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How to Conduct an Effective Job Search When You’re Working Full-Time

Looking for a new job while you’re working full-time can be difficult. I’ve observed these challenges from many of my clients, and I want to share strategies you can implement immediately so your job search campaign is effective and does not drain you. These steps can be particularly valuable if you have concerns about the long-term stability of your company or job.

Maintain a Laser-like Focus

A job search campaign should be purposeful and efficient. Otherwise, you’ll waste time and be too tired to carry through on your desire to switch jobs. To help keep this focus, make sure your strategy is solid: identify target companies, possible job titles and functions, geographic location preferences, and compensation requirements. Write down all of this information, and keep it in a prominent place. Then, make sure all of your job search campaign activities support, rather than detract from, your goals.

Set a Time Commitment—and Stick to It

Commit to a realistic amount of time to conduct your job search campaign. Do you work 50 hours a week and have a spouse and two children? In all likelihood, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment if you commit to five hours a day. Perhaps one hour six nights a week is more realistic. Once you make a commitment, put it in your calendar and keep it. Treat this appointment like you would jury duty: a required commitment you wouldn’t miss just because you were tired or did not feel like going. Like skipping jury duty, expect consequences if you don’t manage your time wisely: your job search campaign will almost certainly take longer than it would otherwise.

Leverage Your Network

Inform your confidantes that you are seeking a new opportunity. Tell them over the phone or in person if you are concerned about your current employer’s reaction if it becomes common knowledge you are looking for a new job. When you speak with your confidantes, ask for help and be specific: you can ask for LinkedIn testimonials, inquire whether they would be references during the interview process, tell them the types of jobs and companies that you’re targeting, and ask if they know of openings or can offer to make networking introductions. Unless you are in a contract role or other situation where you don’t need to be cautious about your employer learning of your actions, request the confidentiality of everyone you speak with about your job search. Do not discuss your impending career change with anyone who has not earned your trust.

Search Job Boards for Openings, but Not Exclusively

I’ve heard time and again that people think applying to a job via a job board is a worthless activity. I maintain that job boards would not exist if they weren’t a profitable business model. Companies wouldn’t pay to post a job advertisement if they didn’t think they could find qualified candidates through job boards. So, search for job openings on places like LinkedIn, Indeed, and—just don’t let that be your only effort to identify potential new jobs.

Prep Your Resume and Cover Letter

Your resume and cover letter should make you feel excited to talk about your qualifications and accomplishments. If you haven’t updated your resume in a while (or maybe a long while), learn modern resume-writing conventions. In short, your resume should be written for both a computer reader (applicant tracking systems that “read” for keywords) and human readers (busy people who spend approximately 6-10 seconds reviewing the resume before making a decision). Prepare a cover letter template that you can tailor for each application, and do your best to show your fit for the position and company. To aid readability and visual appeal, add formatting elements such as bolding or bullets to both your resume and cover letter.

Get LinkedIn to Work for You

Update your LinkedIn profile, although consider making subtle changes to your profile—or make changes gradually rather than all at once—if you have concerns about your boss or coworkers noticing. If you’ve neglected LinkedIn to this point, review all the possible profile sections and complete them to the best of your abilities so they are relevant. Make sure you have a professional-looking profile picture—doing so helps you get more views of your profile.

Review your privacy and account settings. Set your profile to “Public” unless you have a compelling reason to limit who can view your profile; even still, realize nothing is truly private on LinkedIn.

Next, get active! Connect with people, post content that shows you as a subject matter expert, support your connections by liking, sharing, and commenting on their posts, and otherwise start using LinkedIn on a weekly, if not daily, basis. Exploit the free features of LinkedIn: search for jobs, join groups to help you network, and research the companies and people you’ll be conducting employment or informational interviews with. LinkedIn is a tremendous tool during this uncertain time of social distancing and coronavirus.


Implementing these tactics will ensure you make steady progress in your job search campaign even while you are meeting the demands of your current role. Moreover, such strategic action will help you keep your energy up since you’ll be working efficiently.

Heidi owns and operates Career Path Writing Solutions, a communications consulting firm dedicated to helping individuals and businesses communicate when it matters most. She delights in helping job seekers navigate career change and guiding business owners to present their value proposition persuasively. Heidi earned her PhD in history from Duke University and teaches professional development for various university programs and organizations. She holds certifications in resume writing, interview preparation, and empowerment coaching, and sits on the Certification Committee of the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches.

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