Job seeking: Why keep it a secret?

Friday, January 12, 2018, Vol. 42, No. 2

In the age of oversharing online, it seems searching for a job is one of the last topics anyone wants to share.

The world’s largest job site,, recently commissioned a study by Censuswide, surveying 10,000 job seekers in the U.S., Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

As you would expect, 65 percent of job seekers worry others might find out they’re looking for a new job. Twenty-four percent of job seekers ranked their job search as the topic they’re least likely to share on social media. This is right up there with personal finances.

This makes sense.

In much of the U.S., workers have limited employment protections. Simply put, an employer can fire you for a reason. Or they can fire you for no reason at all.

If they know you’re looking for a new job, they may perceive you to be disloyal. And disloyal employees are at risk for being let go.

They don’t have to give you advanced warning. We’ve all had a friend who has been walked out of the building of their workplace with a small box of their personal things. That horrific thought is enough to cause you to never speak about your own search ever again.

Professor Paul Dolan, behavioral economist at London School of Economics, also pointed out the need to be seen as successful:

“Admitting that we are looking for a job means exposing others to our potential success or failure. To avoid embarrassing ourselves, we choose to hide our searches.”

This also holds true in romantic relationships. Researchers found that half of job seekers don’t tell their partners when they’re applying for a new job.

Those older than 55 are even more likely to keep searches hidden. Although surprising, this finding makes sense. If you’re searching online, you may apply to a large number of jobs before landing a first-round interview.

If it takes 30 applications to land one phone interview, who wants to have that conversation with a spouse 30 times? Rather than feel like one successful phone interview, it may very well feel like 29 failed applications.

Often, a new job requires a lifestyle change of some kind. Waiting until things are more firm allows the job seeker to avoid some level of judgment and conflict.

That said, keeping career changes from your partner isn’t recommended. Your career greatly impacts your personal life, and if you’re sharing that life with someone else, your decisions will impact them too.

But when it comes to colleagues, there really is good reason to be cautious. Even if you’re doing a great job in your current role, your boss may have second thoughts about you if they know you’re looking.

When you tell others about your search, you risk losing control of your search. As it’s clear, job searching really is the last taboo.

Angela Copeland, a career coach and founder of Copeland Coaching, can be reached at