A number of factors can lead to you deciding to leave your job or look for other employment. Maybe you are feeling underutilized, or maybe you hear that you can get a better salary or benefits at another company. Sometimes companies change direction and you suddenly feel out of place or outmoded. Whatever the reasons, if you decide to look elsewhere for employment, there are some things you should know.
If it’s time to move on to another job, the best time to start looking is while you’re still employed. 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.”
But beware, there are pitfalls to looking for a job while employed. Even the most understanding employer could feel irritation and betrayal if word gets around. Employers put a lot of time and energy and even money into hiring and training an employee, so they aren’t always supportive when that investment walks out the door. Also, your co-workers may feel bonded to you or feel a sense of comradery that would be destroyed if they discovered you were considering jumping ship. To avoid a hostile work environment and all that comes with it, there are some things you can do.
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. Even if you feel close to someone or think they wouldn’t share the information, it’s better to be safe and not talk about it.
Inform prospective employers of the need for confidentiality. Often, when applying for a job, there is an option to opt out of having the prospective company contact your current employer. Make sure you double check on this item. A hiring manager calling your place of work is not a good way to keep your job hunt a secret.
Don’t mention on social media or to people, other than close friends and family, that you’re looking. Don’t post your résumé on job boards or mention on LinkedIn that you are open to other positions. It’s likely that someone you know at work will notice and share that knowledge with others.
If finding a new job isn’t urgent, you can do a more passive search. A good practice is to 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. Remember that professionals network and the people at your current job will be at events and even working in the same circles as you. You don’t want to have a bad reputation.
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.
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. It’s also great to help look for someone to replace you if asked. If someone is hired during your exit period, you can also train them, saving the company time and money.