recent surveys have found over half of working Americans and Australians are dissatisfied with their current jobs. Polls like these are less common in countries such as Japan and South Korea, as is selfishly expressing such displeasure, but it doesn’t mean it’s any less present.

ethical job hunting - intResumeI find this scenario more than a bit pitiable, because I have promptly left every job I didn’t love. I did that exactly one time. It was a temporary job, assigned through a placement agency. I was 23, fresh out of college, totally broke. I really needed the money. Yet the very first day it was clear I was not welcome there and in fact, as young idealist, I didn’t like the industry either. I quickly excused myself so they could find a better match.

I still put a price on my ideals and my happiness, and so should you.

If you don’t like your job, and you have unused ability, what are you doing with your life?

There are times when people have taken jobs because they need the money, desperately. And these jobs may not be what they really want to be doing. I get that. But when a majority of the population isn’t happy with what they spend most of their time doing, that’s kind of irrational, isn’t it?

By the way, a great deal of this dissatisfaction is not connected to the job but to the individual and to present-day social media society wherein we’re constantly comparing ourselves with others, and feeling insecure. But let’s leave that for after-work discussions.

You have every right to pursue your happiness in this life of yours. Therefore, you naturally have every right to conduct a job search while you are presently employed.

However, it is my strong opinion that you do not have a right to waste your present employer’s resources on your personal job search. That’s not only unethical and disingenuous…

it’s not cool.

As with all things intResume, this is written from a global perspective. Cultures vary. Job hopping has practically become expected in the US. Few look at any job as something permanent. Rather, jobs are viewed as rungs on a ladder. Moreover, many workers are in constant fear of getting deemed redundant and subsequently let go. This environment can in fact encourage harder work and innovation; yet it also breeds a continual undercurrent of distrust and disloyalty. Whatever the cause, and whether good or bad, job hunting never fully ends for some people.

Mentality

Treat your company, and everyone and everything in it, with great respect

You were hired to do your job and do it well. In a progressive company, you were also hired under the understanding you would be supported in growing your skills. Whatever your conditions, make yourself love your company. Treat every task as a chance to increase your company’s profits. When others are slacking or being jerks, ignore them. That’s not your business. Your business is bringing great results for your company. Often people will notice. True, sometimes they won’t. So maybe it really is time to leave. But until your last day, leave them saying, “We’re really going to miss you around here.”

Be positive, keep your head in the game

Have you worked in a company where it became clear that a certain co-worker was becoming more distant, taking a bit longer at lunch, responding more slowly to email and IMs? I sure have. One was more recent. I’ll call him Steve.

When I started at my company, Steve was quirky, personable, a little shy, and clearly very intelligent. He often chipped in to help out others who were falling behind. He filled in as departmental manager, and did it quite well. He was a go-to guy who would get the job done reliably and without a lot of fuss and backtalk. He frequently went out to lunch with people from other departments and even organized off-site dinners so we could hang out as normal human beings.

But after about a year, Steve sort of faded.

It’s hard to say where and when, but I found he didn’t give his usual helpful replies, he was often quiet at work, he was sick more and worked from home more, in meetings he’d even be checking messages on his iPhone. One day, I caught a glance at Steve’s computer screen: he was checking job listings! I asked my manager, “What’s the deal with Steve?” and it’s clear my manager was also tuned into the situation because he meekly sighed and shrugged, “Yeah, I don’t know. I guess he’s got a lot going on.”

Here’s what Steve should have done:

Not Change a Thing

Understandably, he was establishing an emotional distance from the job. We usually do that, as it helps us rationalize and justify our choice to move on.

Screw this place.
I hate coming here.
My co-workers are jerks.

Maybe he thought all those things, but he made the mistake of letting everyone know through his (in)actions. He should have gone on being helpful, had lunch with the sales staff every now and then, chimed in at meetings, all the usual things. Instead, he made his co-workers’ lives harder and he made our manager look ineffective. Good luck with asking for recommendations in the future, Steve. He won’t be getting one from me.

Bottom line: Stay cool and don’t change your outward appearance. People will get a bad vibe, your reputation will drop, and bridges won’t be burned yet, but the torch is lit.

Accept that your company owes you nothing other than what’s on your job contract

You chose to take the job and your company chose you, probably over many other candidates. Even if you have to leave, they should feel they made the right choice. You took the job. Your company owes you nothing other than what was promised in the work agreement. Maybe your coworker is a jerk, your desk chair is squeaky, you need a new keyboard, you didn’t get a raise. This does not warrant retaliation against the company. Often it was your fault anyhow for not doing your research on the company before taking the job. Now you’re moving on and that’s your choice. Take responsibility for yourself.

