So, you’re searching for a job while employed. Between all the demands on your time and the guilt you feel for sneaking behind your employer’s back, you might question whether it’s even worth it. Beyond that, it’s difficult enough trying to find a new job as it is. But the first thing you should know is that it’ll all be worth it in the end.
Our guide below covers everything you need to know about how to look for a job while working full time. The first few sections offer some observations on searching for a job when you already have one, including whether it’s ethically right to do so.
Afterward, we take a look at how to job search without your employer knowing. There are common-sense tips that you could probably think of yourself, as well as a few that might not occur to you—so check it out, or you might get caught out by your boss.
Finally, we detail exactly how to work interviews into your full-time routine. With modern interviews over the phone or even over Skype, it’s easier than ever. So, let’s get you started down the road to finding a new job.
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Is It Easier to Find a Job While Already Employed?
It’s easier because recruiters love employees who search for jobs while they’re working. That might sound counterintuitive. Maybe you’re thinking that they’d be a little wary of an employee who’s going to put themselves first. You’ve hit the nail on the head, but for the wrong reasons: that’s a sign of the exact kind of employee that most businesses want in their ranks.
It shows that you’re:
- Ambitious and career-conscious
- Not willing to settle for second best
- A motivated self-starter
These are all great traits to look for in the talent that you hire. But just because that’s true, it doesn’t mean it’ll be a simple matter to get hired. There’s a little thing called ‘the job you’re already working’ that gets in the way.
How to Look for a Job While Working Full Time
Searching for a job while employed is all about time management. You have to be able to keep on top of work on the one hand and devote as much spare time as possible to your search on the other. That’s a conflict that isn’t always easy to resolve. That’s why we’ve come up with the tips below: to help you find that balance.
Time Management When Searching for Jobs
Time management doesn’t come naturally to everybody. Some people like to micro-manage their day from start to finish. If you’re one of these people, you can probably skip this section and move onto the next. If not, it’s time that you learned how to plan and then use your time.
- Identify your goal.
- Plan out short-term steps that will take you there.
Imagine that you work in fast food, but you want to get a nice marketing office job for a living. That’s your big goal, and it’s a good one, too.
With your big goal firmly in your sights, you can then identify the small steps that will gradually get you there.
You might want to consider the following plan:
- Write a resume (because you never have before!)
- Get your resume reviewed by a friend or family member, or professionally if you can afford it.
- Identify the workplaces where you’ll have the best chance of career progression. Or the best wage, most perks, most prestige—whatever’s most important to you.
- Make a shortlist, and apply for any jobs that you might find that meet your criteria.
You should also schedule your time as best you can. For the sake of simplicity, let’s pretend that you work 9-5. You can pencil in half an hour in the morning, before work, which is where you scout for jobs. Then you can schedule an hour each day after work where you send your resume/application to each of the jobs you found.
If there aren’t many jobs in your field, you might not need to do this every day. It’ll also help to keep track of what you’ve applied for so that you can see the effort you’ve put in—that’s the kind of motivation that can keep you going, even if you don’t see results straight away.
Search Online Job Boards
Our first tip is to make the most of online job boards if you aren’t already. An impressive 81% of candidates use job boards these days, and that’s reflected in the number of jobs posted on them: more than anywhere else. If you don’t know, these are mostly like the classified ads in a newspaper, except far better. You have access to thousands of jobs in your area, in hundreds of different industries. Our top tip when it comes to using them, though, is to avoid uploading your resume.
If you upload your resume on a job board, anyone can find it. That includes your current employer. If they find it, who knows what kind of hot water you might be in. At the very least, your remaining time at work will be a lot more awkward.
Set Up Email Alerts for Jobs
A better idea is to set up email alerts on job boards, to let you know whenever a new job is posted. It’s just like subscribing for any other kind of email newsletter. In other words: very, very easy.
- Find where you sign up. All a site typically wants is your email address, and maybe your name too.
- Tailor the newsletter to your needs. This includes stating how often you want to receive it, what jobs you’re interested in, and where you want to work.
- Sit back and wait until your next scheduled newsletter.
This saves you the time each evening that you would otherwise spend searching.
