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How to Look for a New Job When You’re Already Employed

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It’s time. You’ve weight the pros and cons, you can check “yes” to all the items on those “should you leave your job” surveys, and you know you’re ready. Time to move on to bigger and better things.

The only problem is, you’ve still gotta bring in a paycheck until you can find that bigger and better thing. And job searching while still employed can be tricky business.

Here are some must-dos and don’ts to make sure you keep that paycheck while exploring other options:

Don’t job search on company time

The easiest way to get yourself sacked is to give your employer reason to believe you’re looking for something else when you should be doing what you’re paid to do. If you really need to communicate with a hiring manager during normal working hours (such as to do a phone interview), set it up for your lunch break, and take the call on your cell phone out in your car.

The same goes for interviewing. Whenever possible, see if an interviewer is willing to meet you early in the morning, on your lunch break or after work hours. Many will understand that you’re employed and will work to accommodate you if they’re really interested.

And if you absolutely need to claim a couple of faux “doctor’s appointments” to make an interview? Keep them at a bare, bare minimum to avoid raising suspicions.

Also watch out for “My, you’re dressed up today!” remarks if your normal work attire isn’t quite as fancy as your interview outfits. Be armed to meet such remarks with comments like “Oh, I just got some new work clothes and thought I’d start rotating them into my wardrobe. Do you like them?”

Be honest with potential employers—but not too honest

You will inevitably be asked why you want to leave the company you’re currently working for. This is where many people get into trouble.

You don’t want to say things like, “They’re overloading me with projects,” because that makes hiring managers wonder if maybe you’re just not cut out to handle stressful periods. You also don’t want to complain about a bad boss or coworker issues, because that just makes you look like someone who has trouble getting along with others. You don’t want to imply anything that will make a prospective employer think you might eventually start looking for a new job on their time.

The best way to frame your response to this question (even if you are overloaded and you do hate your boss) is to say something like, “I don’t feel my abilities are being used well” or “I’d like a position that challenges me more”—something that demonstrates you’re a good worker who has simply outgrown your current position.

Keep it professional at the current job

You may have already checked out mentally and emotionally, but don’t let it show in your performance. Remember that this job will become a potential resume reference, and you don’t want to burn any bridges by letting your results slide right before you quit. (You also want to avoid being fired before you quit.)

Tie up loose ends

If you have unused paid vacation time, try to use it if you can do so without letting the cat out of the bag. In other words, don’t schedule all your remaining days in a row if you have an offer on the table, because chances are a) someone will wonder why you’re not saving a few days for later in the year, and b) your boss will probably not approve your being out of the office for two-thirds of the month.

Also don’t take two weeks in a row, then come in the following Monday to give your notice. That’s just inconsiderate, and you may need this employer as a reference down the line. (See above note on not burning bridges.)

If you work in a position that doesn’t have a specific handbook-designated job description (like in a small office where everyone does their own thing as needed), start making short memos detailing your job duties and any pertinent information your successor will need to know. This will make it easier to train them if your replacement is found before your two weeks are up—and if they’re not, it makes it easier for your employer to fill a new person in after you’re gone. Which, again, earns you some much-needed “you’ve quit, but we still like you” brownie points.

Searching for a new job while still employed can be tricky, but it is doable. Just make sure you’re careful and considerate, and you can find yourself a better position while still leaving your current job on good terms.

What other tips do you have for looking for a job when you’re already working?

Kelly Gurnett is Assistant Editor of Brazen Life and runs the blog Cordelia Calls It Quits, where she documents her attempts to rid her life of the things that don’t matter and focus more on the things that do. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook and hire her services as a blogger extraordinaire here.

Brazen powers real-time, online events for leading organizations around the world. Our lifestyle and career blog, Brazen Life, offers fun and edgy ideas for ambitious professionals navigating the changing world of work.

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