Job Hunting At Work – Is It Risky?

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It’s commonplace to see your co-workers surf the Internet while at work, but what you don’t know is that they could be doing more than just shopping or playing fantasy baseball. Maybe, just maybe, they are looking for a new job. Is job hunting in the work environment something you can do with impunity? Workplace Job Hunting: Consider the following statistics:
  1. Over the course of a lifetime, the average American changes jobs 10 times and switches careers three times, according to a 2002 report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  2. 57% of job seekers utilize the Internet for submitting resumes and applying for jobs, according to a recent survey conducted by the Conference Board, a non-profit research organization.
  3. 34% of people found their last job through a job board online, states a 2005 study by the International Association of Employment Web Sites.
  4. 61% of Internet Users conduct non-work related research and activities in the workplace, according to a survey.
  5. Research conducted by Nexxt, a network of niche recruitment websites, shows that the highest traffic period for job seekers to view available job postings online is between the hours of 10:00 am and 2:00 pm.
What do these numbers mean? People change jobs every three years. That means that, on average; one out of three of your colleagues will be looking for a job this year. Chances are, that job hunt will occur online, and, given peoples’ patterns of non-work related Internet usage at the workplace and data on traffic patterns at the job boards, job searches are being conducted by your co-workers during the workday. Employee Monitoring According to a survey conducted by last month, half of the surveyed employers monitor employees’ Internet usage. The survey was based on responses from 5,989 full-time employees and 2,929 hiring managers. Sceptre Security Solutions, a Chantilly, Virginia-based IT security firm, monitors employees Internet usage as well as e-mail. “We monitor both e-mail and Internet usage. Each employee is required to sign a consent-to-monitoring letter as part of their employment package,” says Jason Ohs, vice president of services. Many companies hire staff to read or analyze e-mail. According to a recent survey by Proofpoint Inc., an e-mail security and data loss prevention company, approximately 32% of companies with at least 1,000 employees and 38% of larger companies with 20,000 or more employees have staff who read the contents of outbound e-mail. Additionally, more than 27% of the companies surveyed have terminated an employee within the past year for violating e-mail policies. “I Job Hunt at Work” According to a recent poll by Yahoo!HotJobs, 47% of employed workers are currently looking for another job or planning to within the next 12 months. Melanie DeLancey, of Albany, NY, is one of them. DeLancey is looking to relocate in Boston and finds the Internet is the most useful in her job search. She surfs the Web during work hours looking for jobs, often visiting Craigslist, and “The Internet is easier {to search for job openings} and you get more information about jobs too because you can look at the company’s site and apply online,” says DeLancey. Delancey cites easy access to the Internet as the reason why she searches for jobs at work rather than after work or at home. “The Internet is better here {at work} and I have more time here,” she said. When asked if she was afraid of getting caught, she replied “No, I can see when they are coming so I can minimize the screen.” DeLancey is a prime example of people who search during the day. Research conducted by Nexxt shows that the highest traffic period for job seekers to view available job postings online is between the hours of 10:00 am and 2:00 pm. Jennifer Grasz of, which boasts an average of 22 million unique visitors per month, says the peak times of job searching are usually around lunch time. “You typically see a peak mid-day around 12:00.” Nicole Sullivan, of Los Angeles, California, also admits to job hunting on company time. “I work freelance, so I’m always on the lookout for a better, longer-lasting job,” she says. She often applies for jobs while at work. “I apply for jobs online at work because you have to—once you see a job, you have to apply for it, or else it gets snapped up. I want whoever is going to read my resume to read it that day,” Sullivan says. Sullivan speculates that her co-workers are doing the same. “I’ve seen people that are above me—not necessarily my direct supervisors—job hunt online at work.” But she isn’t afraid of getting caught. “Maybe I’m a little paranoid, but then again, people do it all the time,” says Sullivan. Ohs agrees that job hunting at work is fairly common. “Most people go through some kind of a time when they are not happy or are looking for opportunities.” What’s an Employer to do? While job hunting at work often leads to permanent termination, in some cases an employer will try to keep a valued employee within the company by offering salary increases or more benefits. “I’ve also seen employees and managers use this {job hunting} as a way to negotiate salaries as compared to the industry,” says Ohs. If Ohs caught one of his employees job searching at work or saw their resume posted on a job board online, his first course of action would be to evaluate the performance of the individual and then find out why the employee is looking for another job. “If they are unhappy and are a valuable resource to the organization, we are going to do all that we can to keep the individual from pursuing other opportunities.” “It’s not a violation of company policy to search job sites or post a resume, however, if the time on search sites interferes with job performance we are going to take corrective actions,” says Ohs, referring to his company’s policy regarding Internet usage. Ohs recognizes the ever-expanding role of e-mail and Internet communications and reminds companies to monitor outgoing e-mails to ensure the company as well as their customers’ information is protected. “Employee monitoring and security has become more of a problem in recent years as many companies are depending on e-mail and Internet communications. We’ve seen a trend in the industry to monitor e-mail destined out of the organization to safeguard proprietary information of the company as well as their customers’ information, such as credit card and social security numbers.” To Search (At Work), Or Not To Search There is risk, so use your best judgment. That said, many employers will react in a way that is beneficial to you, trying to address your concerns and retain you as part of the talent pool. So, what to do? Try to assess your status in the eyes of your employer. Are they happy with you? Would they try to retain you if you were to resign? Are they sophisticated enough to track your activity? Try to answer these questions before spending your lunch cruising the web for new gigs. Good luck!

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  • Karen
    I have job searched on-line, on the company owned computer, on lunch or scheduled breaks -with the company's permission. The company was relocating the division I worked at, and we were encouraged to take time off as needed, to obtain alternate employment. That said, I would never job search on company time. Or even company equipment unless it was similar (and unlikely) circumstances. Not to say, I wouldn't like to do it, but it's unprofessional, and unethical. I will go to an article about employment, if it's on my homepage but, absolutely no additional articles, or searches. "Company Big brother" could be watching.
  • ace
    Hard enough working full time and trying to get time when once in a blue moon you do get a potential employer who wants an interview! I do not jeopardize what I presently have by using company computers to job hunt....but I do at home 60% of every evening. Unfortunately it still does not help. No one wants to give anyone a chance that is presently employed and cannot see them during normal working hours. God forbid someone is willing to see you after hours or on a weekend!
  • Insure Yourself
    Insure Yourself
    If you are using your own personal laptop I don't see a problem. However, using company resources can easily land you in hot water. Think about it - would you take the company credit card and purchase your kid's soccer uniform? Or how about using the company car to go joyriding out of town during the holidays. I've got one - let's use the company paper to publish flyers for our on-the-side "printing" company. Misuse of company assets is just that any way you slice it.
  • Burnsie
    I have seen co-workers using their own lap tops + wireless service during/at work to communicate with others, surf the web, read emails, etc. Is there anybody out there with any opinions they would like to share on this?
  • Leila Davenport
    Leila Davenport
    It would depend on if your employer is really interested in what his employees are thinking in relating to job hunting, it could be considered positive or negative, depending on your employer.
  • Susan
    if I am looking for a job I am going to do the searches at home but I will take calls on my cell phone to discuss things - I am at the point where I can afford to up and quit if I want to and just might if I cant look for a better position full time while still working

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