Young man walking on a train platform

The art of the secret job search

By: Jessica and Gemma 21 Apr, 2016

Jobs were once a bit like marriages – for better or worse, you stuck with one for years. Your office chair became perfectly moulded to the shape of your bum, and the view from your desk was etched into your retinas like screen burn on a CRT.

But monogamy’s not cool any more. In fact, in the digital media industry, it’s almost essential to move around in order to progress. A tricky task in a small scene, if you don’t want anyone’s feelings hurt. Unless you’re head hunted, looking for a new role involves a lot of portfolio polishing, CV updating, and multiple rounds of interviews. Usually all in secret. In fact, finding a job when you have a job is pretty similar to cheating on a spouse. It can be awfully thrilling, but it does leave most of us feeling like we need a shower.

Amazon has an unusual policy that eliminates the need for sneaking around. Once a year, they offer their distribution staff up to five grand to quit. A brave and brilliant policy, in our opinion. Those who’d rather move on can do so without any awkwardness. And those who stay presumably do so because they’d rather work for Amazon than anyone else. Which must make Monday mornings more cheerful, not to mention productive.

But for those of us not employed by Amazon, a secret job search is sometimes inevitable. Part of a recruiter’s job is to make this as easy for you as possible. Combine that with a little common sense, and the stress of deception can be reduced from a raging torrent to a tiny trickle.

  • First of all, don’t neglect your wife. Office hours are for doing the job you’re paid for – keep the Seek searches for your own time. Tempting as it may be, spending all day with your finger on the refresh button is only going to give you RSI, or get you fired before you quit.
  • This may seem obvious, but make sure people know you want to keep things confidential. Tell your recruiter, mention it in your application, and leave your current employer off your referees list. And of course, don’t give anyone your work number. Your secretary doesn’t want to know about your affair.
  • On the subject of phone calls – choose which ones you answer carefully. It’s far easier to receive a voice mail than trying to arrange an interview whilst sharing an elevator with your boss. If you have particularly nosy colleagues, it may even be worth leaving the building for any extra-marital conversations.
  • LinkedIn can be a fantastic job seeking tool, but like all social media, it can also give your secrets away. By turning off the activity broadcast option, you can keep the fact that you’ve updated your work history (and that horrid photo from your hipster phase) to yourself. It’s also possible to set who can see your connections – a good idea if you want to connect with your recruiter. And while we’re talking about secrecy, it’s probably also worth investing in a premium account. That way you can stalk potential employers and future colleagues to your heart’s content. You don’t want them thinking you’re a psycho with a crush.
  • No matter how excited you may be about that upcoming interview for your dream job, try and resist the urge to confide in your colleagues. They might be happy for you. Or they might just be jealous. Either way, promises of secrecy don’t count after a pint of Pepe Lopez, and it’s not fair to put your workmates in that position.
  • When it comes to attending interviews, a little preparation is necessary. Sick days work fine for one-offs, but if you’re serious about finding a new job, you need a better excuse. With the work loads and long hours of the digital media industry, chances are you’ll be able to schedule a time after-hours without too much trouble. If you do need to dash out between nine and five, it’s safe to assume that breaking your uniform of t-shirt and sneakers to turn up to work in a suit, is going to arouse suspicion. Should you need to step outside your usual dress code, try and change on the way to the interview. The bathrooms at Smith and Caughey’s come highly recommended. Burger King Queen Street, not so much.
  • Considering the small size and incestuous nature of the industry, you might also want to be careful where you meet. Walking into an agency for a date with management is going to be a pretty clear signal to anyone there who recognises you, that you’re in the market for a new job. Whether this matters or not depends on who they sit next to on the Devonport ferry. The solution? See the previous blog post for our pick of out-of-office meeting venues.

When it comes to adultery, it helps to have a wingman. Someone to share your secret, to give you high fives, and to tell you when you need a breath mint. In the world of work, a good recruiter fills that role. They’re probably not your best alibi, but they will do all the liaising, arranging, and negotiating with your future employer, so that you can focus your attention on your current role.

The best affairs are the brief ones. With any luck, you’ll find your perfect match quickly, and the period of unpleasantness will be over before you know it. You can divorce your wife, move in with your mistress, and live happily ever after. Until the next time, of course.