That's a huge mistake, according to Chris Sherret, founder of Sherret Inc., a Toronto-based IT recruiting agency. "Companies are downsizing, so if somebody is looking to leave, it's a very easy decision for an IT manager to let that job seeker go," he warns. "Managers may also look at the employee with suspicion as if he's planning to steal confidential information. The employee might get passed up for internal promotions, special assignments, or bonuses. Or he may get treated differently if a manager thinks he's going to leave the company."
Here's what every IT professional needs to know about conducting a job search on the down-low.
1. Know your IT recruiter. IT recruiters and head-hunters are skilled at sussing out engineers and developers while flying under an IT manager's radar. But even the most discreet IT recruiter can mistakenly spill the beans. "I have a policy in recruiting that I don't send anybody's resume out to any company without telling them who that company is first," says Sherret. "But it's not a guarantee--there are always new recruiters who can make mistakes."
[ For more IT career advice, see Rev Up Your IT Career. ]
2. Search social media. LinkedIn is an excellent job search tool, but not necessarily in the way you might think. Suddenly revamping your entire LinkedIn profile and uploading your resume can draw unnecessary attention. Rather, Sherret recommends quietly exploring your network of connections for job opportunities. "If you have a lot of connections, you can enter your skills in LinkedIn and look for other people who have the same kind of skills as you and see what companies they work for. That can give you some good clues," says Sherret.
3. Do your homework. Before you stick your neck out and apply for a job, Sherret says, it's important to first perform the necessary due diligence. "What kind of actual work is done at the prospective company--the exact technologies, the level of people they're looking for, the IT environment, the size of the company. Are they growing? Are they steady?" According to Sherret, these are all questions that should be answered upfront.
4. Go underground. Many IT professionals enjoy unlimited access to everything from underground forums to skills-related user groups and industry-related user groups--places where colleagues speak freely, and anonymously, about specific IT projects, corporate culture, and even staffing gaps. "While user groups are typically where people with similar skills meet to learn more about their industry," Sherret says, "you can meet people there and be discreet [about searching for a new job.]"
5. Seek out salespeople. Conferences and trade shows are regular events in the life of an IT professional. But Sherret says IT job seekers would be better off schmoozing with salespeople than senior-level management if they're hoping to keep their job hunt a secret. "Salespeople are actually more open about employees and who you should talk to about landing a job," he says. "They may even tell you the names of managers and people you need to talk to."
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