You’re sitting at your desk, staring at your Dilbert calendar, loathing everything from your company-distributed coffee mug to your co-worker, Earl, who is swirling his pencil in the crevices of his ear. “Time to blow this popsicle stand,” you think.

Thankfully, you’re sitting in front of a job-finding goldmine: your computer.

While you might be tempted to just utter a few expletives and surf on over to Monster.com, know this: There’s a smart way to begin an online job search while you’re gainfully employed.

A recent study from UCLA and the State University of New York-Stony Brook found that unemployed folks — even if they left voluntarily — are stigmatized when it comes to procuring jobs, unlike those who are collecting paychecks.

So suck it up and start your search wisely — and maybe bring some headphones to save your eardrums from Earl’s nail chomping.

E-Ask around

Let’s say you work for a home design website, but your true passion is collecting Hummels (you know, those frightening children figurines that people always give to old folks for Christmas). You’re talking with a Hummel distributor for a story and suddenly it hits you: “Why not just work at the Hummel factory, coming up with new little-boy-leading-sheep-around tableaux?”

Well, you have the dude’s ear, why not ask him if there are any openings? Dr. Katharine S. Brooks, author of “You Majored in What? Mapping Your Path From Chaos to Career,” suggests doing so in a less-than-direct manner, however.

“Contact (your potential employer) and say you’re helping a colleague out who is interested in any openings at their company,” she says. “If it turns out they have an opening, you can always say later (when you apply) — ‘I wasn’t even thinking about looking for a job until I saw this opportunity — I just had to apply.’ ”

That way, it won’t make it through the knickknack grapevine that you’re considering jumping ship to trod greener pastures — like working as a professional metaphor mixer.

Social network

If you don’t have time to go to a ton of mixers and whatnot IRL (or you’re an agoraphobe), you can easily use the Web to cultivate contacts in the field you want to get into and do so in a discrete manner.

“Don’t just network when you need something,” says Krista Canfield, spokeswoman for LinkedIn. “A ‘gimme gimme’ mentality is a surefire way to lose professional contacts and get deleted from peoples’ networks.”

Canfield recommends joining special interest groups on LinkedIn, and talking with others about something other than work opps.

“Joining different or new professional circles will help you meet other people and also open the door to other opportunities,” she says.

Brooks suggests starting a new Twitter account under a different name, on which you can post stories and thoughts about the field in which you want to work. Then, when you turn in your resume to the Hummel folks, you can direct them to your account, @AppleTreeBoy, and all your illuminating ruminations on what Berta Hummel would have achieved had she lived past 37.

Don’t be stupid

OK, this may seem really obvious, but we need to say it anyway: Do not apply for new jobs from your work e-mail or during work hours. Earl is probably watching.

“It isn’t just about the ethics of your current situation — it’s also about the impression you’re creating,” says Brooks. “If your potential new employer sees that you use your company’s e-mail to correspond with them, use the company phone to call them, and appear to be contacting them during work hours, they will assume you will do the same thing when you work for them.”

Less obviously, it’s wise to cover your tracks when you’re doing all that networking we were talking about before. Canfield recommends that you familiarize yourself with LinkedIn’s settings. You can control whether your connections will be notified when you change your profile, making recommendations and follow companies.

You can also control whether your connections can see your connection list or find out when you add a new connection. It looks a little suspicious if you suddenly add 15 recruiters from various and sundry tchotchke factories to your connections list.

And if you have, in fact, been fired or laid off …

After you’ve sobered up/stopped crying/put on pants, take a big swig of your pride. While you might not want to tell anyone that you were replaced by a computer algorithm, keeping your current jobless situation under wraps is actually really stupid.

Every expert we spoke to told us that it was best to let everyone in your network know about your loss — upping the odds that news will strike the ear of someone who can help. Donna Flagg, author of “Surviving Dreaded Conversations,” says, “Here I think it’s smart to work Twitter in because you can tweet the experience openly and perhaps connect to other like-minded folks.”

Still, keep the news-sharing professional. Even if Earl did tell everyone about your secret rendezvous with your girlfriend in the storage room, thereby leading to your untimely curtain call, telling the whole digital world about how he once had a panic attack in the break room and wept under the snack table isn’t the way to your potential new employer’s heart.

Keep it classy, and you’ll be back in a cubicle in no time, sipping from a new company logo-emblazoned chalice.

Posted by Charles Yarbrough

Charley has been working as a webmaster since 1998. Since then, he has had his hands in thousands of websites and has helped millions get online through a company he partially owns called Web Host Pro.

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