Looking for new job while still working
January 31, 2006 7:37 AM   Subscribe

How to find a job while currently employed without looking sneaky?

I am fed up with my current job and am seeking greener pastures. However, I need to stay at my current job until I find a new job for financial reasons. I do all my job searching at home after work. My concern is looking sneaky to a potential employer because I am currently looking while still working. Will a potential employer look negatively upon this or is this commonplace activity? Will they think it's something I could do to them if I were to work for them?

Thanks in advance.
posted by workinprogress to Work & Money (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It's common. Don't worry.
posted by voidcontext at 7:45 AM on January 31, 2006

How long have you been at your current job?
posted by duck at 7:46 AM on January 31, 2006

This is a perfectly normal thing to do. It's pretty unusual for people to leave their current job before finding a new one, so unless someone just offers you a job, you have to look for a new one while still working at the old job.

As long as you're looking on your own time, and still doing your current job satisfactorily, then you're fine.
posted by crocomancer at 7:46 AM on January 31, 2006

it usually takes a pretty long time to find a nice job you'd like to take, workinprogress, if everyone waited until they were unemployed to job search our economy would be s-c-r-e-w-e-d. you're fine!
posted by soma lkzx at 7:48 AM on January 31, 2006

My wife is in this situation right now. She's been at her current employer (who is happy with her, but she's not real happy there) for almost 8 years.

How does one deal with the issue of references? This is the longest she's worked for any employer, most responsibility, etc., but she can't let her boss know she's looking for something else. So when prospective employers ask for work references what is she to do?
posted by AstroGuy at 7:51 AM on January 31, 2006

To attempt to answer AstroGuy's side question: is there anyone that has left your wife's company recently that could give a reference? Whenever I've looked for work, I've been able to use former co-workers or clients as (personal/professional) references. I work in a field with fairly high turnover, so I've got former managers and co-workers scattered all over the map.

Another thing to consider is where the reference check fits into the hiring process. Often it's an afterthought if it's done at all. I'm pretty sure my current company outsources the reference checking, and the only things checked are factual details: duration of employment at different jobs, degrees obtained, that sort of thing.
posted by flipper at 8:04 AM on January 31, 2006

In my experience, prospective new employers are pretty understanding about current jobs.

It reflects better on you to not be desperate in the job search. The prospective employer realizes that you're only considering their job because you really want it (and thus will stay in it for longer and be more dedicated to performing well), not because you're desperate for a paycheck and will take anything that comes along.

Just be up front with the new prospect, both regarding references (ie, that your job search is confidential at the moment but that you'd be happy to provide them with your current references once you have gotten an offer... until then, offer them refs from previous jobs if possible), and regarding your start date. Again, in my experiences, new employers understand that you need to give proper notice at an old company, and it actually reflects well on you, since it shows that you have a good sense of professional obligation.
posted by tentacle at 8:07 AM on January 31, 2006

Yeah, I've only had 1 reference check out of all the jobs I've had (mostly mid-level IT gigs).

Most of the time, letting them know that you are still technically employed at XYZ is clue enough to say "Please don't call and get me fired."
posted by chrisfromthelc at 8:08 AM on January 31, 2006

AstroGuy > If your wife has written employee evaluations, she might be able to provide those in lieu of actually asking someone for a reference. (That's what I did, anyway).

As to looking for a job while still working, I've done it several times. I gave my home number on the resume, and checked my answering machine at home every half hour or so (had it set so that if there was a message, it would ring twice before picking up, and if there was no message it would ring four times). I scheduled interviews so that they'd interrupt the flow of my day as little as possible, and then just told people at my present job that I would be out during X time and be in by Y time.
posted by Lucinda at 8:11 AM on January 31, 2006

No potential employer would look down on someone looking for a new job. The question will come up during an interview so be honest about why you are wanting to change jobs. Don't say for example, that you hate your boss or coworkers, etc. Tailor your reason to the specific company that will interview you. If they are larger, say that you were looking for a stronger company with better opportunities to do . Other legitimate reasons for changing are moving to a different location for family reasons, need to expand professionally, etc. Give it some serious thought about what you want to achieve in a new position.

