If it’s time to move on to another job, the best time to start looking is while you’re still employed. Why? A few reasons.
While it’s true you need to proceed carefully, job hunting while employed makes you more attractive to potential employers. Companies want to hire the best possible candidates, and those people aren’t usually jobless. Having a current job makes an employer feel more confident that you’ll be a good hire. Not only that, but with a job you have more leverage when negotiating terms for a new position. Without a job, you’ve got nothing to negotiate with. Also, by staying at your job during the job hunt, you’re avoiding the big financial risk that comes when quitting before you have a new position secured. Keeping your job takes the pressure off by having an income to fall back on should you not be successful in your search. Instead of feeling rushed and desperate, you can take your time finding exactly what you want because you can still pay your bills. Lastly, as corporate veteran and author of From Graduation to Corporation: The Practical Guide to Climbing the Corporate Ladder One Rung at a Time Andy Teach said, “When you’re working, your professional network is working for you because you’re constantly interacting with your industry contacts. They can inform you about jobs you may not be aware of. If you’re not working, you’re out of sight and out of mind.” That’s not to say you should tell all your coworkers you’re looking to leave, but keeping your network active will always be helpful in hearing of potential opportunities.
Even if you aren’t ready to jump ship quite yet, it’s wise to at least stay knowledgeable on what’s out there by doing a passive job search and exploring your professional options. However, there are risks you take when job hunting while working. It’s always possible that someone at your company could find out and tell others. If your boss finds out, s/he may see your search as a betrayal and lack of loyalty to the company. Potential backlash from your employer may include giving you fewer opportunities at work, or worst case scenario, taking steps to terminate you. Another risk you take is not giving your full attention to your current position because your mind and focus are elsewhere. You don’t want your performance to suffer, because this will ding your reputation and your relationship with your current connections.
So, to avoid these bad outcomes and have a safe and successful job search, here are some tips for you to follow.
Do a smart job search
- Create a running list of companies in which you are interested. Keep up with news and opportunities with these employers so that if the right position opens up, you’ll be ready for it.
- Focus on doing a quality job search, don’t make quantity your priority. In other words, be strategic and apply only to jobs in which you are truly interested. Since you don’t have all day to look for and apply to jobs, don’t waste time with mediocre positions that aren’t really what you want. Aim for jobs that are a step up from where you are now; why switch jobs if it’s not to progress in your career?.
- Once you know what companies you’re most interested in and you’ve applied for those ideal positions, spend time networking with people at those companies to make sure your resume gets seen. Get in contact with people that could make a difference in your opportunities with your jobs of interest.
- Whether you’re passively looking or actively looking, don’t tell anyone at work. Word might reach your boss, coworkers might treat you differently, it might make it harder to leave on a good note, etc. You never know who might repeat information, even if you trust someone; you’re better off safe than sorry.
- Inform prospective employers that your job search needs to be kept confidential. Obviously, you’re not going to include your current employer as a reference if s/he doesn’t know about your job hunt, so don’t provide any of the company’s contact information on your application.
- Don’t be very open about your job search. Don’t mention on social media that you’re looking, and don’t post your résumé on job boards; it’s very possible that someone you know at work will see something and word will get out.
- If you’re a passive job seeker, do informational interviews at companies you’re interested in. Ask your interviewer to look at your resume and tell you what you need to be more marketable if you’re not already qualified for what you want, then follow the advice given. If you are already qualified, an informational interview is a way to introduce yourself, get your resume seen, get your foot in the door, and learn more about a company. It’s low pressure for both parties since you already have a job and you’re not formally looking for a new one
- Schedule interviews during non-work hours. Try to keep them before or after work hours or during your lunch break. If you must, use one of your personal or vacation days to do interviews. Tell prospective employers you’d prefer to keep your job search confidential, and they may accommodate you by offering times during non-work hours. Whatever you do, don’t lie to your current employer to get time off for interviews; it could likely come back to hurt you when you try to leave the company on a good note.
- When interviewing, never speak ill of your current employer. No matter how bad the situation at your job, bad-mouthing your employer is unprofessional, reflects poorly on you, and will likely hurt your chances of getting hired. Instead, focus on the positive things that you hope for in your future, especially those that you see in company at hand. Be honest, but reframe your reasons for leaving your current job in a way that doesn’t throw your employer under the bus.
Give your current job your best until the end
- Never use work resources for your job search. Don’t use the company computer, email, copier, business supplies, fax machine, phone, or time. Not only do companies commonly track your internet usage and you’d be risking getting caught, but it’s unethical.
- If your boss explicitly asks your about your intentions, be honest. Confess if you are caught in the job search. Lying will do nothing for you in the long run but shatter your credibility and your relationship with your current employer when you leave. It’s always better to maintain your connections if possible for future references.
- Give 100% at your current job all the way through your last day. Stay focused and continue to perform at the same level. Don’t check out early. Maintain your good reputation and finish strong; after all, you’re still getting a paycheck.