10 Rules: Looking for a New Job While Employed

Looking for a new job while employed

Are you looking for a new job while employed? It’s a common situation, but it can be tricky to navigate, and there are a lot of things to consider. That’s why I’ve put together these 10 Rules of Job Searching While Employed—to help you land the job of your dreams without risking your current job. These rules will guide you around the pitfalls that can happen and make your search more effective. Read on to learn my top tips for a successful job search.

Here’s to finding a better job with less drama! 🥂

Rule 1. Keep It Confidential

With respect to Brad Pitt, the first rule of your job search is you do not talk about your job search

At work, your job search does not exist. It’s not on your computer drive, your browser tabs, or your office phone. And it’s definitely not buzzing in the air between you and your coworkers. Yes, that includes your office bestie.

Gossip happens and it will bite you in the butt every time. So—respectfully—shut up about it. 

There are horror stories of companies that fire any employee caught looking for another job. Don’t let it happen to you. Pay attention when other employees leave. If people seem to disappear without warning, ask discreet questions. “Hey, what happened to so-and-so?” will get you information without raising a red flag.

Rule 2. Know What You Want

Do I sound like a broken record yet? I repeat this recommendation a lot because it’s important.

A job offer is so exciting that it’s easy to get carried away and “forget” about your other priorities. Imagine getting an offer for $20,000 more than you currently earn. Hello!! Life-changing money is great, but it can blind you from any shortcomings the job has. The Must-Have Worksheet shows you what trade-offs come with that hefty salary. Then you can decide if the money is worth what you’re giving up.

Grab your copy of the worksheet below. I’ve already identified 20 job characteristics for you so it is easy to fill out. You can skip any that don’t matter to you or replace it with something else.

Knowing what you really want will save you from a meltdown later—when you’re stuck in rush-hour traffic with a starving toddler and you remember why you wanted a commute under 30 minutes long!

Download your must-have worksheet here.

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Rule 3. Evaluate What You Have

Before you run off looking for a new job, take a good look at the one you have. Are there any skills you can develop now that would benefit your job search? Getting three-to-six months of (paid) experience with in-demand software or a new system now can translate to a big salary bump at the next job.

Also, if you like your current company well enough, what opportunities are available with them? Don’t assume you already know. And don’t limit yourself to the company’s open job posts. It costs big bucks to find, hire, and train a new employee. They might be able to adjust your role, move you to another position, or even create a new job to keep you. Have a frank talk with your manager about what is and isn’t working in your job. If your manager is the problem, reach out to HR or other managers that you know well.

two caveats When Looking for a new job while employed

First, don’t go into this meeting all hot-headed and threatening to quit if your “demands” aren’t met. Being a pain-in-the-ass employee won’t help you. This is just a relaxed conversation about possible changes. So settle down, sassy!

Second, beware of getting strung along. Companies can talk fast but move slow, so trust your gut and don’t delay your job search too long. Giving notice might be what needs to happen to get things done!

Seriously though, talk to your manager about other opportunities. I left a job where I loved my boss and my colleagues because I thought moving up was impossible. A year later—and after moving 900 miles round trip—I was back, working for the same boss in the same department in a role that hadn’t existed before.

Rule 4. Keep Up Your Work Quality

While “quiet quitting” gained fame in 2022, it’s a bad strategy when you are looking for a new job. No, you probably shouldn’t offer to spearhead an upcoming 6-month project, but you do need to keep your work quality consistently high.

One day your boss could be your reference and how you act now is how they’ll remember you!

A friend once emailed a four-page, single-spaced rant—excuse me—”exit interview” to their supervisor and HR as their final act as an employee. It might feel cathartic, but honey, in a word, don’t. Even if you don’t boomerang back to the same company, most industries in a given city are surprisingly small. 

Rule 5. Polish Your Resume

This is probably the first thing you thought of when you decided to look for a new job, right?

Since you probably haven’t updated your resume since you started your current job, plan to spend some time (or hire an expert) to make it sell.

Brainstorm everything you’ve done in your current job. Estimate how much time/money you saved. Pick a format that’s modern and appropriate for your industry. Draft a cover letter with multiple examples of your accomplishments so you can pick the best ones for a given job.

Updating your resume is even more important when you are still employed. Like I mentioned in Rule 4, industries in a given area all pull from the same employee base, and odds are good that anyone who gets your resume either knows someone you work with or has a colleague who does! That means you can’t just blast your resume to everyone; you want to be selective. So be sure to tailor your resume and cover letter to every job you apply for. And explain any previous gaps in employment.

If you get utterly overwhelmed with your resume, you aren’t alone. I practically locked myself and my husband in a tiny study room in the public library to get him to do his. It was… tense! You don’t have to do it alone, just book a free call with me here.

Rule 6. Keep It Professional

In a digital world, having the “wrong” kind of posts on your personal social media is like showing up to an interview with your fly down. Yikes. We all have strong feelings about certain issues, which usually means there are plenty of people who share our view. And plenty of people who see it from the other side. The smartest thing to do is to clean up your social media by deleting these kinds of posts or making your account private.

Depending on your age, you could easily have decades of social media attached to you. Personally, I joined ICQ in 1999 or early 2000 and MySpace around 2003, so there are 23 years of my commentary floating around the digital abyss! I don’t know about you, but sorting through two decades of posts on even one platform sounds like a giant pain.