Have Three Default Resumes
Everyone knows you should tailor your resume in each application you make. But when you’re working full time, that’s not possible. Ideally, you would be able to spend a month pouring sweat over the design and detail of your resume, cover letter, even the envelope you deliver it in. But you can’t.
Instead, consider having just three default resumes. Let’s say you have a degree in marketing, but your more recent experience has tended towards HR.
There’s nothing wrong with that—it’s all in how you put it in your resume:
- Have one resume that highlights your experience, for any jobs in HR/similar. Talk at length about what you achieved in your latest role, and how great you are at what you do.
- Have another resume that focuses on your knowledge of marketing. This is for when you apply to any marketing or sales positions, where it might come in handy. Talk about how you have a passion for marketing, and you’ve always wanted to put your knowledge to good use.
- Have a third resume for whatever else you’re interested in. Say you want to break into management. Have another resume that focuses on those applications, and why you would be a good fit.
Having three resumes gives you some of the benefits of tailoring it for each application, but at a fraction of the cost in time. It’s an excellent tip for whether you’re currently working full time or not. But searching for a job while still employed also has specific pitfalls that you have to learn to avoid.
How to Job Search Without Your Employer Knowing
Chief among these is the fact that, well, it’s not the ‘done thing.’ It’s viewed as disloyal and dishonest, and it’s one of the chief topics in office gossip. Unfortunately, that doesn’t look like it’s going to change any time soon.
Is It Wrong to Search for a Job While Still Employed?
So, is it wrong to job search while employed? Back forty or fifty years, you could argue that it was. Employers were happy to offer plenty of benefits to loyal employees: great bonuses, yearly raises, dental plans, and pensions: the works. Today, though, you’ll be lucky to get anything of the sort in an entry-level job.
Even higher up the chain, the perks aren’t what they used to be. While it would be loyal of you to grit your teeth and get on with it, you can’t ignore better opportunities if you find them. The biggest problem is if anybody finds out. Let’s take a look at how to make sure your employer won’t know you’re searching for work.
Don’t Search at Work
In an ideal world, you’d be able to find and apply for any opening either at your desk or lunch. You’d be saving yourself time in the evenings and weekends, after all. But applying for jobs on a work computer, and during work hours, isn’t a wise move.
- Anyone could spot you. When they do, that gets the office gossip cogs spinning. Soon, everyone in the office will know—including your boss. So it’s not just about making sure management don’t see. It’s about making sure that nobody. The only effective way is simply not to search while you’re at work.
- Even if you search when you’re completely out of sight, your search history will still be available to IT. They might start the gossip going around instead of one of your colleagues. Or, who knows, maybe the boss monitors who is searching for what so that they know you’re hard at work.
The only way to effectively make sure that nobody finds out is to do your searching at home.
Next up, you have to avoid updating LinkedIn. Your publicly available profile is a great way to find work, admittedly. But it’s also an easy way to get found out. So, really, this one is up to you: which do you care more about? Making it a little easier to find a job, but bearing the brunt of office politics? Or keeping quiet, and slightly damaging your chances?
We would advise that it’s better to keep quiet. But it depends on your approach. If you’re actively searching for jobs—so, you’re putting in your resume and online profile that you’re searching for a new job—then this isn’t the best idea. But there’s a compromise that might work for you.
All you have to do is update your LinkedIn to reflect your achievements and skills, just like your resume. But, crucially, don’t make out that you’re necessarily searching for a new job. This makes you easier to find by headhunters and gives you something to show prospective new employers too. And in terms of using LinkedIn to simply find jobs, consider the following tips:
- Make your profile as keyword rich as possible. This makes you even more searchable.
- Build connections at other organizations, as part of your normal networking routine. But start to target people working places you’d like to work too.
- It’s fine to reach out to contacts at other companies to inquire about openings. It’s highly unlikely that word will get back to your current employer.
Used correctly, LinkedIn is a powerful tool for job hunters and recruiters alike. With luck, it’ll start landing you some interviews. But before you go bounding off into the sunset with a job offer, there’s the small matter of your interview to deal with.
Do’s and Don’ts of Attending Interviews While Employed
Interviewing while having a job is awkward, simply because of time. That’s the basic problem inherent in most of our points below, but it’s possible to work smart and avoid it. Let’s find out how.
