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Looking for a job … while at work?

It may sound like a bad idea but research shows most of us do it already, and it may even be unavoidable. However, there are ways to do it respectfully.

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These days, most professionals look for a new job while still employed — 78 percent of professionals are comfortable doing so, according to a survey from staffing firm Accountemps — but would it surprise you to know that 64 percent also said they’d likely job search while at work?

Frankly, that shouldn’t be shocking. Most full-time workers spend 40 hours or more at work every week, and so do hiring managers. That puts workers in an awkward situation — if a new position that’s just perfect gets posted at 10 a.m., or if a hiring manager for a job you’ve applied for calls or emails you in the middle of your workday with a question about your portfolio or resume, or to schedule an interview, should you respond immediately to ensure you don’t miss out on an opportunity or wait until after hours? Doing the “right” thing could cost you a job you really want.

What if you are offered an interview, but it’s for the next day at 11 a.m.? Job interviews never seem to take place after hours. You can take a personal day, asking for time off to potentially leave your company behind, or lie and call in sick, but even that’s still conducting your job search while your current employer is paying you.

The reality is, if you’re looking for a new job it’s nearly impossible not to do some of that searching while you’re on the clock. Increasingly, workers seem to be okay with that.

A 2011 Monster survey found that one-quarter of people spend over three hours per week searching for a job while at work, a number that’s likely increased due to the prevalence of smartphones, which present much less risk for companies tracking your online activity when you’re on the clock.

A 2015 Pew Research study backs that up, noting 28 percent of American job seekers — including 53 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds — use smartphones during their job search. Additionally, the study showed 43 percent of people ages 18–29 and 36 percent of people ages 30–49 use social media to look for new job opportunities.

Of course, all of this doesn’t mean workers shouldn’t use caution when they’re looking for jobs.

“Even though it’s a candidates market, looking for a new opportunity during business hours can be risky and potentially threaten current job security,” notes Sasha Truckenbrod, branch manager of Accountemps in Madison. “While it’s okay to pursue new opportunities while employed, a search should never interfere with your current job. Your employer might question your loyalty and commitment to the job, which could impact their decisions regarding choice work assignments. An employee could potentially be dismissed if the company decides against investing further time and resources on someone who is looking to leave.”

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