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Why it’s OK to search for a new job if you’re unhappy

Management expert Alison Green gives advice on job searching while you have a job

By Bret Silverberg,
Monster staff writer
It’s one of the more challenging pursuits of one’s career: Seeking out and finding a new job when you realize you’ve had enough of your current one.
Typically, revamping your resume and reaching out to prospective employers strikes fear in the heart of those who have existing, gainful employment. But, as careers and management expert Alison Green says, searching for a job — when done the right way — shouldn’t be beyond anyone’s reach.
Monster: What typically holds people back from seeking out a new job?
Alison Green: People often worry that they won't be able to find another job that will pay them what they earn now, or with the same great commute they currently have, or that can match their great benefits. Or they worry about having to get used to a whole new job with new co-workers and a new manager — and what if the new job has similar problems or is even worse? Plus, job searching takes time and energy, and it can feel easier to simply stay put.
Monster: There’s an old adage that says: Don’t quit your current job until you have another one lined up. Is this true? Is this even good advice anymore?
AG: Absolutely. It's much easier to get another job when you're still employed. Employers tend to prefer to hire people who are already employed. Plus, finding another job can take a long time — a lot longer than people expect it to. In this job market, it’s not that unusual for a job search to take a year or more. 
Also, rightly or wrongly, employers tend to assume that people don’t quit jobs without another lined up unless:
  1. They were about to be fired;
  2. They actually were fired and are just saying that they quit;
  3. They’re potentially someone who walks when things are frustrating, which is worrisome because of course every job will have frustrations at one point or another. 
Hiring managers do know in theory that some jobs really are so terrible that a reasonable person might quit with nothing else lined up. But it can be hard to tell from the outside if a situation truly rose to that level, or whether the person’s bar for frustration is low, so it's a red flag.
Monster: How does a worker know when to begin a job search? What are the telltale signs they should pay attention to?
AG: You want to get clear about what your bottom line is — what things matter most to you, what trade-offs you are and aren’t willing to make, and what you value most. For instance, maybe you hate your manager but you love the work you do and you’d rather keep that job even if your manager is part of the deal. Or maybe you’ll decide that you’re willing to do less interesting tasks if it means getting a new boss. There are no right answers here — it’s just about getting really clear in your own mind about what matters most to you. 
Monster: How should an employee go about searching while at a current job?
AG: First, don’t job search on your employer’s time, and especially not from your work computer. You may think no one will find out, but some companies do look at employees’ web histories, and having yours full of job listings isn’t a good idea. And try to conduct phone interviews from outside your office — ideally from home or somewhere else private. If that’s not an option, consider taking the call from your cell phone in your parked car. Use your office only if you’re absolutely sure you won’t be interrupted.
Scheduling in-person interviews can be tricky when you already have a job. You can try asking to schedule the meeting for first thing in the morning or late in the day. But you might need to take a personal day or half-day for “an appointment," “some family business,” or so forth.
Also, it's fine to tell prospective employers that you don’t want your current employer contacted as a reference, since your boss doesn’t know that you’re looking. This is normal and employers will understand why you’re asking it.
Monster: Do you find people most often stick to one job because of the money? Are they in general loath to take risks in terms of their careers? Why?
AG: I wouldn't characterize it that way. People move on when they're convinced it's the right thing to do for themselves.

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