All Quiet on the LinkedIn Front
If you are in a stealth job search, LinkedIn’s normal settings might hurt
LinkedIn is, of course, a public site. It is also the premier social media site for business. Here your colleagues see your posts, your boss may check your profile, and HR may be monitoring your groups for new staff (possibly your future replacement). So if you want to keep a job search a secret on LinkedIn, you need to be very careful.
On the other hand, recruiters can reach out if they think your skills meet their needs. You can research other companies and the people who work for them (and they can research you back). Groups allow you to reach out to other people in your field, you can find new job listings, you can research educational opportunities, and you can build a network. These are all good things for your search.
If you don’t have a LinkedIn account, definitely set one up and start creating your profile. When your profile begins to fill out, start sending out a few invitations and start joining a few professional and alumni groups. (See some of the other articles on Frugal Guidance 2 for guidelines for building your LinkedIn network.)
What to Say When Somebody Asks Why You’re on LinkedIn
If anybody asks, tell them you are learning about social media, networking, and marketing, you want to learn from peers in your field on LinkedIn, and you’ve been told this is the best way to connect with business people throughout the world. (This is all true.) Then ask them for recommendations for people to connect with and groups to join. Don’t say you are joining to find a new job. (In any case, join LinkedIn for a career, not a specific job search.)
Joining LinkedIn Groups
Joining professional groups on LinkedIn is a great way to build your reputation and your network. But don’t be so aggressive that it becomes publicly obvious to others that you are looking for a job. Remember that a professional group may include your colleagues, your boss, and their friends, too. Members of your company’s HR department may also be monitoring the group to look for potential employees.
Instead, join groups slowly and carefully. Don’t join too many for now. Some groups are great for developing your professional contacts and for learning and discussing issues with people who share your interests and career. Other groups are good for expanding your reach on LinkedIn.
Although it should be OK to join professional groups on LinkedIn, avoid joining job search groups for now. If you feel you must join a job search group, do not show the group logo on your profile, do not participate in discussions (they may show up on a public LinkedIn timeline), and do not publicly announce that you are looking for a new job.
If you have a choice, join Closed Groups which are somewhat less public, but hardly private in the traditional sense. Check the group settings to avoid announcing everything you do to the rest of your network.
Be aware that people in your company may check in with industry groups and job search groups looking for potential employees. If your HR manager sees you are looking for a new job, or saying bad things about your company, that could lead to a VERY awkward conversation the next day at work, and may get you fired quickly.
Connect with all the helpful people you’ve worked with in the past, including classmates, and friends. If you don’t want current office colleagues seeing what you are doing on LinkedIn, don’t send them invitations. However, if they send you an invitation, not accepting them may send up a red flag. If you do get an invitation, it’s probably best to accept it graciously, and ask how you can help them on LinkedIn.
When you start meeting fellow professionals (likely in groups), connect with those at your job skill level or a few rungs higher on the ladder. You can also follow some of them on Twitter and Google+, which is a bit more stealthy than using LinkedIn. Those who blog about your field are more likely to have other accounts you can follow off of LinkedIn, too.
If you find people or blogs helpful to your job search (perhaps Frugal Guidance 2, ahem), follow the owners on Twitter or subscribe to their newsletters or learn how to use an RSS reader. That way your office colleagues won’t see a lot of job search contacts and groups on your profile.
Should I Upgrade to a LinkedIn Job Seeker Account?
While in a confidential search, don’t upgrade to the job seeker paid membership level. You do not want a job hunting icon on your profile or any announcements that you have that type of account. In my opinion, the best benefit of the job seeker package is the LinkedIn job seeking group available only to job seeker account members. But even here, the possibility of discovery by a colleague is high.
If a co-worker does find you in a job seeking group, in some cases you might follow the same code followed by Baptists who accidentally meet in a liquor store: neither of you admit seeing each other. But if the other person isn’t in a stealth search, they might not be as concerned about your privacy, either.
In most cases, a paid account is not necessary for job hunting. If you feel that a LinkedIn upgrade might be useful, pay an extra five or ten bucks a month for a regular membership. Or use the money, instead, for hiring a LinkedIn coach to confidentially help you improve your profile or give you job hunting tips on LinkedIn.
More LinkedIn Do’s and Don’ts
- Avoid a flurry of announcements of changes to your profile. Instead learn how to turn off your LinkedIn announcements. (See the links below.)
- Turn off the automatic announcements showing you are adding lots of new connections, especially if they are with competitor organizations.
- Don’t suddenly join a large number of groups. This could result in lots of automated announcements and new icons on your profile. Although there is nothing bad about this, it could make co-workers curious and wondering if you are looking for work.
- Don’t announce your job search on your profile. You never know when a coworker will read your profile or see announcements that you’ve updated your profile.
- Never bad mouth your current job or supervisors. Anywhere. Online or off. Publicly or privately. Although it may let off some steam, it will never actually help you get a new job.
- Don’t rely only on your privacy settings on LinkedIn or other social media to keep discussions about looking for work private.
- Remind your close friends and family to keep your search private, online and off.
- Do not suddenly ask several of your current colleagues for recommendations on LinkedIn.
- Don’t campaign to get a lot of endorsements on your profile if in a stealth job search. Do add important skills and keywords, but don’t expect them to suddenly attract recruiters.
- Do keep your profile updated at all times, but avoid adding lots of work samples.
- LinkedIn is just now adding the ability to add photos to burnish your professional profile. Photos of you at work, at corporate events, and receiving awards should be fine. Photos of you attending job hunting seminars or attending networking events at your competitor’s offices are not.
- Do adopt a “go slow” approach to joining professional groups and connecting with people in your field.
- Never reveal confidential info about your employer or brag that you know secret details of future plans.
If, in spite of your best efforts, your supervisor directly asks you if you are looking for work, it’s probably best to be honest. In most cases lying won’t help your job hunt.
Instead of applying for positions on LinkedIn, consider using the hiring company’s website instead, which should be even more private. Do make sure you mention this is a Confidential Search.
When done right, LinkedIn can be a valuable tool for your current career and for your future. However, what you do on LinkedIn can also be visible to others in your organization. When you are in a confidential job search, take great care not to reveal your plans to others in your company.
One simple way to avoid your office colleagues seeing your job hunting activities is to not do them on LinkedIn. In our next post, we’ll discuss Stealthy Job Search Alternatives to LinkedIn.
If you have other ideas on engaging in a confidential job search on LinkedIn, please share them below. Thanks.
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“Shhh” photo by Eric E. Castro. Used under the Creative Commons license.
Original toned in Topaz B&W.