Use Time Off to Attend Interviews
First off, be wary of scheduling any interviews if you can’t get time off for it. Ideally, try and confirm that you can get time off over the next couple of months before you start interviewing. This is so that you can make sure you really will have the time, and at short notice.
The alternative is to pull a sickie. Deep down, everybody wants to be able to skip work, and one or two sickies over the course of a year won’t hurt anyone. But—and this is a big but—you have to be careful if you pull sickies for an interview. That’s because:
- There’s no guarantee that there will only be one interview. If there’s more than one, you’ll have to call in sick again.
- If you’ve already asked about having time off on a certain day, it’ll look suspicious if you’re then mysteriously sick on that day if you couldn’t get the time off.
- If you don’t get the job, you’re wasting your own time (and potentially money). If this carried on over the course of a year, it might become a problem (attendance).
Instead, make sure to use your holidays. Tell the recruiter that you’re currently employed, and you’ll have to check that you can get time off to attend an interview. Alternatively, consider interviewing in the evenings or on weekends, or even during your lunch break.
Don’t Use Your Employer as a Reference
Employers are scared to give bad references these days, even if an employee currently works for them. That’s because of the threat of a potential lawsuit. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not against the law to give a bad reference. However, what is against the law is if a company gives a factually incorrect reference. The employee can sue for their missed opportunity, and the future employee might sue if the employee turns out to not be everything the reference said they were.
What we’re getting at is that your employer won’t give you a bad reference if you ask for one. However, it will “out” you in your search. This makes your job an awkward one, especially if you don’t actually get considered for the opening you applied for. That’s why you shouldn’t use your current employer as a reference.
Instead, just tell the recruiter that you can’t ask for a reference from your latest employer because they still employ you. As an alternative, you can offer a reference from another past employer. Or, you could point to any LinkedIn recommendations you’ve got from your boss.
Do Telephone Interviews Where Possible
There are plenty of alternatives to in-person interviews. Phone interviews are the most obvious. Many jobs these days have a preliminary telephone interview, before the real face-to-face interview. This is called ‘screening’. However, if it’s physically impossible for you to get to a real interview, you can request a telephone interview to replace it.
You could also request an interview over Skype, or similar VOIP software. This has the added benefit of you and the interviewer being able to see one another. Most recruiters would be happy to accommodate you.
Don’t Dress for Interviews Before Work
Here’s something that can catch you out if you’re not careful. Let’s say you’ve scheduled an interview for after work, or during your lunch break. You get up in the morning, don your best interview outfit, and head out the door.
Your colleagues aren’t stupid, and if you’re trying to keep your interview a secret, this is the worst way to go about it. You’ll be getting questions and comments all day, especially if you don’t normally dress impeccably for work. And, needless to say, it might catch the attention of the boss.
Instead, consider taking your interview clothes in a gym bag. Fold them neatly so that they don’t crease, and take the bag with you to work. Alternatively, make sure you have enough time to head home and change before your interview.
Put a Positive Spin on Everything
If an interviewer knows that you’re still employed, there’s going to be one question rattling around their brains that they’ll ask you every time:
“So, why are you leaving your current job?”
It’s incredibly important that you can answer this question, and answer it right the first time. The most important thing is that you answer it positively. Let’s say that you’re leaving because of something specific: it might be that you took on extra responsibilities at work to cover for somebody else, and you’ve been stuck doing two people’s jobs for the last six months. That’s enough to make anybody want to leave.
Let’s go on to say that you tell the interviewer about it, and you tell them about it like this:
“I’m leaving my job because I’ve got way too many responsibilities. About six months ago, my boss asked me to take on some extra work. I thought it would just be for a couple of weeks, but I’ve been working flat out doing two people’s jobs for six months now!”
See how that sounds? It’s negative, and no interviewer or recruiter wants to bring in negative energy. Instead, rethink and rephrase what you’re trying to say so that it’s more positive. Talk about how it was a great experience. The easiest thing you can do? Lie, and say you’re ‘looking for a new challenge.’
And, really, that’s about all you need to know about searching for jobs while working full time. If you take anything away from this guide, remember this: poking the sleeping ‘office drama’ dragon is never worth it, so do your best to keep it to yourself. Because if you don’t land your new job, you could be stuck there for a while—unless your boss contrives to get rid of you.