This can be done, and has been done successfully by hundreds of trainees. However, it’s important to exercise professionalism and discretion on the job while conducting your search. If you cannot find time outside of work to conduct your search, try coming in early, staying late, or working on your search during your lunch break. Being in a lab and having access to a computer all day can be hard to resist, but you are at work to do your job – not to look for a new one.
There are certainly ways to search effectively while working in a full-time position. Today’s Careers section of the Wall Street Journal offers an article on this very topic. Author Elizabeth Garrone suggests the following tactics when conducting a search on the sly:
1) Link in, link in, link in.
We have featured articles on this blog about the utility of LinkedIn for establishing networks, but keeping your profile updated and using it as your personal job search tool is what Garrone explores in her piece. “‘Eighty-five percent of recruiters use LinkedIn to find talent,’ says Connie Thanasoulis-Cerrachio, a career services expert with Vault.com and a former Fortune 500 recruiter. ‘It’s a completely passive job search tool.’ To give yourself the best edge over the competition, make sure that any online profiles you have are up-to-date and complete.”
2) …And then link in some more.
Join the NIH Intramural Science LinkedIn group to connect with 708 NIH scientists and trainees (as well as its “Job Archive” subgroup, which contains all jobs posted to the NIH Intramural Science job board.) Create a new LinkedIn group with a view to expanding your science network – but consider using it as a source of potential contacts for your job search. Consider bringing an in-person networking group you are involved with to the web using LinkedIn. You may then have the potential to invite (or be introduced to) members’ connections once the LinkedIn group has been established.
3) Make phone calls/schedule meetings at odd times.
“But don’t be too restrictive,” says Garrone. Be sure to give any employer you speak with lots of options/times when you can be available. And once you schedule a discussion of any kind – be it an informational interview, a first-round interview, a negotiation discussion around salary, etc. – be sure you have a quiet space to use where you won’t be interrupted. And be sure your cell phone battery is charged. (I recently lost a call when reviewing an important project with my boss. OOPS!)
Respect your fellow trainees and PI, your current position, and don’t neglect your work duties as you seek a new job. Doing so will only burn bridges you have already constructed; keep those strong while building new ones.