References can be a little tricky. Unless you are on very good terms with understandable people within the company, you will not use anyone you currently work with as a reference. the reference does not necessarily have to be a former boss. It could be a former teacher, coworker, business contact, if you are involved with any professional organization then maybe a representative from there, any volunteer groups you work with? Stretch back in your past if need be and look someone up. Look for anyone who was sympathetic to you in the past.

posted by JJ86 at 8:13 AM on January 31, 2006

FYI, if you're posting your resume on Hotjobs, et al: Many HR folks keep an eye on those sites for the resumes of current employees. I don't know how common it is, but it's possible your cover has already been blown.
posted by o2b at 8:36 AM on January 31, 2006

JJ86 beat me to it; the only way your currently being employed is going to matter to your new prospect is if you're disrespectful or in some other way make them wonder about your loyalty. People who hire other people undersand that you're an employee, not an indentured servant. People come and go, it's just how it is. In many ways a working relationship is like a personal relationship - the greatest job in the world might seem like the worst job to someone who isn't right for it.

The kind of thing that's going to turn them off is if you can't verbalize a reason for changing jobs that doesn't skeeve them out. If your only stated reason is that you want a raise, for example, you'd damned well better convince them that your current employer is stagnant or has consistantly paid below market average, etc. Otherwise they'll be wondering "even if we do everything possible to give this person a good environment, help them learn and grow and challenge them, are they just going to bail out in six months when someone offers them $0.25 more an hour?" If you talk about challenges (without seeming like an adreneline junkie) or growth opportunity you'll be in a much better position.
posted by phearlez at 8:39 AM on January 31, 2006

This is the same position I was in until recently. I think that both parties, current and future employer, know that people will be looking for a new job while still employed. It's just the way it goes.

When asked for references my prospective employers were happy to take a reference from past colleagues and then when I handed in my notice I was to give them the name of my current manager to provide another reference. I think that this method is becoming more and more common place.

It must have worked anyway cause I start the new job on Monday.
posted by MarvinJ at 8:39 AM on January 31, 2006

I have a related question for yall: When the application says "May we contact your current employer?", do they mean, "can we merely verify that you work there", or do they mean, "can we have an in-depth chat with your supervisor?".
posted by everichon at 8:50 AM on January 31, 2006

everichon: Exactly the dilemma I was thinking of. I could see situations where it would be OK, for example, you are moving out of state and your current employer knows this so they are expecting calls from prospective employers about you, but in most situations you probably don't want your current boss to know you're looking.
posted by AstroGuy at 8:58 AM on January 31, 2006

I usually divert it with "Well yes you could, but where I am still employed, I don't my job search to complicate my employment now. I do, however, have a list of former managers, current and former co-workers that you could speak with." They tend to understand that, and if they don't, I don't think I'd want to work there anyway.

Usually, with the co-workers, it becomes a "I'll be a reference for you, you be a reference for me" situation and we exchange personal cell numbers for the purposes of references.
posted by jerseygirl at 9:04 AM on January 31, 2006

That should be...

... I don't want my job search...

I generally speak better at interviews, also.
posted by jerseygirl at 9:05 AM on January 31, 2006

I have a related question for yall: When the application says "May we contact your current employer?", do they mean, "can we merely verify that you work there", or do they mean, "can we have an in-depth chat with your supervisor?".

Employers (as in, the company) are not usually legally permitted to give any info besides verifications. References are a different story. So, they mean contacting your employer for verification, but give them the head's up if doing so will affect your current job.
posted by desuetude at 9:45 AM on January 31, 2006

This is commonplace. The best time to look for a job is when you already have a job.

I was in a situation similar to AstroGuy's wife. I hated my previous job and previous boss. I was able to use some friendly coworkers, plus a friend from a previous job who now worked at the hiring company, as references for my hiring manager if needed.

During the interview, I was asked if they could contact my present employer. I said no, my job search was confidential. It's not your boss's business if you are conducting a job search on your own time.

As far as references go, a former company I used to work for will only verify dates of employment, not work habits. They're afraid of a lawsuit if they give a former employee a bad reference which costs them a job.
posted by Fat Guy at 11:14 AM on January 31, 2006

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