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< Back Career Advice

How to search for a job while you have a job

Mary Lorenz | November 2, 2016

search for a job while employed

Use these tips to successfully search for a new job when you already have a job.

You like your job – you just don't love it. Or you hate your job, and every minute that ticks by is a minute shaved off your life. Or maybe it's not the job, but your boss who's the problem. Whatever the reason, you've decided it's time to move on in search of better opportunities. In a perfect world, you could simply quit your job and vacation in Hawaii until your dream gig becomes available.

Unfortunately, you're not in the position to leave your current job until you secure a new one. While looking for a new job is already time-consuming and stressful on its own, looking for a new job while also working is downright overwhelming. To find balance between searching for a new job and staying sane in your current one, try the following tips.

Keep it hush hush. While you may feel you owe it to your boss to tell him or her you are looking for a job, he or she may start looking for your replacement before you even get an offer. In fact, tell as few people as possible that you are looking for a new job -- including your closest work buddy, no matter how much you trust that person. It's easy to let secrets slip, and having your boss hear through the grapevine that you're looking for a new job is much worse than coming clean yourself. It may feel shady sneaking around, but remember that you aren't doing anything wrong or illegal (so long as you do not have a non-compete contract) by pursuing other opportunities.

Don't neglect your current job. Looking for a job takes a lot of time and energy, which can take away from the time and effort you put into the job you already have. But if you let yourself slack off, not only will your boss and co-workers notice, you could wind up with a demotion, on probation or possibly even fired. Then you'll have to explain to prospective employers why you are no longer employed, and that could set your search back even further.

Ask for discretion. When interviewing for new jobs, tell your potential employers you are trying to keep your search confidential. It may feel strange, but they will understand. Otherwise, they may end up calling your current employer for a reference. (Awkward!)

Be cool. Searching for a job on the sly may mean having to step out of the office to take a phone call or dressing more formally and taking especially long lunches on days when you have interviews. Don't give people a reason to be suspicious -- only take calls during non-work hours or breaks and schedule for interviews on days off. If it isn't possible to plan your interview around your work schedule, keep your interview outfit in your car and change at a nearby coffee shop.

Don't use company time or resources. Not only is searching for and applying to jobs at work and on company time disrespectful to your employer, it can get you in hot water if you get caught (as in, you could lose your job). And print out your resume at work at your own risk – if you use a communal printer, there's a good chance it could end up in the wrong hands. Stay safe by searching for jobs before and after work, on the weekend or during your lunch breaks from home, a coffee shop or a communal workspace.

Stay professional. Once you land a new gig, telling your boss and colleagues may be the hardest part of the process. They may feel anything from shock to sadness to betrayal, but how you handle breaking the news can mean the difference between leaving on a high note and burning a bridge forever. First, give your employer at least two weeks' notice (the standard in most industries) before you leave. Offer to help your manager find – and possibly even train – your replacement. And work just as hard during your last few days on the job as if you weren't leaving. Acting as a "lame duck" will only foster feelings of ill will and resentment from your boss and co-workers. They still may not be happy you are leaving, but they will appreciate your professionalism, which will come in handy should you ever need to call on one of them for a reference in the future.

Does your job search feel like it's hit a plateau? Check out 7 job search productivity hacks.