In an age of status updates and sharing our lives on social media, looking for a new job remains a taboo subject, according to research by the world’s largest job site Indeed. The study, Privacy of Job Search, surveyed 10,000 job seekers and found that two thirds (65%) worry that others will find out they are looking for a new job.
Indeed commissioned the study in nine countries to spotlight individuals’ concerns about the job search process. After family and health, a job or career is one of the most important aspects of a person’s life. The results reveal global patterns of anxiety, triggers for these fears and how deeply personal and private job search is, with variations by country.
The research found that discussing job search on social media is one of the last taboos. A quarter of job seekers (24%) worldwide ranked their quest for a job as the topic they are least likely to share online. Only personal finances ranked as an equally off-limits topic. By contrast personal relationships were the most popular subject for sharing on social media, with nearly a third (31%) of people ranking this as the topic they’re most likely to talk about online.
Yet such candor did not always apply within real-world personal relationships. Researchers found that fear breeds secrecy in the application process: half (50%) of job seekers wouldn’t tell a partner when applying for a role. People aged 55+ are the most tight-lipped of all, with 60% of job seekers in this cohort keeping their job applications hidden from a partner.
Globally, UK job seekers were the most secretive, with just 37% telling their partner when they apply for a new job. Americans were only a little less reticent (42% would tell their partner), while at the other end of the scale the Dutch were the most open, with 61% of them happy to discuss their job applications with their other half.
Job seekers’ anxiety at the prospect of others finding out about their search was common but not universal. In the U.S., 52% said their biggest concern was work colleagues finding out about their job search. That far outweighs the risk of not getting a position (29%). Two-thirds of job seekers are concerned (very to somewhat) about their job search process being made public.
The desire for secrecy triggers strong emotions among those trying to change job. Two thirds (64%) said they feel anxious when searching for a new job, half (50%) feel secretive and a third (33%) even feel like they are leading a double life.
“The power of the internet has revolutionized the way we search for jobs, but not our attitude to job seeking,” said Paul D’Arcy, SVP at Indeed. “While many of us routinely share details of our lives and loves on social media, looking for a new job remains an intensely personal activity.”
“There are practical reasons for this – few of us would want our current manager to know we are looking to leave, so it makes sense to be circumspect,” D’Arcy continues. “In an age of oversharing, and with growing distinctions between your personal and professional self, job seeking is one of the last taboos.”
Professor Paul Dolan, Behavioral Economist at London School of Economics (LSE), reacted to the study. “These findings reveal the anxiety faced by many of those seeking employment. They also suggest a higher-level concern for status and the need to be seen by others 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. Paradoxically, it may be far more useful, for ourselves and for others, to highlight failures when they occur.”
About the Study
The research was conducted by Censuswide on behalf of Indeed,surveying 10,000 job seekers in Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, The Netherlands, United Kingdom and United States.
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Kelly Oude Veldhuis
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