How to: job hunt while you have a job

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There are few things in life more awkward than job hunting whilst gainfully employed.

For one, job hunting is a veritable job in and of itself. It takes time to scour job boards, craft memorable cover letters, and go on interviews.

And those interviews? They are definitely the most awkward part. After all, you can only have so many doctor appointments, family emergencies, illnesses, burst pipes, etc. before people start to suspect. (Or at least think you are just a disaster of a human being.) And I’m a terrible liar. I hate doing it.

I tend to get stressed out by phony doctor appointments (the rushing to get there on time, the rushing to get back to the office at a reasonable time…it’s too much) and will often just take a day off, especially if I have more than one interview. The problem is, eventually you burn through 3-4 vacation days, which is fine if you get the job. Not so much if you don’t.

Here are a few things I’ve learned about job hunting while having a full-time job:

1. Timing is everything. Schedule interviews either first thing in the morning (ideal, because there are a myriad of excuses that can happen in the morning…late train, dishwasher overflowed, husband got sick and needs me to pick up a prescription, dog ran away, car broke down, etc.) or last thing in the afternoon (“I need to jet out of here a little early tomorrow evening, but I’ll be in early to make up for any missed work.”). If all else fails, lunchtime is doable. (“My cousin is in town just for the afternoon and asked if I could meet for lunch — is that okay?”)

2. Be cautious about dressing too professional if you have to go back to work. Unless you show up every day in a blazer and heels, wear an outfit you can dress up for the interview and down for your office. Nothing tips people off like you showing up late and in a suit.

3. Be respectful of your current employer’s time. 3 pm is not the right time to troll LinkedIn job boards. It’s also not the right time to update your resume. You are still an employee, and you want to leave on good terms regardless of the situation. (If possible.) Save your job hunting for after-hours (and answer emails/phone calls on your lunch break) to avoid leaving anyone with bad thoughts about you after you’re gone.

You’re probably wondering why I’m being so candid about my job hunting process. Well…you guessed it; I got a new job recently. My last day at my current company is next Wednesday. Then it’s off to Paris, and then I start the new gig when I get back.

The long-time readers among you will probably feel like you have déjà vu, but in my defense, I’ve been at my current job for almost two years. That’s a lifetime in the media world. Plus, I’m super excited about the new opportunity.

I’ve got a good feeling about 2014, you guys.

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6 thoughts on “How to: job hunt while you have a job

  1. Ha I LOL’d at your disclaimer on Facebook “I’m not pregnant.” I’m quickly realizing I have to do this with all messages to family now. Ah, married life.

    Congrats on the new gig! It is awkward, but I’ve always heard that it’s better to look for a new job while you have a job. 🙂

  2. It is too bad you felt you had to straight up lie to your employer to go on interviews. What would have happened if you were honest with them. I’ve been at Northwestern for four years now and have applied for a handful of other jobs in my time here. I was a finalist (and 2nd choice) for two of them, and both were out of state and required me to take a day off to go to the interview. But I was honest with my boss and told him exactly what I was doing both times (and used him as a reference both times). Both jobs were clear steps up for me, and he understood that I had to pursue the opportunity. I didn’t end up with either job, and I am still happily and gainfully employed here. Both times the news was met with an “I’m sorry you didn’t get the job but we are happy to see you’re still going to be here”.

    I’m legitimately curious. What would have happened if you were completely up front with your current employer? It seems like job changes happen often in your industry. Would it have been as bad as you imply?

    • I can’t be 100% sure the result would have been disastrous, but I do know from other experiences here that it would have severely limited my opportunities for advancement if they were aware I was looking at other jobs. And given the job market, I couldn’t be sure that other opportunities would work out in any particular time frame. I didn’t want to end up in a situation where they knew I was trying to leave for months at a time and didn’t promote me because they didn’t want to invest in someone who wasn’t in it for the long haul.

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