Dear Joyce: I work for a small company that was just bought out by a corporate office that has five other offices that do what we do. Fifty percent of our staff has been fired and I am feeling that my job is in trouble. What is a good way to start the job search while still employed?
Dear M.R.H.: A silent, strategic search is tough to pull off while you're still on another's clock, but if you're good at planning, you can master it.
Begin by making a list of trusted personal and professional contacts and reach out to them. And choose a half-dozen independent recruiters. Don't tell your co-workers. Open networking is risky in a below-the-radar search, but you have to take a few chances.
At the same time, choose your reference providers and, of course, obtain their agreement to serve in that capacity. Big mistake: Taking references for granted.
Somewhere down the line you're going to need a document -- or series of targeted documents -- that tells the reader who you are and why you're worth hiring -- your resume.
This is no time for a masquerade -- say who you are and how to contact you.
When the job market was employee-driven, "sanitizing" your resume -- or making it generic -- was all the rage. But now that job applicants are like pebbles on the beach and resumes fly through cyberspace by the millions, make it easy for employers and recruiters to reach you. You can write "CONFIDENTIAL" at top, adding: "Request no contacts at current workplace until job offer is accepted."
Maintain the same control over your resume as you would a credit card. Above all, do not blast your resume all over the Internet. Instead, spend an evening learning about online resume privacy -- or lack thereof. See "The Consumer's Guide to Online Job Sites" on www.worldprivacyforum.org.
If you do post your resume to an online job board, choose options that allow you to block your current employer and contact information.
Avail yourself of no office resources, of course.
Instead, use your own computer to establish a free Web-based e-mail account specifically for job searching.
Direct callers to your home or cell telephone and check for callbacks frequently during the day, leaving the office to return calls.
And during your lunch hours, break out your laptop if you can find a wi-fi network to use -- at libraries, coffee shops and hotel lobbies, for instance -- as you search for jobs and do e-mail.
Remember: If you look better dressed on interview days than usual, you may as well hang a sign around your neck that says, "I'm outta here." Interview outside of business hours if possible.
"It's important to have a system in place when you start a job search," says Alison Doyle, About.com's job searching guide.
Doyle suggests that you daily check for job leads on important job sites, including local sites and sites that focus on your career fields of interest. Some job searchers work best with well-organized systems, such as one you can use for free on www.jobfiler.com. Others prefer simple spreadsheets, like Excel.
Countless job search books tell you how to do a fabulous campaign. An excellent new one that pulls together the latest strategies and techniques is "Job Hunting Tips for People with Not-So-Hot Backgrounds" by Ron and Caryl Krannich, $18, Impact Publications, www.impactpublications.com.
If news of your search spills out before you're ready to depart, Doyle says you can explain that while you love your job, the downsizings convinced you to follow your standard procedure of continual assessment of your short- and long-term career goals.
But if everything hits the fan, buy time. Ask for a quid pro quo: You'll train your replacement on your own time if you are not forced out before you're ready and if you receive a splendid reference.
E-mail career questions to Joyce Lain Kennedy at firstname.lastname@example.org; use "Reader Question" for subject line.