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linkedin job search shield

This is a guest post by Chris Perry. If you’d also like to guest post here on JobMob, follow these guest post guidelines.

There is a lot of great advice out there for job seekers on how to use LinkedIn to build their personal brands and find new career opportunities.

Some of these tips include maintaining a 100% complete LinkedIn profile, building your network of connections, getting recommendations, sharing valuable and relevant content to enhance your personal brand, joining and contributing to industry-specific and job search LinkedIn groups, following companies, applying for opportunities via LinkedIn Jobs, and more.

However, I am often asked how professionals who are currently employed can leverage LinkedIn effectively, yet discreetly, without compromising their current job security.

Here are 5 critical steps to ensure your LinkedIn job search efforts are successful, yet go undetected by your current employers:

1. Stay Off the Feed

Whether you’re already active on LinkedIn with a 100% complete profile or you’re just getting started, the first thing to do is to change your privacy settings so that your activity is not automatically broadcast to your network in the news feed and so your network cannot see your activity feed on your profile. Here’s how:

  1. Once signed in to your account, click on your name in the upper right-hand corner of the screen and click on “Settings” in the dropdown menu.
  2. Find “Profile” in the bottom section of this “Settings” page and then “Privacy Controls” to the right.
  3. First, click on “Turn on/off your activity broadcasts.” Un-check the box that says “Let people know when you change your profile, make recommendations, or follow companies.” Click the “Save changes” button.
  4. Next, click on “Select Who Can See Your Activity Feed.” Set this to “Only You.” Click the “Save changes” button.

Note: This doesn’t hurt your overall visibility on LinkedIn, but just helps make your activity related to job searching more discreet to help protect you and your current job.

2. Don’t Openly Advertise Your Job Search

Hiding your activity from the news feed doesn’t make all of your LinkedIn activity totally undetectable. While this may seem obvious, be very careful not to openly advertise your job search. Here are some examples to consider:

  • DO NOT post any LinkedIn status updates that would imply that you are dissatisfied with your current job and/or looking for a new job opportunity. DO post status updates that demonstrate your expertise and interests and that support your personal brand.
  • DO NOT include language anywhere in your profile implying that you are dissatisfied with your current job and/or looking for a new job opportunity. DO leverage your profile as a selling document for you and your personal brand by including your accomplishments, skills and more.
  • DO NOT post anything openly related to your job search in LinkedIn Answers or in LinkedIn Groups, especially those related to job search. This doesn’t mean you can’t participate in these places. It just means you should focus your participation and contributions on building your personal brand in your area of expertise and should message people of interest directly and thus, discreetly.
  • DO NOT show all of your groups on your profile. When joining LinkedIn groups related to job search or any groups you don’t want people from your current employer to see, go immediately to the group after joining, click on the “More” tab and click on “Your Settings” in the dropdown menu. Under “Visibility Settings,” un-check “Display the group logo on your profile.”
  • DO NOT ask your current manager or colleagues for LinkedIn recommendations. You can ask previous managers and colleagues, but just be careful when they also work for the same employer. You can always say, “I just wanted to ask you for your feedback before too much time had passed since we had worked together.”
  • DO NOT display the optional Job Seeker badge on your profile if you choose to pay for a premium LinkedIn account.

3. Be Strategically Visible

While you don’t want current co-workers to see your job search activity, you do want potential employers, recruiters and hiring managers to be able to find you, see your profile and consider you for new jobs.

Therefore, you will first want to ensure your public profile is fully visible in LinkedIn and search engine results. Here’s how:

  1. Once signed in to your account, click on your name in the upper right-hand corner of the screen and click on “Settings” in the dropdown menu.
  2. Find “Profile” in the bottom section of this “Settings” page and then “Privacy Controls” to the right.
  3. Under “Privacy Controls,” click on “Edit your public profile.”
  4. Find “Customize Your Public Profile” on the right-hand side.
  5. Select “Make my public profile visible to everyone.” Check the boxes for all the profile content you want to allow others to search for and see. Your settings will be saved automatically.

