Protect your privacy when you job search

Iceberg What you can see onlineThere’s an old story about a woman who was unhappy in her job. She was browsing through the local Sunday paper and she saw a large Help Wanted ad. Intrigued by the job title, she read further, getting more excited by each line of the job description. “That sounds perfect for me!,” she thought.

While she hadn’t been looking for a job, this was too good to pass up. Every single quality matched up perfectly with her experience. Except the part about being part of a dynamic  team of friendly people. Her current job was filled with incompetent idiots with strange ideas, who seemed to try and sabotage her leadership.

No company name or address listed? A clue?

She grabbed a pen and paper and dashed off a cover letter. “Odd,” she mused. “They don’t give the name of the company or the address, just a post office box address in a neighboring town.” Off went her letter and resume. She waited.

One day, she was called into the big boss’s office and laid off. “We heard through the grapevine you’ve been out looking for a job.” She gasped. She had only sent that one resume and cover letter. She had applied for her own job.

What does privacy mean in today’s job search?


1) Don’t apply for your own job!

If you are employed, be very careful about putting your resume and cover letter “out there.” It can be very hard to remove it once it is released, and current management could come across an old posting and assume you are out looking for a new job. Get a post office box or use a friend’s address. Consider developing an alias or pseudonym: Beyonce famously used “Sasha Fierce” as her alter ego. Just the name itself is freeing, isn’t it? Perhaps you could use a nickname, middle name, initials only,a  maiden name, or a previous family surname. Be sure to note on there that you aren’t using your real name because you are currently employed and need that privacy.

Add to the profile the information that you are currently happily employed but believe in continuously improving yourself and developing networks. That would make any current boss happy should they stumble upon your listing. You also don’t have to list the exact company names. Consider “A small boutique architectural firm with sales of $10 million” instead of listing the company name.

2) Safety and security at all times.

There are creeps out there. Identity theft, stalking, home robberies when people are on vacation; avoid putting anything perosnally  identyfing in cyberspace. If you work in retail, you basically advertising when your home is empty. If you are posting about being at a conference, then again, your home is empty. Company information, birthdates, college graduation dates are also among things that can be used to start an identity theft profile.

3) Keep your private and professional lives separate.

There is a lot of pressure, and frankly, bad advice to only have one social media account, one email, one blog etc. Of course there are always exceptions, especially if your name is your brand.

Consider bucking the trend and the advice and keeping everything separate, but  still knowing that nothing is really private anymore. Clients, customers, and future employers can find your personal Facebook postings and tweets if they want to. Your mother-in-law, next-door neighbor, and the PTA president can track your professional career if they desire and put in the effort. Here’s a guideline for every single thing you put out on the Internet or anywhere in cyberspace. If you are comfortable with these 3 factors you are good to post!

  • “Would you mind seeing this on the front page of the Wall Street Journal?”
  • “What would your mother say if she saw it?”
  • “What would your boss’s response be to this?”


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