Secrets to Winning at Office Politics
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Job Search Skills

Job Hunting When You Have a Job

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Looking for a job when you already have one can make you feel like an undercover agent, sneaking around and keeping secrets. However, it's usually easier to find a job while you're still employed. To manage this juggling act, consider these do's and don'ts:

1. DO explore your options before jumping ship.
If you want a change, but like your organization, talk to your manager, mentor, or HR professional about possible opportunities. A new project or position might re-energize you. Even if you're in a bad situation, be sure that you don't hastily leave for a worse one.

2. DON'T tell your boss you are looking for another job.
Your manager may view your desire to depart as a betrayal, so it's best to keep quiet. As soon as your boss knows you're looking, you will be viewed as a short-timer and may lose out on valuable opportunities, like promotions, raises, assignments, or training.

3. DON'T tell your coworkers either.
As soon as one person knows, you might as well assume everyone does, including your boss. You could quickly become the "outsider" in the office. And should you decide not to leave, people will always assume you're still looking. So if you want to discuss your job search, talk to friends and family.

4. DO organize your job search.
Because you have a job, your time is limited, so you must be organized and focused. Finding new employment has now become your part-time job, so develop a plan, keep detailed records, and set up a specific "job search area" in your home.

5. DON'T use company resources.
"Resources" includes email, computer, fax machine, telephone, copier, postage meter, and any business supplies. Not only is it unethical, but you also risk getting caught.

6. DON'T use company time.
This is like stealing money from your employer, since they are paying you for this time. Also, many companies monitor employee activities, including phone calls, email, and websites visited. Do your research during “off” hours from your home computer. Make phone calls during lunch from your cell phone (in a private location).

7. DO consider using recruiters.
By contacting recruiters who specialize in your field, you can save time and increase contacts. But beware of anyone who wants to charge you for this service. Most professional recruiters are paid quite well by the companies who use their services and do not charge fees to applicants. Just be sure to tell them that they need to keep your search confidential.

8. DO start building your network.
Start attending professional association meetings and workshops. Get involved in appropriate community and civic organizations. In short, put yourself in places where you can meet people connected to your line of work. And while you're there, talk to as many folks as possible and get their contact information.

9. DON'T post your resume on job boards and websites.
It's quite possible that someone from your organization will see it and tell people that you are looking.

10. DO interview on your own time.
Try to schedule interviews before or after work or during lunch. When that's not possible, take vacation. Most interviewers will understand the restrictions posed by your job and will appreciate the respect shown to your current employer.

11. DON'T over-explain.
If your boss asks why you need time off, just give a simple, general response like "I have to meet with someone about some personal business". Then leave it at that. If you are one of those people who feels a need to explain everything, you will have to curb that tendency.

12. DO dress appropriately.
If your normal work attire is not appropriate for interviewing, then you need a quick-change plan. If you typically wear casual clothes to work, showing up in your Sunday best will immediately invite questions. Likewise, business casual may be too laid-back for an interview. So put appropriate attire in your car and find a place to change on the way.

13. DO ask interviewers not to contact your employer.
This requires balancing the interviewer's needs with your own. A potential employer needs current reference information, but you need to protect your job security. So here's the reasonable compromise: ask the interviewer not to contact your current employer unless they plan to make you an offer. Also ask them to let you know before any contact is made. That way, you can give your manager a heads-up about the situation.

14. DON'T say anything negative about your present employment.
Never criticize your boss, your co-workers, or your company. In the interviewer's eyes, this will just make you seem like a negative person and a potentially difficult employee.

15. DO give appropriate notice in writing.
When it's time to leave, tender your resignation in writing and give a reasonable notice (two weeks or whatever is standard in your field). Recognize that your boss may be shocked and unhappy with your news. Be professional and offer to make the transition as smooth as possible. Make appropriate arrangements to train or assist your replacement.

16. DO be prepared to leave upon resignation.
Unless you have a legal contract, your employer doesn't have to accept the notice that you offer. In some situations, employees are asked to leave as soon as they resign. If that could happen to you, you would be smart to do a little “housecleaning” at your desk before turning in your notice.

17. DO leave in professional manner.
It's been said that you can judge the true character of a person by the way they leave a job. Even if you are deliriously happy to get out of there, leave your work in good shape for the next person and bid everyone farewell in a pleasant, friendly manner.

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