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Looking for work on company time

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It’s an all-too-common problem: you’re employed, but dissatisfied. You’re bored with your current job. You’re looking for bigger challenges and better paycheques. Or maybe you’re just fed up with the same old same old.

If this is you, join the rest of Canada’s disenchanted labour force and hunt for a new job at your company’s expense.

Leading employment websites Monster, Workopolis and Jobboom receive their peak job-searching traffic during working hours. This suggests that disgruntled employees are using company time to hunt for a new job.

“Working hours are definitely higher volume than evening hours,” says Susan Hayes, director of marketing and communications for Workopolis. “Those are definite trends.”

Some experts argue that conducting a job search on company time is just plain unethical. “I’ve had it done to me many times and it’s ridiculous,” says Londa Burke, v-p of operations for the People Bank, one of Canada’s leading recruitment firms. “You know they’re not doing any work for you. You’re paying them, you know they’re not happy, but half the time you can’t let them go. It makes it uncomfortable and difficult for everybody.”

Though it may seem easier just to blow off your current position in the hopes of landing something better, for some people it may not be an option. “I totally understand that, because you still need a paycheque coming in,” says Burke. “However, a lot of people do their job searching at night time. Or, they can make calls during lunch hours, first thing in the morning, take a day off or even call in sick — because then you’re still doing it from home, and you’re not bringing everybody else down in the company.”

If you can’t otherwise fit job-hunting into your schedule, it’s best kept on the QT. Don’t go around announcing your intentions to everyone at the office, or boast of your plans to make a grand exit a-la-Jerry-McGuire.

“When they tell internal employees, it compromises the employees in terms of whether they should tell their supervisor or whether they should just keep quiet about it — it puts them in a bad predicament,” Burke says.

When gathering references, it’s all about discretion. Be sure to tell prospective employers not to contact your current boss, and explain the situation. Offer, instead, other legitimate references who can speak to your work ethic and accomplishments.

“When we’re doing references on people, we want managers, supervisors. Sometimes we will accept a co-worker, and then later call their boss — provided their references from previous employment were very good,” Burke says.

“But we also have to keep in mind a co-worker could be one of their best friends within the company.”

When it comes time to set up an interview, try to arrange it for the early morning, evening or weekend. If an employer cannot accommodate these times, he or she will at least be impressed by your commitment to your job.

“I have a lot of people who’ll only come for interviews in the evening, after 5 p.m. And I also have people who will come in during their lunch hour. They know it’ll be a quick one, but if we want to continue on, we’ll schedule another interview after that point,” Burke says.

Finally, even as you plan your brilliant exit, always act professionally — never stop giving it your all. “They (job hunters) always have to conduct themselves professionally, and get the work done that they’ve been assigned to do,” Burke says.

Indeed, you don’t want to shoot yourself in the foot and be fired sooner than expected. “They’re going to need their current employer as a reference, don’t forget,” Burke says. “They may be hired without having a reference from the company they’re at, but they’re going to need one up the road.”

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