How to look for a job while you're still employed

Ready for a new job, but not quite ready to let go of your current one? You don't have to. In fact, you're more attractive to potential employers if you're already working. Here's how to conduct a job search while you're still gainfully employed.

quitting time leave out the door businessman
Credit: flickr/woodleywonderworks

Finding a new job while you're still employed is a tricky prospect. On the one hand, you're more attractive to potential employers if you're already holding down a job. On the other hand, one false move and you could end up being fired or, at the very least, sully your reputation in the marketplace. Here, executive search and career experts offer five tips for conducting a job search while you're still employed.

1. Time is on my side

If you're trying to land a job while you're still employed, you need to minimize the competition for available roles. That means getting the timing of your job search exactly right, says Doug Schade, partner in the software technology search division of WinterWyman. Late summer is a great time to launch your search, he says, as the number of available roles stays pretty constant, but the number of active job seekers drops.

"August, in particular, is a great time to begin looking. Many people wait until September to really get searching in earnest, they wait until their summer vacations are over and their kids are back in school, that kind of thing. So, this is the perfect time to get a jumpstart on a new job," Schade says.

2. Be social

Social media can be a job seeker's best friend, if you know how to leverage it correctly, Schade says. LinkedIn should be your first stop, but don't make the mistake of updating your professional profile only when you're looking for a new role -- that's a dead giveaway.

"Ideally, you should be updating LinkedIn constantly; it's a living, breathing document that shows potential employers what you've been working on and what your value is. Unlike other social media and social networking sites, it has the added advantage of being viewed positively by your employer. They want you to be updating it and adding to it, because it can reflect positively on them," Schade says.

But remember, if you're updating your LinkedIn profile substantially in hopes of finding a new job at a different company, you need to take some precautions, says Jayne Mattson, senior vice president, Keystone Associates.

"Turn off your public notifications. That way, your current employer won't see if you've changed your status to 'open to new job possibilities,' or notice that you're doing a major overhaul, which can signal to them that you're thinking of jumping ship," Mattson says.

3. Network

Network, network, network. The majority of employers feel that referrals from their current employees make the best hires, so reach out frequently to friends, family and former colleagues to find out what roles are available at their companies, Mattson says.

While networking can be tough if you're currently juggling a full-time job, there are ways you can make it work, she says. "Try scheduling early morning coffee dates, either in person or via Skype or FaceTime, for instance. Or meet for lunch, dinner or drinks to talk about opportunities," she says.

You also should do some research to see if any professional organizations or hiring companies are holding networking events or career fairs in your area, and attend those, Schade says.

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4. Boomerang

If you left a previous job on good terms, it's definitely worth checking out their career page, or getting in touch with former coworkers to see if there are new opportunities available. You won't need as much time for onboarding, are already familiar with a company's technology and culture and can often contribute to productivity much more quickly, says Vicki Salemi, careers expert for

"Companies are now a revolving door -- and that's a good thing. Rehiring boomerangs decreases time to fill and our time to onboard. Companies already have 'intel' on former employees, so they can look back and say, 'Oh, this person was wonderful, maybe now they're more senior, or they have new skills or better experience they can contribute here,'" Salemi says.

You also can "boomerang" with companies that didn't hire you, says Mattson. If you'd interviewed with an organization in the past, or even received an offer and turned it down, it's worth a shot to revisit those connections, as you clearly made a positive impression.

"Go back and say, 'I'm actually exploring other options now, and I was really impressed with you and your organization. I'd love to catch up and see what's been going on since we last spoke,'" Mattson says.

5. Insider information

Finally, don't overlook opportunities within your current organization before you decide to look elsewhere, says Mattson. Of course, this depends on the level of trust and honesty that exists between you and your manager; don't go overboard and start telling everyone at the office, she adds.

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"You can initiate these conversations with people inside your company, but it has to be people you really, truly trust. It's someone whose integrity you're sure of, who can help you navigate a lateral or an upward move while keeping it close to the vest," Mattson says.

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