Quitting your job to search for another could be risky

Dear Joan:
I am an in-shop technician for a small company. Working for them for over a year, I have decided that for my career it is time to move on. My dilemma arises when I realize my time and resources are very limited towards conducting a full job search. In my field, this is a search that could take as long as six months to a year.

In my current position, I am presently working five days a week, ten hours a day with no lunch hour and am finding networking and socializing opportunities shut off from working hours that aren't just long but also incompatible with evening meeting times of career and personal interest groups. This is a situation that has both angered and frustrated me.

I am considering leaving my current position and taking an evening bartending job, which would free my days to spend more, time job hunting. Advice from friends and associates differ. Some say leaving my current position for a side job would have potential employers in my career path questioning my stamina under high pressure and company dedication. Others say I should take the bartending job to look out for myself because my time and state of mind are worth more than busying myself to the point of exhaustion - a mental state which would show itself to potential employers.

I side with your friends and associates who suggest that quitting to look for a job could be a big mistake. Here's why. Finding a job is (believe it or not) easier when you are employed. If you quit, potential employers may wonder if you crumble under pressure. They will be concerned about asking you to work overtime. They will wonder if there were other problems at the root of your decision.

There could be other complications from this move. Employers may take a dim view of your bartending job; they may see it as a signal that you don't want much responsibility or even that you're immature.

If you feel that your search could take six months to a year during normal economic times, consider how long it could take in the current economy. Some unemployed people are reporting that it's taking them much longer than they thought it would. And the longer you are away from your technical field, the more out of touch you may appear.

Instead, consider starting a job search that isn't "full time." First, get your resume in shape. Selectively apply to jobs in the newspapers and trade journals. If you get any interviews, try to schedule them late in the afternoon and ask for personal time off (unpaid if necessary). Most employers try to make concessions when scheduling around a candidate's work schedule.

Approach your employer and tell him or her that you would like to join a professional organization in your field. Explain that you think it's an important part of growing and developing in your job. Your employer will benefit too. Membership in organizations like this can boost your knowledge and credibility.

Since you have worked for them for over a year, your performance capabilities should be well-established. They may be willing to sponsor your membership now that you have proven that you can handle the basics of your job. If they won't pay for it, offer to split it with them or pay the dues yourself. Ask your boss if you can adjust your work hours so that you can take advantage of the monthly meetings. If necessary, make up the time on other days.

Pick an organization with enough decision-makers to give you a good source of contacts. Once you join the organization, use every opportunity to network and become active. Even though you're short on time, this will be a good way to concentrate your energies on the right population. Most preparation for committee work in professional organizations can be done in the evening. It's going to take up time but it is likely to pay off in the long run.

Approach your boss and suggest that you might be more productive if your work hours could be reduced or re-distributed in some way. For example, perhaps you could start earlier and end earlier, or work very late only one or two nights a week.

I'm wondering why you aren't taking time out for lunch. Begin making time for yourself. Start leaving the building for lunch. Take a walk. Run down to the local fast food restaurant. Do an errand. Getting a fresh perspective will help you face the pressure that is getting to you. With a new approach, you can nibble away at a job search and still feel in control.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
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