How to Find a New Job Without Burning Bridges

April 4, 2013 Updated: April 24, 2016

The stock market has been surging and with signs of growth in the job market it looks like more and more people maybe eagerly looking at their next opportunity.  Employers are loosening their straps and are beginning to hire more aggressively. If you’re one of those individuals who have endured in a job that you’re unhappy in and have been dreaming about greener pastures, the timing might be right for you to start looking now.

First things first though, just because you see that more companies are hiring, don’t just immediately quit your job.  Believe it or not, from a psychological standpoint, many employers do not like to hire unemployed people right off the street.  Their assumption is that the best employees are already gainfully employed, and most of the time, that’s pretty accurate.  Not having a job could possibly hurt you, so it maybe in your best interest to hold on to your current job as you hunt for your next opportunity.

At first glance, looking for a job when you already have one can make you feel a bit uneasy because of all the sneaking around you think you have to do, but you don’t have to make it that way.  There’s a certain etiquette that you should follow out of respect for your current employer and for your own personal ethics.  Here are four simple guidelines to consider:

1. Do not use company resources.  I repeat, do not use company resources! You always want to try and leave amicably and the best way to do that is by conducting yourself in the most ethical manner possible.  Not to mention you risk getting caught and leaving with a stained reputation.

2. Do not use company time.   If you’re still employed and collecting a paycheck, then you need to do your job.  If you are looking at job postings or researching other opportunities when you should be working, then you’re stealing money for all intents and purposes.  Do this on your own time.

3. Interview on your own time.  Schedule interviews before you go to work, during your lunch break, or after work.  Most hiring managers will understand that you have time constraints because of your current job and will usually accommodate your schedule.  They’ll also probably appreciate and respect the fact that you are conducting yourself in an ethical fashion.

4. When you are ready to leave after you have accepted an offer, make sure you leave in the most professional manner as possible.  Give appropriate notice in writing as well as speaking to your employer directly.  It’s probably one of the more difficult things you may have to do in your career but the way you leave a job says a lot about your character. Even though you’re leaving, you want to make that transition smooth for both your employer and for yourself.

Job hunting by itself is always challenging but job hunting while having a job can seem darn near impossible, but you can do it. The key isn’t just doing it, it’s doing it right.  

Song Woo, an employment and career management expert, is the president and CEO of Lighthouse Management Group, Inc.