Just because you decide it’s time to leave your current role for something different, it doesn’t mean you have the luxury of quitting straight away and dedicating yourself solely to your job search. We all have bills to pay, and maybe mouths to feed too. If you’re a mid- or senior-level employee, it can take a long time for you to find the right fit, so it’s in your best interest to stick with your current employer if you can.
Yet trying to find a new job while still holding your current position can feel like a conflict of interest. How are you supposed to navigate interviews and applications while meeting your obligations with your current employer? Here’s a breakdown of how to approach the situation.
UPDATE YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA (BUT NOT TOO MUCH)
In the modern age, job searches are about more than just sending your resume and cover letter. You can expect a potential employer to check out your social media—in fact, this is often how recruiters will find you in the first place, so it’s essential to make sure everything looks good.
The most basic aspects to take care of are ensuring you have a professional headshot as your profile picture, updating your experience, adding a unique LinkedIn title, and including specific numbers when detailing your achievements. If you want to go the extra mile, consider adding links to (professional) videos you’re featured in or articles you’ve published—this helps to let your personality shine through.
However, while you’re still working, updating social media is a balancing act. LinkedIn has all kinds of features to make it easier for jobseekers to find work, such as the “Open to Work” profile picture frame and the option to let recruiters know which positions you’re interested in. But it’s best to avoid these while you’re still in your current role.
LIST YOUR TOP COMPANIES
Although there are some drawbacks to looking for a new role while staying in your current job, one of the perks is that you have the luxury of less pressure. Instead of having to hurriedly apply for whichever jobs you come across, you can be truly intentional about the kind of organization you’d like to work for.
Open a spreadsheet and list between 50 and 75 companies you’d like to work for. Think local, regional, national, and even global—in today’s world, we’re no longer so limited by geography.
However, we should note that it’s best not to conduct this search on company time. It might be tempting to throw caution to the wind, but it’s best to remain professional and keep your job search to your spare time.
RESEARCH THESE FIRMS
The point of this list isn’t to stare at it and hope for the best—it’s to establish a starting point from which you can take action. So, the next step is to research three contacts from each organization and add their details to your spreadsheet.
Once upon a time, this might have involved making direct contact with the company, but these days you can find most of the information you need right on LinkedIn. Usually, you’ll be looking for a human resources professional or a senior professional who may take the hiring manager role for a smaller company (e.g., Operations Manager).
It might be tough to schedule interviews while you’re still holding down your current position, but fitting in a spot of networking is easier due to the flexibility. Choose a few names from the spreadsheet you so carefully compiled, and reach out to them.
It’s doable to network with five to 15 people per day. That might sound crazy, but you don’t need to meet them all in person for a coffee—it could be something as simple as a few messages or a quick call. Try to build relationships by understanding their situations, listening to their experiences, and fostering a personal connection. Not all of these initial connections will lead to anything, but one or two could turn out to be real leads for jobs.
Again, keep this to your free time. It’s OK if you meet up with others or have calls during your lunch hours, but don’t do any of this in the office.
PLAY THE LONG GAME
To do all this alongside the job you have right now, there are a few extra things to keep in mind.
Resist the temptation to discuss your aspirations with your coworkers. Even if you don’t think they’d go out of their way to spill your secret, they might accidentally let it slip when talking to others.
And don’t cave into the mentality that “I won’t be here long, so I should stop trying.” Your professional reputation is everything and this kind of attitude can threaten it, so remain committed and focused at your current job.
It might feel uncomfortable to look for a new job while retaining your current position, especially if you’ve worked there for a long time, but this is something that almost everyone will do at least once in their career (most likely multiple times). Remain professional and continue to try your best at work, but don’t let that hold you back from going after your next great role.
Tim Madden is an Executive Coach and former Headhunter. Founder of Executive Career Upgrades, he’s on a mission to help accelerate careers.