Four Keys to Stealth Job Hunting

You’ve made the decision that it’s time to move on, and now you’re ready to start job-hunting. Should you quit your current nursing job so you can go all-out on your job search, or move into stealth job-hunting mode? Although the former usually sounds much more appealing, the latter (staying put and searching on the side) is actually the much smarter approach.

Why? Two reasons. First, you have no idea how long it will take to find your next healthcare job, so being able to count on a regular paycheck coming in will make the job search less stressful and also put you in a better negotiating position for any job you do find. Second, it’s a well-known fact that employers greatly prefer to hire “passive” candidates, that is, ones who are currently employed. Solution: time for a stealth job search.

Stealth job search strategies

The good news is that if you’re currently employed, even if not happily, you have the time to take a thoughtful, deliberate approach to your job search. The following four tactics will help protect your privacy while boosting your job-search success.

1 – Stealth = silent

As in, with the exception of spouses, do not tell anyone. It’s essential that you keep your job search to yourself, so that no one at your current workplace is aware that you’re planning to make a change. (Yes, even your work BFF. You don’t want to put anyone in a position to either have to lie for you or inadvertently betray your trust.)

Make sure potential nursing/healthcare employers understand the confidential nature of your job search, and reinforce this point with them several times. For example, if asked about confirming your employment details with your current employer, you may want to respond with something like “My manager doesn’t know that I’m considering a job change, so it’s very important that you not contact her at this point.” Once (if) a serious job offer is made and you’ve decided to accept it, then it’s time for checking references, verifying employment details, and similar types of vetting.

For film buffs and pop culture gurus, one of the most memorable lines spoken by Brad Pitt’s character, Tyler Durden, in 1999’s “Fight Club” is the well-known “The first rule of fight club? Never talk about fight club.” The first rule of stealth job-hunting? Never talk about stealth job-hunting.

2 – Keep it out of the workplace

Under no circumstances should your job hunt cross over into your workplace or employee responsibilities. That would not only be unethical and unprofessional, but it’s almost guaranteed to trip you up and expose what you’re doing. Some specifics:

  • Don’t use any office equipment or other employer resources to apply for jobs. Besides being an issue of basic ethics, using your own home printer or copier (or those of the library) will help you avoid embarrassing disasters like leaving your resume on the department copier.
  • Use your own phone (landline or cell), and never have a phone conversation regarding a potential new job in your office. Those walls are so thin!
  • Do your job search and interviews on your own time, e.g., on the weekends, over your lunch hour, before and after work. It’s a sign of professional ethics that should be your own benchmark, but will also be respected by any (good) potential employers. If you’re unable to arrange interviews during non-work hours, don’t call in sick or make up excuses to miss work. Instead, just take the necessary hours off as vacation or personal time, saying that you have to take care of some personal matters; there’s no need to explain further.
  • Use your personal, rather than office, email account. If your personal email account name sounds unprofessional, an easy solution is to set up a free Google email account for job-hunting purposes, for example,

3 – Use social media, but carefully

Never announce your job search on any social media platforms – you never know who might see it or with whom they might share it. On the other hand, do use your social media platforms (LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.) to begin raising your visibility in ways that don’t necessarily signal a job search.

For example, start posting LinkedIn updates if you can post about something neutral or job-related that won’t flag your boss’s attention – perhaps conference reflections, key points of a cool professional book you’re reading (that might also have relevance to your current job), or a shout-out to a colleague or network connection for a recent accomplishment. Your goal is to get visible in a way that seems like a natural extension of your job, but perhaps at a bit higher level.

On that same note, find as many ways to slowly increase your visibility outside of your organization as you can. Start becoming known on a topic that interests you by writing for an association newsletter, creating a topic-focused blog, writing a guest blog post, or doing a conference presentation or online workshop. Your goal is to start gaining greater visibility for your knowledge (rather than for your job hunt). Assuming that the expertise you’re demonstrating relates to your current job, this shouldn’t signal that you’re moving into job-search mode.

What about making changes to your LinkedIn profile? This can be managed easily – in the “settings” section, set yours to keep profile updates “private,” which means that changes you make to your profile won’t be flagged as changes to anyone else. You obviously don’t want to use any language that signals your job-hunting status (avoid, for example, “Looking for opportunities”), but you can tweak your LinkedIn profile so that it does a better job of positioning you for the types of jobs in which you’re interested.

In addition, consider using relevant LinkedIn groups to post intelligent comments, start useful discussions, and showcase your expertise among group members. Sometimes, this type of visibility will bring potential jobs – and hiring managers – directly to you. More comfortable with Facebook as your primary professional social media platform? All of these strategies work equally well with Facebook’s structure.

4 – Network, but be smart and strategic

Networking is a great way to start opening job-search channels. As soon as you make the decision to move on, start slowly but surely enlarging your community of colleagues – connect with new people, sign up with professional associations, join LinkedIn groups, etc. Is there a conference or industry event coming up where you might be able to discreetly job hunt? If you can speak or present, even better – it’s a great way to up your visibility.

As you make new connections (remember, outside of your employer for purposes of job-hunting!), keep two things in mind. The first is that no one likes to be taken advantage of, so work on building a real relationship (translation: actually care about the person you’ve connected with) before you ask for any favors.

The second is that if you are going to ask for job-hunting help, phrase your request in the most positive manner possible. So, for example, instead of saying something like “I really hate my job/boss at the hospital and I’m wondering if there are any openings at your clinic,” a better option might be “I love my work but I’m always interested in other peoples’ careers. What do you do as a health informatics specialist and how do you like it?” Your initial goal is to simply open up a line of communication and connection and then, if there seems to be an area of opportunity, request the help that would further your job search.

Lastly, if you haven’t already, join the key nursing/healthcare professional organizations for your career area and become as active as your time allows in order to expand your network and raise your professional visibility outside your employer. If you’re job-hunting locally, see if your relevant professional groups have local meet-ups you could join or programs for which you could volunteer to help.

While in job-hunt mode, and after

Keep your performance level as high as possible even after you’ve made a decision to move on, no matter how long your job search lasts. You owe it to your employer, but especially to your fellow staffers. Even if you feel miserable and are struggling to manage a bad attitude, present your best self at the office so that your coworkers (who are staying with the company) don’t have to deal with your toxic feelings.

Don’t burn bridges. With your employer, with your colleagues, with the individual who will be brought in to replace you. Create a transition based on positive actions and relationships, and take the extra step of create documentation that will help your replacement quickly get up to speed.

When it’s time to leave, tell your boss first. (Well, maybe you can tell your BFF at lunch that day, but then immediately tell your boss.) No matter what you think of your boss, it’s a matter of professional respect, and one that also indicates a high level of professionalism on your part. Which is, of course, the way you’d like to be remembered.

This article was brought to you by American Sentinel’s career coach, Kim Dority – be sure to check out her other articles for more tips.