How to Look for Work When You Have a Job

look-for-work-copy“If my boss thinks I might quit, he won’t trust me. He won’t give me any big projects or more responsibilities.”

“My current company has an informal policy to fire you if they learn you are looking for a new job.”

“If my co-workers know I’m thinking of leaving, they won’t see me as a team player anymore.”

“My supervisor will be so mad he’ll never give me a good recommendation.”

These are some of the concerns I hear from clients who are planning to look for work while they are still employed. Clearly, job hunting while still employed is tricky.

Don’t Quit Your Job

Despite its difficulties, looking for work while employed has benefits that can’t be ignored.

  • You are still receiving a paycheck
  • You’re not creating a gap in your work history
  • You appear more desirable to prospective employers
  • You’re in touch with your existing network, so it’s easy to make new contacts in your field.
  • You won’t feel the pressure of being unemployed and therefore less likely to accept a job that’s not a good fit.
  • You won’t be viewed as disloyal or denied a promotion or raise because you’re thinking of leaving

Making the Best of It

Since how you leave your current job can be as important to your career as how you perform in the next one, you don’t want to burn bridges when you exit a company.

In that spirit, here are my best tips for job hunting while employed.

Keep your job search as confidential as you can. Apply only for positions that you would accept if the job was offered to you.

Never use your work email, office computer or fax machine, office Wi-Fi, or company records when you’re searching for a new job. It’s called a paper trail even when there’s no paper.

Rework your LinkedIn profile. (I can help you with that!) You need to be strategic with that profile. Turn off your activity notifications on LinkedIn so your contacts won’t get emails when you update your profile. Don’t list that you are looking for a new position in your LinkedIn profile, but make sure you meet LinkedIn’s guidelines for “profile completeness” so you employers searching for hires can easily find you.

Suddenly adding new connections and sending out recommendations and endorsements on LinkedIn are red flags that you are seeking a new job. It’s fine to expand your network as long as you do it gradually.

We all know that hiring managers have no reservations about poking around Facebook and Twitter when they research a job applicant. Be sure to delete any mentions that indicate you’re not happy at your present position, or that you’d like to change careers.

Don’t post your resume to an online job board. It could be co-workers or supervisors who are looking over these posts.

If there is even a slight chance that your current employer will learn about a job you are applying for, ask your prospective employer to keep your application confidential. For the same reason, it’s better to use references from former employers than a current employer. If an interviewer wants a recent reference, point him to your LinkedIn recommendations, where you should have a current supervisor or colleague saying good things about you.

Let any recruiters you are working with know that you need to keep your job search quiet.

Don’t arouse suspicions by taking time off for unspecified reasons. If you have job interviews, try to schedule them very early or very late in the work day, when they won’t interfere with your present work schedule. Or, plan interviewers for lunchtime. Most interviewers will understand the reason for this kind of timing. If necessary, take a sick day or vacation day.

If you have a phone interview, schedule it so you can do it from home or your car, not at work.

Start dressing now for everyday work more like you would for a job interview. For some people, keeping a change of clothes, or just a dress shirt or a blazer, in their car will be the solution.

Don’t let an on-the-job poor attitude show your hand. Stay engaged and positive, even though you may be bored or dissatisfied in your current position.

Continue to put your best foot forward, and even take on additional assignments or complete work ahead of time.

Since there is always the possibility that your employer will learn that you are looking for work, be sure before you begin a job search that you’re not daydreaming, that you really do have the qualifications for a better job and that openings do exist for the kind of work you want.

What About Telling Your Boss?

Be honest if your boss directly asks if you are job hunting. Pretending otherwise will only erode your credibility.

It sometimes happens that a direct supervisor can be a source of support during a job search. Whether that is your situation or not depends on the nature of your relationship, and the company’s state of health. If your company is looking for ways to downsize, the news that you are looking for work elsewhere may be welcome.

If you decide to discuss with your boss the reasons you are considering leaving, he may offer you a different job in the company, a raise, promotion, or change of other conditions. Make sure these are not vague promises or a counter offer that could dissolve in the months ahead once he considers you disloyal.

A boss in the loop could be a source of contacts, or freelance work. You will have to be the judge of whether taking him into your confidence is risky or not.

While walking the path from one job to another can be a minefield, there are real advantages to looking for work when you already have a job. All it takes is some planning and discretion.

Mir Garvy

Author: Mir Garvy

I’ve written resumes for 2,000+ job seekers just like you—and helped my clients land jobs with companies like Amazon, SAS, Google, Duke University, Travelocity, Cisco Systems, GlaxoSmithKline, Expedia, and IBM.