Things to Do and Not Do During Your Job Search 

Don’t tell anyone who is connected with your company, your life, and your decisions

Don’t tell anyone about your desire to switch jobs. Strongly consider not even telling your partner. I’m serious. There are a number of reasons for this.

Foremost is that people don’t know what’s going on in your head and they’ll judge you and misread you. I guarantee it. Many people are threatened when others seek success and happiness. We cannot blame them for their instinct. When you decide to make a big change, you send a general message you are dissatisfied with your present life and you want better. Some will take that personally. Some will want to knock you down, so you don’t think you’re better than others. Others will see you doing what they want to do, but feel they can’t.

ethical job hunting - intResumeYour partner may think you’re leaving them or going to uproot the family. Your mother may think that you’re moving far away and won’t take care of her; or, conversely, that you want to move back in! Your “friend” may think this could be a chance for himself, or his girlfriend, to snag your job. Before you know it, he’s e-mailing your manager or HR department.

It’s your life and you’re a big boy or girl now. Pursue your own path with vigor and commitment. But keep it to yourself because you’re going to upset people unintentionally.

Only your very closest and most trustworthy companions in life will support you no matter what. If you’re confident, I mean really confident, they won’t take your job hunt personally, tell them at your own peril.

ethical job hunting - intResumeA survey from the job site indeed (which is great and I’ll write another post on it) found that 65% of people worry that others will find out about their job search.

That number should be 99%.

Absolutely do not tell anyone who works for your company or knows someone who works for your company, or is even a couple of degrees of separation away. This includes your friends. Work is a big, often dysfunctional family. You’ll never have a grasp of who’s after your position or who just loves to spread gossip. As soon as word gets around to more than one or two people in the company that you’re looking for a job, you’ve got some explaining to do. It’s not likely to be a comfortable situation and you may quickly find yourself losing responsibility and being left out of conversations.

And don’t forget your social networks!

ethical job hunting - intResumeIf you take an afternoon off to hop the Tokyo Metro over to Ginza for an interview, this is not the time to Instagram your teppanyaki lunch at Uka-tei. If you zip off for an extended weekend in Singapore for an interview, this not the time to put your selfie in front of the Malion or Raffles Hotel up on your Facebook page, or to post your check-in at Changi Airport (and it really is a great airport).

I have a strict policy of never ever adding co-workers as friends on social media, or following them, often not even former co-workers. Yet even then, SNS, especially Facebook, still seems to suggest me as a Friend to co-workers. At the very least, set up lists in Facebook to regulate what people can see and never make all your posts public, for your safety. It truly astounds me how much personal information people dump on social media, especially Facebook. They just give it away. We really don’t know what any social media service will do with our data. Moreover, it is essentially impossible to delete something entirely. As soon as you post it, it can be shared, copied, and may be backed up somewhere else.

Watch your social media, please. As much as I care about you, I don’t need see everywhere you’ve been and who you were with.

Cover your electronic devices’ and other networks’ tracks; i.e., use your own stuff

Put simply: do not use any company equipment or property in your job search.

Unless you’re the CTO, and even then, you may not be aware of whether your computer and your network activity is being monitored. Don’t risk it.

Do not use your office computer for personal activity. Don’t use the office LAN or Wi-Fi, the printer, the copier (it would kind of stink to leave a copy of your cover letter in the copier wouldn’t it?). And even though it’s easy to get away with, don’t use any of the company’s office supplies. Use your own stuff, in your own space, and on your own time. If you must take a call for a possible interview, leave the office. If you have to dash off a reply e-mail, leave the office and use your own computer, your own Wi-Fi, your own phone.

Searching and Applying

ethical job hunting - intResumeNaturally, don’t use your company email address! Use Gmail, as most people do. A Hotmail tells people you’re old and uncool, and maybe you are, but don’t let people know. If you don’t have a Gmail address yet, you may have trouble getting YourName@gmail.com so you can try approaches such as using your middle initial or first and middle initial plus your last name. If you have your own domain, make sure it’s not tied to a potentially competing side business, and that it doesn’t sound silly or vulgar.

LinkedIn will often be key in your job search. You may find a job there and/or you post your long-form multimedia CV there. It’s the only social site where there is essentially no choice but to show your identity and a lot of personal information, but you can still keep it strictly professional.

If you don’t have a LinkedIn page yet, set one up, or even better, hire a pro to do it for you. LinkedIn has an option that makes you available to appear in job searches. That choice has a system for keeping you out of suggested candidates for positions in your own company. While it’s not 100% foolproof, I recommend my clients use this.

