I Gotta Get OUT! The Struggles of Being Employed…While Looking!

Jake climbed the ladder of success with relentless determination, rising to become Chief Executive of his mid-sized manufacturing firm. Then came an acquisition that resulted in turmoil, in-fighting to solidify power among competing senior managers – and now Jake feels trapped. He’s not contributing anymore, just fighting for survival. Time to get the hell out!

In these volatile times, people are hesitant to leave a job that’s not working for them if they don’t have something else to jump to. This is the “Employed But Looking” crowd, and it’s a large cohort of people.

Jake’s family depends on the lifestyle his salary creates and it’s deeply worrisome for him to leave this job. But to stay is creating havoc in the family as well because Jake’s stress levels are through the roof!

In this short post I invite you to think about – and normalize – some of the dilemmas that Jake – and others in the “Employed But Looking” crowd face each and every day. My hope is that you realize the struggles of “employed but looking” are normal and they will pass if you stay the course and work toward getting out of what is not working for you.

Let’s take a moment to examine some of the struggles:

  • Feeling Disloyal

You devote yourself to your job, believing it’s important to give “a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay.” When you spend time thinking about or working toward a job change you might feel like you are in some sense “cheating” your current employer.

You may feel disloyalty toward your co-workers who might be left in a more difficult position if you leave.

It will be better to recognize and deal with these feelings rather than letting them do harm by going underground.

  • Finding The Time

Another common dilemma among the “employed but looking” crowd is simply finding the time to do what’s necessary to undertake a job search. There are many moving parts that need attention: tuning up the resume, becoming active on LinkedIn, resurrecting contacts with people you’ve worked with in the past, searching job boards for suitable positions.

Most of us struggle with all the competing demands we face, without adding even more into the mix.

It will be helpful to chunk down the tasks, do a little each week, knowing that this move will take time.

It’s also reasonable to acknowledge that this is a rugged stretch of road that won’t last forever.

  • “Sneaking Around”

How do you take a call from a recruiter during the business day? You’ve got to think this through because it will be awful to be caught unawares and ill-prepared. Recruiters will understand that you are presently employed (many prefer to recruit candidates who are employed) so feel free to be direct: “I’m busy at the moment, can we speak between 6 pm and 8 pm this evening?” Even if a co-worker hears this conversation, it won’t in and of itself arouse suspicion.

  • Squarely face the risks of staying

The risks of “looking while employed” are clear, but sometimes the risks of staying are more insidious. If you are in a job that’s no longer working for you chances are something serious is wrong. What’s the risk of getting fired, suddenly? Do you know for sure? Probably not. And finding yourself with an abrupt end to income can be emotionally harrowing for the entire family.

If you are in a job that’s no longer working for you, it may be that you are feeling disrespected. Your work isn’t valued. Over time, being in this position weakens you, doesn’t it? It degrades your confidence. The longer you stay in the position the weaker you become. That’s why it’s so important to get yourself organized to move, even though it’s difficult.

So if you are in the “employed but looking” crowd:

  1. Acknowledge that it’s a difficult time and that there are real dilemmas to be faced.
  2. Get yourself organized to do a little each week toward finding your new job.
  3. Notice if you feel shame or disloyalty and re-frame it. You are doing the best for yourself and your family and you are entitled to take care of yourself.
  4. Recognize the serious risks of inaction: of tolerating work that doesn’t work for you.

Stay strong and commit yourself to Work That Satisfies! I love this quote by Howard Thurman: “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Onward and upward!

Linda