Part of having a lot of different sources of income is knowing how to look for the next great opportunity without sacrificing what you have. When you need to know what else is available in your industry without tipping off your employer, start with a soft job search. If you're past the point where you care who knows that you're looking for a new job, start with a hard job search.
In a soft job search you're not doing everything you can to find a new job, but you're starting the process of finding a new one. It's a good way to test the waters in your field without alerting your current boss. If you need to start looking for a job without your current company finding out, try these suggestions.
Put together your resume
A resume is a necessity for anyone looking for a job, but if you haven't applied for a job in a while, odds are you haven't put one together. Even if you've made one in the past, you'll need to update what you have. Eventually, you'll want to customize your resume for each job you decide to apply to, but for now concentrate on creating and improving your general resume. This is the resume that you'll use as a template whenever you start to apply for jobs; you can add more details and delete irrelevant information when you decide to start applying. Working on your resume now will give you a lot of time to review it and look for mistakes without the pressure of having to get it out the door immediately.
If you just don't know where to start, or if you want some help with placing details, you might want to consider a professional resume writing service. Yes, it costs money, but since you have a steady source of income right now it makes sense to pay for a service. If you hate formatting or just aren't sure what to do, a couple of bucks to one of these services can be a good investment. One of our favorite services can be found here.
These services tend to work best for people who have a lot of general experience or who are new to a job search and don't know where to begin. If you have very specific industry experience or if you're trying to target your resume for one particular job, you probably won't be too happy with the results from one of these services.
Take some friends to lunch
If you have friends in your industry, now is the time to renew and keep up with those friendships. After your company announces lay-offs, you won't have the income to take them to lunch, and to be blunt, if you haven't kept up with anyone, they're going to suspect that you're only being friendly in order to get them to give you a job. Odds are you've met people at other companies, but you haven't done much with them because you've just been too busy. Send them an e-mail and invite them to lunch. Keep things casual, and you'll both probably end up learning a lot. After a while, mention that you're thinking about looking for other opportunities.
This should be obvious, but let's make it clear: don't talk to anyone at your company (or anyone who knows people at your company) about finding a new job. Even your best friends can let something slip on accident. Most employers will not be supportive of you looking for a new job, in fact, most of them will probably let you go before you can turn in your resignation.
On a related note, do not give any potential employers any contact information for your current job. Do not use your current co-workers as references. Do not use your work e-mail to send out your resume or work samples. Do not list your work phone number as a way to reach you; use your private cell phone. If you're called on that cell phone while you're at work, go somewhere private in order to talk. Your current company has the right to read anything that is sent or said over the communication lines that they pay for.
Prepare to go
Start working on an exit plan from your current job. Sure, you've been daydreaming about quitting for a while, but go ahead and come up with a real strategy. Who will you tell first? How much notice are you going to give? Will you try to negotiate a severance package?
Find out how much notice you're contractually obligated to give your current employer. Looking this information up now will give allow you to tell potential future employers when you can start. Don't agree to a starting date at your new company without finding this out first! You also want to review the terms of your non-compete agreement to make sure you don't violate it.
If you need files from your work computer to add to a portfolio, get them now. As soon as you hand in your notice, odds are that you'll be locked out of the computer system. Just make sure that you're not taking anything that is confidential information to the company. Even if you haven't signed a non-compete agreement, dealing with the hassle of a lawsuit is not what you want.
This might be obvious, but it's worth it to emphasize: Do not go out with a bang. No matter how much you want to curse at your boss, tell your co-workers you hate them, or kiss the pretty girl at the front desk, don't do it. At best, you'll be the subject of office gossip for a few days. At worse, you could go to jail for sexual assault. Most likely, however, your awesome "how I quit" story will get to your new employer, as well as plenty of other potential future employers. When it does, they will have to decide if it's worth the risk of keeping you around until you decide to move on again.
Completing these steps makes it next to impossible to keep your boss or co-workers unaware that you're looking for a new job. Make sure you're ready to jump ship before you start down this path.
Blast out your resume
It's time to start getting your resume in front of potential employers. That means applying to positions in companies that may choose to tell your current employer about your search. If you're worried about this risk, then you need to take steps to make sure that your resume only goes where you want it to.
Of course, it's rarely a good idea to actually blast out your resume. Going on a mad e-mail spree will usually only result in a lot of deleted resumes and annoying the contacts it has taken you years to make.
Instead, specifically target a company and position in each application package that you put together. This takes a lot more time, but it's also the best way to make sure that you'll get considered for the job. Arrange the information on each resume so that the skills you have that are most relevant to the position are at the top. Remove anything that isn't relevant.
Next, address each application packet to a specific person at the company. If there is no contact information in the job announcement, send it to Human Resources. Ideally, hand deliver, mail, or e-mail the application directly to the contact person. Avoid using general fax machines and e-mail boxes. These things make it hard to control who sees your information.
Ask about job openings
Once you know you need to move on in your career, you need to get the word out that you're looking for a new job. Often, positions for people with more than 15 years of experience aren't advertised. You find out about them through your industry contacts.
Make sure you ask about job openings in person. Blasting out an email to everyone you've ever worked with probably won't get you many results. Instead, talk to colleagues at conferences and meetings. If you have to send out e-mails, be sure to personalize each one.