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Golden Guide Career Advice: Better Safe Than Sorry

Lydia Lazar

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Golden Tip No. 25: You’re on Your Employer’s Team, But They Are Not on Yours

Golden Guide Career Advice is a series from the AMA in partnership with Lydia Lazar, author of Dean Lazar’s Golden Guide: Pragmatic Career Advice for Smart Young People. A new tip in the series will be posted each Tuesday—all tips are available here.

Do you have a career question? Contact Lazar at deardeanlazar@gmail.com—the answer may appear in a future post.

The employer paying you rightfully expects your professional loyalty, but this doesn’t mean that you should trust them with any of your personal dreams, plans or ideas. Never share your thoughts about a potential job change, a move out of town or overseas, or plans to go back to school—until you are literally ready to resign.

It’s normal to have dreams of where you want to go and what you want to do with your life. What this tip emphasizes is how important it is for you to be discreet about your ambitions and play your cards close to your chest at all times.

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The world is much more competitive and cutthroat than anyone ever admits. People are competing all around you, regardless of how many team-building and trust-building exercises in which you participate. Office politics can be unpredictable and vicious.

Does this mean you can’t be friends with people at work? No, but it does mean that you need to be judicious even with your friends about what you share. No one is perfect and even a friend could make a mistake and inadvertently share your private information with someone you’d prefer not know those details. The most important subjects to be careful about are:

  • Other positions or careers you’re considering
  • Plans for to apply or go to graduate school
  • Significant unhappiness in your personal life or childhood
  • Excessive drug or alcohol use

Do not unwittingly sabotage yourself. Make sure that all your online communications and expressions of your ideas and dreams support your ambitions and are consistent with the image you want employers to have of you.

  • Your resume, LinkedIn profile and all digital representations need to be carefully managed.
  • In addition to proactively managing your digital footprint, everyone needs to practice “good technology hygiene.” Don’t ever use a work-supplied phone, computer or laptop to do anything personal.

Never forget this critical point: If you drop your guard and use a work-supplied device for anything personal, you give your employer ammunition that they can use —at any time, for their own reasons—against you. Remember that clearing your search history on an employer’s laptop or desktop doesn’t clear it from the employer’s system.

Photo by Warren Wong on Unsplash.


Dean Lazar's Golden Guide

For more career tips, read Dean Lazar’s Golden Guide: Pragmatic Career Advice for Smart Young People, available on Amazon and at your local bookstore. Do you have a career question? Contact Lazar at deardeanlazar@gmail.com—the answer may appear in a future post.

Lydia Lazar is founder and president of LHL Consulting. She is the former associate dean for recruitment and career services at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy, and previously, dean of international law and policy overseeing international student admissions (LLM) at Chicago-Kent College of Law.