My best suggestion: don’t make it harder than it needs to be. Delete any social media accounts you don’t use and change all of the others to private. Then Google yourself to make sure you didn’t miss anything.

While we are on the subject, don’t give an employer your social media account passwords or agree to pull up your private accounts so they can look at them. Not all states have laws against asking for this information, but that doesn’t mean employers are entitled to it. Want a script? Try “Sharing that information is against policy.”  
For a post about finding a new job while still employed. Image shows two women working together with caption text that reads "Network, Discreetly. Quality over Quantity, Always"

Rule 7. Network, Discreetly

While networking can be the perfect way to find a new job, it’s risky business when you are already employed. Wherever you look for jobs—unless you are moving to another city or completely changing industries—assume your company is in the same space, looking for candidates.

You don’t have to give up on networking entirely, but you will need to use good judgment and discretion. Want to go to a career fair where you might bump into someone from HR or a gossip? Drag a friend along with you and have them do most of the talking as if they were the potential candidate.  Then treat them to a very expensive dinner.

Go to networking events or conferences. When you meet someone from a potential company, be casual. “Hey, so how do you like working at ABC? Are you doing much hiring in the XYZ department? I know someone who is looking. Who do you think she should talk to? And what’s the best way to get in touch with them?”

Yes, that involves a little subterfuge. No, I wouldn’t let it keep me up at night. But if it makes you that uncomfortable, find a champion or two. That’s just someone in the industry who you trust (like, with your paycheck) that will ask those questions for you. 

Rule 8. Do Your Research

Continuing along the same lines as Rule 7, do your research. On everything. Check out the company on sites like Glassdoor (just remember people with bad experiences tend to leave reviews more often than people with good experiences). Become a LinkedIn sleuth and connect with a few former employees, especially someone who did the job you are interested in!

And yes, it’s perfectly fine to continue using “I know someone who is looking” as your lead-in. After all, you don’t know this person, and being a bit vague is your best defense.

I should probably point out now that you never want to say anything negative about where you’re working or your manager. Industries are small and odds are good your random contact could actually know the people you might talk about.

Rule 9. Always Follow Up

Following up doesn’t need to feel greedy or self-serving. It’s about showing interest and appreciation, not asking “what can you do for me?”

Did you meet a new professional contact? Send them an email in the next day or two thanking them for their time. Include a link to something you talked about with them. Congratulate them on a recent company accomplishment. Connect on LinkedIn. Ask them for a brief “coffee date” on Zoom. In fact, spread those suggestions out over a few weeks to stay top of mind and nurture the relationship.

For interviewers, send an email later that same day (please, not from your phone while you are still sitting in their parking lot—it feels creepy).  Time your message to catch them shortly before they leave the office, if possible. Wondering what to say? Thank them for their time, of course, and comment on something about the job that excites you. Make a personal connection with the interviewer if you can (“I’d love to hear about your experience at State University sometime.” ). Or ask them an interesting question. Then thank them again and sign off with something like “I look forward to speaking with you again.”  Done!

One of my favorite strategies is to develop a “signature question” or two that you reserve strictly for interview follow-ups. It should be light-hearted, a little quirky, and make them think a bit. Maybe “if you hired a celebrity for this job, who would you pick?” Or, “if you could instantly change anything about the company, what would it be?” Your goal is two-fold: to learn a bit more about the company and to make you a memorable candidate.

Rule 10. Stay Organized

Every job search requires being organized, but that goes double when you are working full-time. You need a way to quickly identify the jobs you’ve applied to and what skills were required. First because you don’t have time to be applying for the same job more than once. And second, because phone screenings can happen without warning, and interviews sometimes get scheduled for just a few hours later. You don’t want to be frantically searching for the job posting and what skills and qualifications you need to focus on.

My method of choice: the humble Google Sheet. Your database should include the following:

  • Company name
  • Position title used in the job posting
  • A link to the job description
  • Key requirements & how you meet or exceed them
  • A link to the resume and cover letter you sent
  • Notes and contact information from any previous conversations

Put shortcut links on your phone and desktop for easy access. This way if you field a call from HR, a hiring manager, or a recruiter, you ask them to hold for a few moments while you “move to someplace quieter” and then quickly pull up your information.

You’ll never be caught off guard again. Well, at least not by a phone interview.

Do you break out in hives at the thought of finding information on your phone? Go analog. Get a pack of index cards or a small notebook and write it all down. You’ll want to keep this information with you most of the time, but you’ll never be caught with your wi-fi down. 

Looking for a new job can be exciting but don’t let it put your existing job at risk. Keep your news confidential while you nail down what you want in your next position. Talk to your supervisor about other opportunities in the company if you can, and be sure to keep your work quality up.

Invest in a winning resume that is targeted for the work you want and clean up your social media before you start applying for positions. Network discreetly and strategically. Research as much as you can about the job, the department, and the company, especially if you are switching from another industry.

Finally, follow up after interviews in a way that helps you stand out to the interviewer (in a good way!). And above all, keep yourself organized to make the best possible first impression! 

Jumpstart Your Career Consult

Are you ready to take the next step forward in your career? I’d be honored to be your guide and help you get out of your own and get your dream job. With my Jumpstart Your Career Consult, you have the chance to work with me one-on-one, absolutely free. Because I hold these calls personally, there are very few spots available, so if you’re serious about making a jump to a fulfilling career and would like guidance and support, use the calendar provided to apply for your session now.

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