The digitisation of recruitment and the rise of professional social media have made it far easier to hunt for a job while employed than it was a decade ago. However, this ease can make job hunters careless and slapdash.
If you’re on the lookout for a new job, exercise caution so as not to jeopardise an existing job before you have a new one. Consider these points:
1. Professional networking sites such as LinkedIn have been game-changers. Almost everyone expects you to be on LinkedIn, and that means your details are out there for any employers or recruiters who might be looking. If you are only dipping a toe in the job market, then keeping your profile up to date may be enough. However, you should not spend hours on recruitment sites during work time. (More on that later.)
2. The best time to find a job is when you already have a job. Yes, you have less time to look. But you have more confidence, you will not appear desperate, and you are plugged into the network that your job provides. This last point is well-worth remembering. Your job-related network starts to shrink very quickly once you are no longer working, because, unless you are a superstar, your value to other people in your network is very closely tied to your role.
3. While you can do a great deal electronically, eventually you will have to have to start meeting people face to face. You are likely to have multiple meetings and interviews, and it is best to schedule as many of these out of working hours as you can or, failing that, at the beginning or the end of the day or at lunchtime. Don’t lie about doctor’s appointments or having to meet with children’s teachers. Instead, simply say that you need an afternoon off or you need to come in late. If pressed, you can always explain that it’s a personal matter. Nobody should ask you to explain what this means.
4. Your job hunt is going to be a strain and will put pressure on you. But if you really want to find a new job, you need to suck it up. If you can’t take the short-term pain, you are not serious about the long-term gain. You need to make time for your career.
5. Be careful about how and when you hunt online. Along with not spending work hours on sites like LinkedIn and Glassdoor, it is inadvisable to keep copies of your résumé or CV on your work computer (especially with file names like BobsResume.doc). Similarly, you should not use your work email account for communicating with recruiters or sending out applications. Instead, set up a Gmail account — and if you are worried about your employer snooping, access it from home or from a noncompany smartphone.
6. Should I tell my boss? Not if you are telling him or her because you feel guilty. Here, the worst-case scenario is that your boss reacts as if you have betrayed him or her, accuses you of disloyalty, and immediately starts writing you out of any future plans. This could be a disaster if all you are doing is browsing. If you are feeling guilty, tell yourself that you do a good job for your employer but that you need to look after your long-term prospects.
7. Prepare for leaks. People love industry and organisational gossip, and word gets around, particularly in small industries and small companies. If you’ve made considerable progress with a potential new employer, it’s wise to have a reaction ready. If you’ve been recruited — and if your boss confronts you — you could say that you are very happy and loyal to the company but that you were approached by a recruiter and that it makes sense to know what is out there. This will depend on both your company and your industry. In some sectors being permanently on the lookout for a new job is quite acceptable.
8. Look internally, too. Many people assume that, to get what they want, they need to leave. But, especially in large organisations (which are often worlds unto themselves), what you want may be right under your nose. So approach your boss and talk about your career prospects within the company and potential opportunities. Here, one thing to remember is that, if you plan to use an external job offer as leverage (for, say, a pay rise or promotion) and you are refused, you need to be prepared to walk.
9. Give yourself a time limit. If in, say, a year, you have not made significant progress towards your goal, then reconsider. Are you looking in the right area? Are you looking at the right level? Do you need to progress further in your current position before you move? There are two reasons to do this. The first is that, if you are getting nowhere, you need to reboot your search. The second is that it will affect your performance in your current role, which may harm your prospects.
10. In an ideal world a new job is presented to your existing boss as a done deal. You walk into your boss’s office with a resignation letter and explain you are leaving. You are polite, generous, and dignified. And, even if you are leaving because you can’t stand the job, it’s probably best not to express that but to simply say that it is time for you to move on and that you need new challenges. You should never burn your bridges. Because, in ten years’ time, the new job you want might be at your old company.
— Rhymer Rigby is an FM magazine contributor and the author of The Careerist: Over 100 Ways to Get Ahead at Work. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Jack Hagel, an FM magazine editorial director, at Jack.Hagel@aicpa-cima.com.