Second, because other LinkedIn users can see who has viewed their profile, you need to consider how you show up here depending on whose profiles you are viewing. If you’re viewing your current co-workers’ profiles to see how they look, you might want to make yourself show up anonymous; however, if you are looking up recruiters or managers at target companies, you may want to make yourself show up with full information to prompt them to look at your profile. Either way, here’s how:

  1. Once signed in to your account, click on your name in the upper right-hand corner of the screen and click on “Settings” in the dropdown menu.
  2. Find “Profile” in the bottom section of this “Settings” page and then “Privacy Controls” to the right.
  3. Under “Privacy Controls,” click on “Select what others see when you’ve viewed their profile.”
  4. Select “Your name and headline” to be fully represented or select “You will be totally anonymous.” Click the “Save changes” button.

4. Be Conveniently Accessible

In addition to being found and seen by the right career stakeholders, you will want to make it easy for them to reach out to you.

First, you will want to ensure you modify your contact settings to make it easier for people to find you and to see what types of contact you would welcome. Here’s how:

  1. Once signed in to your account, click on your name in the upper right-hand corner of the screen and click on “Settings” in the dropdown menu.
  2. Click on “Email Preferences” in the bottom section of this “Settings” page and then find “Emails” to the right.
  3. Under “Emails,” click on “Select the types of messages you’re willing to receive.”
  4. First, be sure to select “Introductions and InMails Only” (or select “Introductions, InMails and OpenLink Messages” which will appear if you have a paid premium LinkedIn account) to maximize your accessibility.
  5. Second, be sure to check the boxes of all the different types of messages you are willing to receive, including “Career opportunities.”

Note: Some professionals further increase their accessibility by including their email address and/or phone number in their profile. You can do this by either simply including them in your profile summary, or by clicking on “Edit Contact Info” when editing your profile and adding them there.

Second, don’t forget to allow your fellow group members the opportunity to send you direct messages about new opportunities. Go to the group’s page, click on the “More” tab and click on “Your Settings” in the dropdown menu. Under “Contact Settings,” check “Allow members of this group to send me messages via LinkedIn.”

Lastly, as mentioned above, if you choose to pay for one of the several types of premium LinkedIn accounts, you can leverage OpenLink, a premium feature that allows anyone on LinkedIn to send you a message or job opportunity for free, without an introduction or InMail. There is an OpenLink icon that you can choose to display on your profile which lets others know they can reach out to you directly.

5. Never Job Search at Work

Again, while this may seem obvious, doing or talking about your job search at work can quickly compromise your current employment. Many employers are monitoring more than you think, including your email, your voicemail and your internet activity. Here are a few more things to consider:

  • DO NOT tell anyone at work—even closer work friends—that you are seeking employment elsewhere. They can be the first ones you tell when you submit your resignation, but until then, you don’t know how far news like this might spread, so keep it to yourself.
  • DO NOT do anything related to your job search at work. Not even on your lunch break. Period.
  • DO NOT include your work contact information in your LinkedIn profile. You should make your contact information available to increase your accessibility, but it should be your personal email address and personal phone number to avoid receiving anything at work you don’t want anyone to see or hear.
  • DO NOT make your work email address the primary address on your LinkedIn account. If you do, messages and job opportunities sent via LinkedIn will end up in your inbox at work. Choose a personal email address as your primary account email address to avoid mixing work with your job search activity.

Ultimately, there are many ways to launch a thorough and successful job search on LinkedIn without compromising your current employment. However, it is imperative that you follow all of these steps, as neglecting just one of them could result in content being seen by the wrong eyes. A little extra caution and attention to detail will ensure your career success.

About the Author

chris perry portraitChris Perry, MBA, is a Gen Y brand and marketing generator, brand marketing manager, career search and personal branding expert, professional speaker, entrepreneur and brand consultant. Chris is the founder of Career Rocketeer, the Career Search and Personal Branding Network, MBA Highway, the MBA Job Search and Career Network and multiple other ventures.

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--Jacob Share