How to Change Jobs While You're Employed

Close-up of a woman writing 'new job' on a notepad
Tiko Aramyan /

You’ve probably heard a thousand times before that you should never leave a job without first finding another one, and in most cases it’s true! Although it’s never easy to look for a new job while already in a full-time position, it does allow you to be more careful about your next steps.

Finding a new job should be about improvement, whether you want to change industries completely, you’re looking for more responsibilities and a higher salary or you simply want to shorten your commute. But you should tread carefully on your job hunt to ensure the transition into a new job is a smooth one.

To help you change jobs, we’ve listed 20 tips that will guarantee you find true success.

1. Create a Career Journal

When you’re faced with a major life event or a big decision, such as changing jobs, it’s often difficult to think clearly. For this reason alone, creating a career journal could really aid in gathering your feelings and selecting the right path for you. Use the diary to help you identify what route you want to take and perhaps how you actually feel about your current role and why you want to leave.

2. Make a List

Some people blindly look for a job by sending out a standard, one-size-fits-all application to the positions that sound interesting to them, without even knowing what route they want to take. Instead of changing jobs in such a scattered way, compile a list of jobs or companies that you want to target, and focus on applying to a handful first.

3. Make Sure the Grass IS Greener

You’ve probably heard the saying that ‘the grass is always greener on the other side’, and while you might be better off elsewhere, that’s not always the case. In fact, many people before you felt the same way and jumped into a new position at the earliest opportunity for a higher salary and a change of scenery – only to discover they were unhappier than what they already were. As such, and although it’s difficult to gauge what another working environment will be like, it’s vital to identify if you’re better off staying put where you are. Do this by listing the pros and cons of staying or going, and then weight the advantages up with the disadvantages to see whether you’d be doing yourself a favour or a hindrance.

4. Update Your CV

If your CV isn’t already up to date, now is the time to get the ball rolling. The first step to updating your CV is to showcase the skills that you’ve obtained in your current position. Secondly, you’ll need to ensure that you’re using the correct keywords throughout your CV and that you’re tailoring it to the job you’re applying for. You’ll also need to make sure that your personal statement is captivating and that your work experience is listed in a logical and effective order.

5. Update Your LinkedIn Profile

Once your CV is updated, it’s time to focus on your online presence. And with most recruiters headhunting talent and advertising jobs on LinkedIn these days, a killer profile should be your top priority. That said, be careful you don’t accidentally tip off your boss you’re looking for a new job – hiding your profile updates and refraining from sharing that you’re ‘seeking new positions’ with your network is imperative here.

6. Start Networking

Whether it’s networking online or offline, it’s important to gain new industry connections. So, get your name out there and make sure it sticks. Follow your target companies and leave a comment on their posts (without overdoing it, of course), and connect with the company’s employees and ask for their help (but make sure you can offer something in return first!).

7. Think of People, Not Applications

When you think of your job search, you probably think about sending out application after application in the hopes of securing one or two job interviews. But you need to switch your strategy; instead of focusing on applications, you should concentrate on making vital connections within those companies. A referral is always more likely to get you hired, as there’s already that element of trust there.

8. Volunteer

If you’re not getting anywhere through networking, why not do some volunteer work to gain some leads? You’ll not only test the waters in a similar role, but you’ll also acquire valuable skills that will make your CV stand out more. So, if you have some time to spare, consider volunteering a few evenings a week after work or on the weekend.

9. Arrange Interviews Outside Office Hours

Arranging interviews while you have a full-time job can be tricky. You feel like you’re sneaking around and doing something that you shouldn’t! We get it!

So, to help you feel a little less guilty, try to arrange interviews before work first thing in the morning, during your lunch break or after work. That way you won’t be worried about misusing company time. And if you have four doctor’s appointments within a few weeks, your boss will probably start to get suspicious.

10. Don’t Start Dressing Differently

If you usually wear a T-shirt and a pair of jeans to work, and you suddenly start turning up in a three-piece suit, rumours will inevitably start circulating – it’s painfully obvious you’ve either come from an interview, or you have one after work. In other words, keep a change of clothes with you and find somewhere quiet and discreet to change out of your outfit before you head back to work (even if that means turning the back of your career into a dressing room).

11. Don’t Act Suspiciously

Don’t change your attitude towards others, spend hours on end on your phone or keep popping out for secret telephone conversations. This all gives the impression that something is either wrong or that you’re looking for a change in jobs. No matter what your motives are, you should always stay true to yourself and not slack on company time.

12. Don’t Burn Any Bridges

Even if you have the worst boss in the world, you should refrain from telling them what you really think about them as you prepare to walk out the office doors for the last time. You never know when your name will be brought up in a conversation (or by whom) – and when it does, it’s best that you’re remembered as a capable and hardworking employee, not the employee who went on a rampage on their last day on the job!

13. Market Yourself Properly

When switching jobs in today’s digital age, it’s essential to market yourself correctly. You need to develop a brand for yourself that effectively showcases who you are and what makes you stand out. Whether that’s with an impressive portfolio or a list of great referrals, knowing what works in your industry is imperative.

14. Don’t Look for Jobs on Company Time

If you’ve had enough of your job, your colleagues or your boss, you might be tempted to start job searching on company time, but we can’t stress enough why this is a horrible idea. For one, your internet, computer and telephone use is likely monitored, and as a result, you might end up getting fired before you can even say ‘I quit’. And two, your nervousness of being caught will only work against you as passers-by start questioning why you keep minimising your windows on your computer whenever they walk past. So, to save yourself the hassle and panic, leave your job search to outside work hours.

15. Don’t List Your Current Employer as a Reference

This may seem like a really obvious point to make, but no matter how close you are with your current boss, it’s probably best not to list them as a reference – especially if you haven’t warned them about your quest to move on to another company. Instead, list a previous employer or industry professional that can vouch for your knowledge and skills.

16. Ask for Confidentiality

On a similar note, be sure to ask for confidentiality from hiring managers and recruiters when looking for other opportunities. Although recruiters do generally guarantee confidentiality, it’s best to double-check with them that your details won’t be shared with third parties. You just never know who your boss is connected to – it is a small world, after all!

17. Confess If You’re Caught

If your supervisor or manager suspects that you’re looking to change jobs, be honest with them! They might even be inclined to give you a better offer to convince you to stay. This will not only show that they value you as an employee, but it might also rid any doubt that sparked the desire to leave in the first place.

18. Don’t Mentally Check Out

When you’re between jobs, it’s easy to mentally check out and give up on your workload, company goals and personal achievements. And if you’re usually the person to pipe up in meetings, throw ideas out and get involved in the process, you’ll give your boss reason to suspect that something is wrong, which is why it’s so important to give your job 100% until the day you leave.

19. Let Your Boss Know You’re Leaving First

Once you’ve managed to secure a new position, it’s time to reveal your big secret. But no matter who your work best friend is, it’s good practice that your boss is the first person to know the news. Even if you tell one person you trust completely, someone might overhear you, and the news will spread like wildfire.

20. Write a Resignation Letter

After you’ve broken the news of your imminent departure, it’s time to put words to paper and prepare your official resignation letter. When doing so, you should always stick to your contractual rules and give the company the required notice as stipulated in your contract. However, it’s important to only send this letter (and indeed to announce your resignation to your boss) until you have a job offer in writing from your new employer.

Changing jobs is exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time. It opens a world of opportunities but sometimes they just aren’t the ones that you expected. To shift gears in the most professional manner, stick to our 20 tips listed above.

Do you have any other great tips to add to this list? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.