If you do happen to get “caught” job hunting just say sorry and that you were looking at what was out there. Shrug it off. As most of my clients are already accomplished individuals who are valued by their employers, I suspect it can actually be a good thing if your company finds you might be casually open to new job offers. You may just find a promotion or raise coming your way. It’s not a “strategy” per se, but simply appearing on LinkedIn as “open to offers” is not nearly as damning as getting caught looking at job listings on your office PC during work hours.

When possible, try and send your applications directly to the company, rather than through a job search site. This removes one extra step in the information chain and just may keep your resume from bouncing around a bit more than you’d like.

Networking is good; job fairs are not

You own employer may be scouting new talent at job fairs, and even if they’re not, someone who knows them is quite likely to be there. If word gets back to your company or boss, it won’t look good. Networking, however, is fine. I encourage you to attend industry events and presentations, pass out your card, get to know people. Don’t necessarily tell them you’re actively looking for work, but do show your enthusiasm for their companies and suggest some ways you could really add value for them, if you worked there. Then keep in touch.

Only apply when you know the employer; avoid blind ads

Obviously you don’t want to apply for your own company! Moreover, but only applying to specific companies, you can do the proper research of the target company and customize your application to them.

Remind recruiters and prospective employers to keep it confidential

This would seem to be common sense, especially for recruiters, whose very purpose is getting you to leave your job. However, make it very clear, and show what a good person you are, with a statement such as, “I value my current job greatly and I enjoy working there, but I am seeking new challenges. Therefore, please keep any interactions we have in strict confidentiality.” Or if you’re speaking, “Please understand that I really do like my current employer, but I’ve decided to pursue new challenges. So please keep this confidential.”

Conducting Your Search

The pre-interview: Phone or Skype

These days, companies typically conduct an initial interview via phone or webcam, most likely with Skype or the company’s preferred teleconferencing software. Especially if you’re applying for a job that is in another city, state, or country, you may even do the main part of your interviewing by webcam. I’ve been hired that way, and when the company flew me out for the actual in-person interview, it was basically to make sure both sides were happy and to finalize things.

You must treat the pre-interview every bit as seriously as a face-to-face interview. Therefore you should allot time when you can be in a private and quiet place. If you’ll be using a webcam, try and find a meeting room setting. You can even consider renting a meeting room or work booth. If you’re doing it at home, have a neat and simple background and don’t let your kids or anyone else disturb you. Sometime the initial interview is actually a full interview.

With that said, do not do it at your workplace, and that includes in an empty meeting room or the stairwell. At the very least, leave your building and go somewhere quiet.

Interview Day: Timing and Clothing

ethical job hunting - intResumeThe mostly likely time you’ll be called for an in-person interview is, naturally, during the business day. If you can, make the interview before or after work. Most offices don’t mind if you have to arrive a bit late or leave a bit early for an “important appointment” and most bosses won’t drill you with questions and demand evidence. If they do, then you’re going to have to be a bit craftier.

Interviews most always call for formal business attire. These days, many companies have casual or business-casual dress codes. So if you normally go to work in khakis and a patterned Oxford shirt, or jeans and a sweatshirt, and show up one morning decked out in a sharp navy suit or smart blouse and serious pumps (especially if you’re a man), suspicions will be more than raised. In fact, the whispering may turn into a direct dialogue.

Do this instead. If on the day of an interview you have to go for an interview and can’t take a day off, try and arrange enough time to go home and change. If distance and/or time don’t permit, bring your interview attire in a separate bag, such as a gym bag. Get to work a bit early and stow it somewhere safe, such as a storage room or at least under your desk. Better, if there are public lockers at the train station or somewhere else, stow your interview gear in there. Then quickly change in a public toilet (not pretty, I know) of a store or office building near your interview destination. Do that all in reverse if you have to go back to work.

But the best way to deal with an interview is definitely to take a full day off, or at least a half-day. Then you can mentally and physically prepare yourself, be on time, and you won’t have to change outfits like Superman or Superwoman.

Finding a job can take a long time, and you may have to wash, rinse, and repeat this strategy a number of times. Don’t forget: keep your head in the game. Your company is still paying you. You owe them a job well done and you maintain your integrity by continuing to deliver a strong performance. Carry on with things as they are. Even if your role is changing or advancing as you plan your escape, this is your current job. You chose it. You may be tempted to just quit, but that’s often a rash choice. So long as your job is paying the bills and not dreadfully hurting your life…

ethical job hunting - intResume

Clean Our Your Desk

Congratulations. You’ve got a new job, you’re pumped. In another post we will get into making a gracefully exit and making your physical and psychological transition form your current job to your new job. Until then, keep cool, watch your health, and be very careful with the information you share.