7 Steps to a Confidential Job Search

By Cindi Cervone Carlson

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7 Steps to a Confidential Job Search

You can’t avoid it. It’s in the pit of your stomach, the back of your mind. It’s been nagging you. Every morning, when you get ready for work, you feel it in your heart. You know, deep down, that it’s time to find a new job. And it’s terrifying. You try to fight the emotions... but they won’t go away.

You feel Stuck. Stuck in a job you’ve outgrown, but that you don’t want to jeopardize if you start a search.

You feel Fear. Fear about the process, the work necessary, and your ability to find better opportunity & company culture.


You feel Guilt. Guilt that you’re turning your focus from your job, betraying a company that gave you a chance, and colleagues that like you.

You feel Anxiety. Anxiety about conducting a successful confidential job search- while hiding your nervousness around change.

You are not alone.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.” He was right. Unfortunately, not all of us have the same immediate courage. What we want is confidence. Confidence that our search stays private, that the right people & companies will find us, and that we know what we’re doing will work.

These 7 steps will give you that confidence. Countless people have followed these steps before you. Now is the time to make the right decisions, take action, and do the things you fear, ensuring the death of that fear and the start of a new & exciting career path.

Step 1: Make the Decision.

Yes, it’s that easy. You keep thinking about it. Why not turn the corner? Stop waiting for that straw to break the camel’s back, for that life disrupting event that forces change. You’ll be better served searching with your current job stability- not without it. Make a commitment, a promise to yourself, that it’s time. Time for you to make a positive next step in your career’s evolution.

Step 2: Tackle that Resume.

“I really need to update my resume.” Heard that before? Said that before? A lot I bet. Your resume is the one thing that everyone uses to rationalize their procrastination. After all, updating the resume truly starts your job search - and why would you want to start something crazy hard like that!?

Stop waiting. It’s not that hard. You have the internet after all. Just sit down and do it... or hire someone to do it. Just get it done. You also have a friendly place to start from Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Step 3: Update LinkedIn. Security included.

If you’re not on LinkedIn just yet, you really need to be. Search firms and recruiters use LinkedIn more than any other platform to find candidates in today’s market. Hopefully, you know that already.

What you may not know is that you have to make sure your profile is not just updated, but also contains the keywords & tags that employers will use to connect you to their open roles. They will be using technology to search for you. Make yourself easy to find.

“But what about my current employer and connections seeing all of this new activity?” Don’t worry. LinkedIn is primarily used for job seekers, so they’ve thought this through way in advance. They wrote an article about confidentiality. Update your settings and move forward.

Finally, update that profile picture- it matters. If you can, have it professionally photographed. That picture of you in a suit at your cousin’s wedding is not the best you can be. If money is tight, spend $40 at Picture People or Walmart, and make that picture perfect. It just may separate you from the competition during your search.

There’s also some great tips from Challenger, Gray & Christmas on how to clean up your online image.

Step 4: Create your Story.

I hate the phrase “elevator pitch,” but you do need to have one. When a potential employer says, “Tell me a little about yourself and what you’re looking for,” you need to have a clear, concise, and positive story for them to remember. It shouldn’t be more than 30 seconds, but it should illustrate who you are, what you’ve done, and what you can do. Be sure to remove any industry jargon and make the story relatable to how you can help the organization (not how they can help you).

“What are you looking for in compensation?” every potential employer will ask. Be prepared. Because you are confidentially searching, that employment gives you added leverage, and you can be more direct. You shouldn’t have to take a job that pays less, so stating what you’re currently making, in a positive way, will be enough.

Create 15 to 20 success stories to illustrate all the great things that you’ve done, endorsing the value and compensation you’re asking for. Why so many? Because you’ll end up aligning 5 to 10 of them with the needs of your next employer.

Step 5: Create Your Networking List

Here is a link to a simple job search organizer spreadsheet via Google docs, so that you have a place to track all of the opportunities you’re chasing, along with all of your networking contacts. You should be able to save a copy after you sign into Google. If you don’t have a Google account, simply copy and paste the cells into an Excel spreadsheet you may have. Don’t forget to look at the second tab!

This networking list will serve as your reference document and “To-Do List” to help you get started.

Step 6: Set Networking Goals

You have to be realistic about how much time you have to do a proper job search. Setting goals on how many folks you’re going to meet & speak with daily can really create the momentum needed to get a job search rocking & rolling. My recommendation is to speak to 5 to 7 people (at the very least) per week. You can handle 1-2 a day, right? Well, do that and you’re off to a great start. Only one step left to take!

Step 7: START!

Yes… Get started! This might be the hardest step, but heck, you’ve already started by reading this article :). The truth is you can’t do an undercover job search (a search without saying you’re searching). It just doesn’t work. I know, because I’ve watched thousands of people do it. People aren’t mind readers (just ask my husband). You have to tell people you’re searching. When it’s the right people, and you’ve taken the steps above, you can be confident that your search won’t get back to your current company.

Start connecting with search firms and recruiters, because you are who they are looking for. Why? Because companies are paying large fees for their services and they want to make it seem like they stole you from another company. You see? Your confidential search is no longer a pain, it’s an asset :). Let them know you’re out there to be found!


I believe everything happens for a reason. Every job you leave is a stepping stone in the evolution of your career. The sooner you leave a job you’re not enjoying, the faster that evolution takes place. I’ve seen hundreds of clients have to make two moves- sometimes three, to ultimately find their dream job. The good news is that it’s worth finding! And they often wish they would’ve started that path to it much sooner.

Besides- companies don’t feel guilt about having to eliminate your job. So nor should you feel guilty about leaving that company. Don’t worry, they will actually survive without you. If your issue is loyalty, know that you’re doing them a favor by giving them the chance to fill your position with someone that is more aligned with their needs.

We, especially as Americans, spend a large portion of our time working. LOVE what you do- and who you do it for! The hard work you put into your search will be an afterthought when you ultimately land that dream job.

Be brave, be confident, and start your confidential search today!

Follow me on LinkedIn and on Twitter @CervoneHRNews!

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