Keeping an eye on the horizon
You’ve already got a great job. Should you stop looking?
By Liz Bernier
You’ve already done it – you found a great job in a tough market, and your long, arduous job search is just a distant memory. You’re enjoying the new position, you like and respect your new company, and your co-workers seem great. You’re focused on adjusting to the new role and learning all that you can.
There’s just one thing: those job postings you subscribed to keep showing up in your inbox.
It begs the question that many professionals grapple with when it comes to the job search process – when should you “stop looking?”
The optics certainly would not be ideal if a brand-new employer were to become aware that you are actively seeking other opportunities. In fact, many professionals – no matter how long-established in their roles – take some measures to avoid broadcasting the fact that they are looking around or “job shopping.”
Depending on your manager or employer, the potential fallout from having them catch on to your job search could range broadly. Perhaps they are very understanding and would try to improve your current work situation to retain you as an employee. Perhaps they wouldn’t be terribly pleased, leading to some awkward interactions around the office or an uncomfortable conversation about the issue. Perhaps they would start planning for a replacement for your role, if they begin to feel panicked that your departure may be imminent and they could be left in the lurch.
However, this is not to say that you should not keep a weather eye on potential opportunities. Gone are the days when it was typical to spend one’s entire career at one company. Professionals today seek constant learning and continual growth – and sometimes, the best way to advance is to make a move to a new role outside the organization.
If you do want to keep an eye on emerging opportunities, there are ways to do so while still cultivating a positive relationship with your current employer. This list is by no means exhaustive, but here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Don’t broadcast your job search. Unless you actively want your employer to know you are looking elsewhere, it is advisable not to make your job search public. Avoid job searching on your work computer, on company time. Don’t post on your LinkedIn profile that you are seeking new opportunities. Be very cautious of which colleagues you discuss the matter with – it may be wisest to avoid discussing it with any co-workers at all.
- Be cautious when asking for references. Sometimes, if you reach the interview stage, you may face the sticky situation of being asked for references. Use your best judgement when deciding whether to ask anyone at your current place of employment for a reference – it very much depends on your relationship with that person. There is always the risk that word could get around the office that you are interviewing for a new position, so bear that in mind and act accordingly.
- Always be on your networking game. It’s never a bad idea to build and maintain a strong network of professional contacts within your industry. It would be very unusual for an employer to frown upon your attempts to build a network of contacts, so networking (both formally and informally) is a great way to both flourish in your current role and keep an ear to the ground about potential new roles.
- Timing is everything. You may want to avoid a number of short stints on your resume – it generally doesn’t look great to an employer if you seem to switch jobs every six months. Investing some time in a role is often necessary both for your career growth timeline, and to ensure you really learn what you can from that role before you move up to the next one. Sometimes, an opportunity may come up that you just can’t refuse – but generally, it’s a good idea to pay attention to whether the timing makes sense for your career as a whole.
- The grass isn’t always greener. It’s tempting when you’re frustrated by something about your current situation to start daydreaming about how much better things would be at this other job or that other job. However, it’s important to have realistic expectations of what that other job will entail. No job is perfect, and it’s best not to make a rash career move simply out of frustration.
So, all things considered, should you keep a lookout for better opportunities while you’re already gainfully employed? When you distill it down, I think the central consideration is this: more information never hurt anyone. It’s never harmful to simply be informed and aware of the opportunities and the industry around you – just make sure you are strategic and intentional in your actions.
Liz Bernier is the managing editor of HR Professional magazine and a communications specialist with the Human Resources Professionals Association.