My husband just landed a new job. He hasn’t been out of work or anything like that — an opportunity dropped in his lap that led him to leave his old job and take a new one. But it’s lead me to the question of just how appropriate it is to go looking for a new job when you’ve already got one. I know my grandparents would likely have stuck with a job they already had as long as they could, but it’s now commonplace to be almost constantly looking for a new gig. What do you think?
The Question of Appearances
What does an employer think about applicants who obviously already have a job when they’re going around to interviews? It’s easy for an interviewer to come to the conclusion that such an employee would jump ship the moment something better came along. In today’s world, that doesn’t necessarily keep an organization from hiring anyone, but it does lead to benefits packages, contracts and other tactics that are designed to make it as difficult as possible for a person to move on. Arranging retirement contributions so that they only are truly yours after a few years of working for a company is just one way that an employer looks to buy loyalty.
I’ve become less and less concerned about loyalty to employers over the years, though. Most business simply don’t operate in such a way as to guarantee loyalty these days. A lot of businesses are always on the lookout for ways to spend less, and that includes money spent on employees. If an organization isn’t going to be loyal to you, why should you be obligated to be loyal to it? It’s become harder and harder to argue that, ethically, you shouldn’t look for a new job when you’ve already got one.
Discretion in Your Job Searches
Of course, questions of mutual loyalty aren’t enough to convince your current employer that you continuing to shop around for another position is a good thing. If the organization you currently work for finds out that you’re interviewing for other jobs, it’s not unheard of to suddenly find yourself in need of one of those new jobs. It doesn’t take much to cause friction. Even taking a call from a headhunter is enough to cause problems in some employers’ eyes. So, if you do decide that you need to be on the lookout for another job, it becomes a matter of discretion. The right thing to do is to keep it quiet that you’re circulating a few copies of your resume.
I’m not recommending lying if the question comes up. The right thing to do is to tell the truth and take your lumps. But you don’t need to broadcast your job search either. Don’t take calls in the office. Don’t come in dressed up for an interview over your lunch hour. Don’t conduct any of your job search from your employer’s place of business.
A Job Offer Doesn’t Mean Much
There are plenty of people who, even if they’re happy, seem to be constantly on the prowl for a job. They’re happy to get job offers, even when they don’t have any intention of actually changing companies, because a job offer can be used as leverage to get a little more from their current employer. Personally, I find this a little less tenable than looking around for better positions that you’d be happy to take. If you’re just trying to get a job offer in hand to give yourself negotiating power, you’re going to put yourself in a tough position. That sort of negotiating only works every so often — doing so every year is just a way to convince your employer to call your bluff. Even worse, a lot of recruiters and HR managers will pass along the word that you’ve been wasting their time, making it harder to actually land a job when you need one.
When a job offer doesn’t mean that you’re going to seriously consider leaving your current employer, it seems better not to go looking for one. There’s nothing wrong with bringing a job offer to the company you’re working for and asking them to match it — but only if you’re really willing to leave and take that new position. If you’re just looking for a raise, you may find yourself in a bad position. Whether or not you think of the question in terms of right and wrong, it can easily be seen as a matter of self-interest.
David Note: I don’t agree at all that it’s okay to bring a job offer to the company as leverage for negotiating a higher salary. All it does is show how little you value the relationship with your supervisor and the company you work for. There are endless ways to figure out how much you could/should be paid, and actively looking for another job is not one of them. When I was still in the corporate world, I will show the employee the door if something like this comes up unless he/she has an extremely good reason of how all this came about without the employee actively looking to work elsewhere.
There’s no reason to look for another job unless you don’t want to work at the current workplace. And if you don’t want to work here, the compensation is a moot point.