As someone who closed the deal on a new job fairly recently (thanks, Glassdoor!), I can attest firsthand — job seeking when you’re already employed is rough. The last thing you want to do when you get back from a long day at work is plunk down at your laptop to spend hours fine-tuning your resume, cranking out job applications and crafting tailored cover letters. Often, either your work performance suffers or your motivation to find a new position does. And that’s not even to mention the logistical nightmare of scheduling phone screens, in-person interviews and presentations when you work a full 9-to-5.
But finding a new job doesn’t have to feel like a full-time job. With a few adjustments to your process and habits, it’s entirely possible to avoid burnout (or getting caught by your current boss!). To reveal some of these job search hacks, we chatted with Alison Doyle, Job Search Expert for The Balance. Here are a handful of her top tips.
1. Tap Your Network
While it’s not impossible to get a job without a reference, it has been shown to increase the chances that a recruiter will take a look at your resume and, eventually, hire you. So when you first think about jumping ship, “start networking and let your connections know that you’re interested in exploring new opportunities. You may end up with a referral to a new position and not have to do much active job hunting,” Doyle says. If you don’t directly know anyone at your dream company, though, don’t despair — with the right message to the right contact, you can score an employee referral just by reaching out.
2. Get Choosy
A caveat to this last rule, though: you don’t want to blast everybody you know with requests for informational interviews. You’ll want to do this “carefully and selectively because you don’t want word getting back to your current employer,” Doyle says. On top of that, it’s a time-consuming and ineffective tactic. Save time and mental energy by only applying to the top few companies that you think would be the best fit for your personality, work style and qualifications.
3. Stick to a Regimen
Speaking of time, be mindful of your own. It’s easy to spend hours on end searching when you’re looking forward to a new opportunity (or desperate to get out of your current situation), but even if it’s exciting at first, you can quickly burn out. “Don’t spend every waking hour looking for new employment. Rather, get your resume and LinkedIn profile up-to-date, then spend some time each day networking and actively looking for jobs to apply for,” Doyle says. “Dedicate a certain amount of time to your job search – even if it’s 30 minutes a day or an hour a day.”
4. Beware the Work Computer
You might use your work laptop so much that it seems like an extra appendage by now, but you have to tread carefully when it comes to company-issued property. Even if you doubt that your company has the time and technology to monitor your usage, it’s best to play it safe. “Don’t use your work devices (computers, tablets, or phones) for job hunting. Be sure to use your personal email address and store your documents on your personal devices or online,” says Doyle.
5. Take Advantage of Tech
With all of the innovations in the jobs space, there’s never been a better time to put yourself out on the market. And if you’re not fully capitalizing on them, you’re missing out. “One way to save job hunting time and avoid getting caught is to use job search apps to search for and apply for jobs. There are many available apps that can speed up the process,” Doyle says. Glassdoor, for example, not only has all of the jobs, but also company reviews, salary reports, interview questions and more to streamline your job search more than ever before.
6. Schedule Strategically
Yes, your boss will notice if you suddenly start “going to the dentist” (read: heading out to interviews) three times a week. You can cut down on the suspicion by taking off at more inconspicuous times, though. “It may be possible to schedule interviews early in the morning, at lunch time, or later in the day,” Doyle recommends. “If you can, that will save having to come up with an excuse to take time off.” Resist the urge to immediately accept any invite the recruiter offers you and make sure it’s a time that works for you — if they’re truly interested, they won’t mind a small wait (within reason).
7. Keep it on the Downlow
If you haven’t noticed by now, “Don’t get caught” is a common theme throughout this article. It may seem obvious, but there are a lot of common ways that you can accidentally out yourself. For example, during phone interviews, Doyle advises that job seekers “be careful about using office space unless you have a private office you can use.” Other times, sharing that you’re on the prowl with even your closest work friends can end up spreading around. No matter what, ”you don’t want to get caught job searching by your manger, because it could cost you the job you have already,” Doyle says — so be proactive with your job search, but be cautious, too.