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Do you suffer from job-searching shame?

Career Progression Plans – are you still in the closet?

Are you hoping to change job, gain a promotion, or make a career move but you haven’t “come out” about it? No one knows, you are operating in secret like some covert mission, working on your CV at 10pm and going to interview in disguise, faking sickness to get the time off?

I believe that this is a pretty common thing and in fact I suffered from it myself. I applied for a few jobs whilst still working, but to my colleagues I was still Mrs Reliable-Married-To-My-Job-And-Happy-About-It.

Not too often (bar redundancy situations) do we hear of people coming out and saying, “I am looking for a new job” or “I would like to progress my career to the next level, and I am looking outside of my current company for opportunities”.

Why do we view career progression, or ambition, or that fact that we are job searching as something secret, or even shameful? A few of my musings on why we might do this:

  • Fear that our current boss/manager will see us as disloyal

  • Fear of failure (if everyone knows I got the interview, but didn’t get the job then everyone will know that I’m a failure)

  • Fear of “what people will think”. Everyone knows I’m going for that job, so they’re going to think I’m too ambitious, or they’ll laugh at me and say I have no hope, or they’ll think I should stay in my current job

  • Fear of making a bad move

So, let’s dive a little deeper into these reasons (there could be more, and I’d love if you’d share any of your reasons with me – on the QT of course!)

1. I haven’t told anyone I’m job searching as I don’t want my boss (or colleagues) to think I am disloyal.

To that I say, “So what?” Contrary to what a lot of people seem to believe you are not owned by your employer. So long as you are upholding your end of the bargain, then you don’t “owe” them anything else. That means so long as you are doing your day job, putting in your hours and not abusing any company policy (on say internet use while job searching) and so long as you are abiding by the terms of your contract YOU DON’T OWE THEM ANYTHING ELSE. Employment is a contractual situation – you do the job you are meant to do, and they pay you. Fair exchange. If you are legally obliged to give 30 days’ notice, then you have no obligation to give them more, or help them find a replacement, or even to say, “sorry to do this to you”. They are running a business and this kind of thing happens. Yes, you may be a wonderful employee and they may not want to lose you but hey-ho, they’ll get over it. As indispensable as you think you may be, they will also replace you. 6 months from now, someone else will be sitting comfortably in your seat.

2. Fear of failure. If people know I’m applying for another job and then I don’t get it, they’re going to know that I failed and I’ll look like a big stupid failure and I’ll have to come back here with my tail between my legs, having failed. So, what is this a fear of really? Is it a fear of what people will think, or a fear of being perceived as a failure? Why does this matter to you? You may feel like you’ve failed, but at least you’ve tried. You have gained valuable experience and learning by going through the recruitment process, even if you don’t get the job. You’ve researched the job market, taken an action step of making an application, worked on your CV, been shortlisted, prepared for and sat an interview. Maybe you got through to second round, or you’re the number 2 candidate. Even if you have not been offered the job, none of these things are a failure in my book. It shows a commitment to action, to change and a “get -up-and-go” attitude. It will also help build your resilience muscle, by dealing with rejection, or those very rude people who don’t even get back to you. You’ve taken action, and that’s not failure in my book.

3. Fear of what people will think. If people know I’m job searching or going for promotion, are they going to think I’m too big for my boots. To this, again I say, “So what?” and “What people think of you is none of your business.” It’s your life, your career and your responsibility. Maybe you’re giving your career too much of a priority in someone else’s mind? People are often more concerned about their own issues and are not necessarily giving your career plans any or much thought. Maybe you are inspiring them to act, maybe they wish they could step up and progress in their careers too, or maybe they don’t give two hoots about what you are doing. Bottom line is, you don’t know what people think, so stop renting a space in your head to imaginary conversations that other people might or might not be having.

4. Fear of making a bad move. I’m not telling anyone I’m job hunting as I’m not sure if I will take this job if I’m offered it, I haven’t decided yet. OK, I get it, but you don’t owe anyone an explanation. If you are offered the job, then you decide to take it or reject it. Cross that bridge when you get to it. The interview is a good opportunity to figure out if this new role is a good fit for you, or the company feels like a good move for you. If you decide to take the role, well and good, and if you decide not to, that is your business. So long as you inform the company offering you the job, you don’t need to inform or go into detail with anyone else. “I decided not to take it” is sufficient or “It wasn’t for me”. People often like to pry, but you don’t have to oblige them!

The case for outing yourself as a job-seeker

I totally get that all these reasons are genuine concerns and as I said, I have been guilty myself. And it’s your business at the end of the day, but I would like to ask you to consider being a bit more open about your job search and career plans. Why? Because if people know your plan or your ambitions, they might be able to help you on your journey.

  • The power of networking is huge, so the more people who know what you are looking for, and what you have to offer, the more likely it is that they will pass opportunities they hear of on to you or think of you if something comes up.

  • Following on from this, people in your circle who are not work colleagues have networks of their own that might be helpful for you to dip into. My cousin’s husband’s brother mentioned that his company are looking for a new project manager, would you like me to put you in touch? These things often happen.

  • Your boss and colleagues may be more supportive of you than you think. It could genuinely be the case that there is no room for you to grow in your current workplace and your boss might see this and be rooting for you to progress elsewhere. They might even become your champion or your mentor. How great would that be to have someone give you the benefit of their knowledge and experience?

  • If you are thinking of leaving your current role because of something you don’t like there, letting this be known could actually be helpful to your current employer. They are not mind readers and they might not realise that the culture is becoming toxic, or your colleague is making life difficult for you, or that you would like a pay-rise, or whatever it is that is bugging you. Therefore, by having a conversation, there may be room to negotiate a better position for you there, solve a problem or improve a situation. Would it be worth having the conversation? It can also result sometimes in you being made an attractive offer to stay (how you deal with that is another story). Even if you ultimately decide to leave, your conversation could open the eyes of your employer and precipitate some positive changes for the people left behind.

So, I’m not suggesting that you splash your plans all around social media (remember that your potential new employer will probably Google you) but consider if it might be helpful for you to be a little more open about your plans and ambitions. It could help. It might be a relief or one less stress on your career journey, and you won’t have to go around in that wig and sunglasses!

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