How to do a Discreet Job Search

I got this question from someone in Villanova (near Philadelphia):

Jason, we met at the career seminar at Villanova University this past week and I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your presentation and all of your wonderful anecdotes and ideas.

Okay, that wasn’t the question, but I wanted to brag a little :p

When we spoke after the meeting for a few minutes, you indicated that I should follow up to request that you write a blog on how to seek employment when the individual is still employed and worried about proceeding as discreetly as possible.

Most of the advice that you and others have provided, always stress the importance of letting as many people as possible know that you’re interested in making a change but that may not be feasible if someone is in a high level job and working with people who are very connected. Any ideas and advice that you may have will be greatly appreciated!

I did a search for “discrete job search” and found a bunch of posts from Monster and other sites. This is not an uncommon question… I haven’t read any of the other articles yet (you can do that from here) because I wanted to give you my thoughts without being swayed by anyone else.

Here’s my advice: do a job search without calling it a job search. You do two things:

  1. Meet new people, develop relationships with people, get beyond superficial (aka networking).
  2. Share who you are, what you do, what you are an expert in, what you are passionate about (aka personal branding).

Job seekers will readily say they are in a job search, but you don’t have that luxury.  So do what normal professionals do: network while you reinforce your brand.

Can you volunteer in your company on committees? If your company is large, volunteering on certain committees might help you get your name out to other people, and start new, valuable relationships within your company.

Can you volunteer outside of your company, on behalf of your company? I know people who have volunteered for United Way, for example, and met a lot of other professionals (great networking contacts) in their area.

Beef up your LinkedIn Profile and strategy. If anyone challenges this (saying it’s a job search strategy) just tell them you are there for professional networking, not for a job search.  The best training I’ve seen for LinkedIn help is my LinkedIn DVD.

Polish your brand and how you deliver it. How would people describe you and what you do?  I bet it’s not the way you want them to.  Take time to figure it out AND figure out what all of your communication lines are (tagline, 30 second pitch, etc.).  Focus on what valuable stuff you deliver to your company… the value proposition.

When you are in the right situation, and you’ll know when that is, you need to have a line like “why yes, I am interested in other opportunities,” or something like that.  Get out there, become known, and you’ll be in a situation where that happens.

The key is to not come across as a job seeker but do the same stuff job seekers do. This is called CAREER MANAGEMENT.  It has everything to do with networking and personal branding, and you should do

What do you guys think?

Update: Just saw this on Twitter: Don’t Get Fired for Job Hunting: 4 Tips (from Susan Joyce at

4 thoughts on “How to do a Discreet Job Search”

  1. Great reason to use an executive recruiter. They can get things done with no work from you. Stress to them the importance of the confidentiality of your search. Share nothing with them until you are confident they will have access to the people you want to work with. Then trust them and work closely with them as you would a direct report on consultant.

    Remember, if they place you, they stand to make $20-$50k+ from the company who hires you… they should earn it. You should feel like they’re a concierge at the Four Seasons – personal touch, never obtrusive or inconsiderate, always a half-step ahead.

  2. Great advice. Networking is an ongoing process and not just for when you need a job. A key is to build up an online presence through LinkedIn groups, Q&A and other activities that supports your brand and knowledge which will lead to internal and external recruiters contacting you.

  3. This whole topic speaks to the fact that people see career management as something to do when you’re unemployed, like eating really well and hitting the gym the day before your annual physical.

Comments are closed.