You Have a Job. Why Look?

If you have a job in this economy, you're in better shape than the legions of unemployed. But if you're unhappy, unfulfilled or unchallenged in your current position, you may be looking elsewhere. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of people who quit their jobs from August 2010 through December 2011 was actually larger than the number of people who lost their jobs through layoffs or firing.

But if you are looking for a new job while employed elsewhere, especially in an economy with enduring joblessness, it's wise to handle the job search discreetly and to make careful, deliberate decisions about where to look and what to accept. With millions of would-be employees out of work, no job search -- or job acceptance -- should be taken lightly. Here are four considerations for a wise job search when you're already employed.

When Is it Time to Look for a Job?

If your department gets downsized or your company's core business becomes outdated, it's easy to decide to leave, says Darcy Eikenberg, a workplace coach in Atlanta. Otherwise, pay attention to what the work experience is like for you. Consider leaving if the following are true.

  • You're no longer growing. "If you find you're no longer being challenged, stop wasting your time and start seeking new ways to grow," Eikenberg says.
  • You lose your best advocate. Transfers, layoffs and retirements can change the landscape of who's in your corner. If you suddenly lose your best advocate for success -- a manager or peer role model -- it's time to consider a change.
  • You're angry. "Anger comes after boredom sets in," Eikenberg says. "It's unhealthy and will not only damage your career but your body and mind. When you start to feel angry at the little things as well as the big things, move on."
  • Your values don't match the company's. "Human beings change and grow," Eikenberg says. "Organizations often do not. If you start to value ideas and actions that are in conflict with your workplace, you won't be content.

Should You Spill the Beans?

n most cases, it's not a good idea to let your boss know you're looking for another job. That means it's usually better not to tell anyone at work because they will tell others. "Unless your boss is a close friend or family member, your boss should not know (about your job search)," says Michael Coritsidis, a job readiness instructor in New York.

"Be careful who you tell. You never know if that person will turn around and tell on you, hoping to get brownie points," Coritsidis says.

However, some experts say the decision to tell your boss depends on the relationship you have with him or her. "Never lie, but you can omit the specifics," Eikenberg says.

When asked whether you are interviewing, respond with statements like, "I'm always keeping an eye out for opportunities that might be a good fit." Or, "after what happened when the economy crashed, I have been making a better effort at staying connected with other professionals."

Work the Job Search Into Your Schedule

Finding time to search, follow up on job leads and go on interviews can be tricky when you're working full time. However, "many aspects of job searching can be done at home, off hours or on a lunch break," says Hillary O'Keefe, corporate communications manager for Onward Search, an Internet staffing company based in Wilton, Conn. "Use vacation time. Half-days are enough to complete interviews and follow-ups, plus they rarely require much explanation beyond 'personal day.'"

Remember your potential employer knows that you already are employed. That may be one reason the company is pursuing you, Eikenberg says.

"You should feel comfortable asking them to meet you after hours or even on weekends if you must be in your office during the workday," she says. "The fact that you want to continue to treat your current employer with respect and fairness is a good sign to the future employer."

Finally, don't rely on your work phone number and email address for job searches. "Have a private, professional-looking email address for any career correspondence," Eikenberg says. "If you are scheduling calls during work hours, make them from your personal mobile phone, even if you have a direct office number and a door that closes."

Remember Internal Job Opportunities

Leaving your current job doesn't have to mean leaving your current company. Don't overlook securing a position in your firm that may be a better fit for you.

"The best career seekers look first within their organizations, often even creating new opportunities that didn't exist before," Eikenberg says.

To look for a position within your company or to create a new one, it may be necessary to share your interest with others at work, but not necessarily your current supervisor. Consider talking with someone in the human resources department or with supervisors of other departments.

"It's all about understanding what your strengths and contributions are, understanding what the company needs and values, and putting both together," Eikenberg says.