Whether you're actively unhappy in your current role or simply want a position with better pay, there comes a point where it's time to dust off your resume and kick-start a new job search. Now there are many benefits to looking for work while you already have a job. For one thing, you'll feel less pressured to accept the wrong role because you're desperate for money. You'll also have more leverage to negotiate the best possible offer knowing you can always fall back on your existing job.

But looking for a new job while you're currently working also poses a challenge -- namely, interviewing with various companies without your own employer being any the wiser. After all, if your company has reason to think you're looking elsewhere, it might retaliate in a number of ways, whether it's denying you a promotion, assigning you the least-wanted tasks on your team, or even terminating your employment arrangement. (The latter, though extreme, has certainly been known to happen.) That's why it's critical to go about the process carefully. Here's how.

"Find a job" search box on a screen

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Enlist the help of only your most trusted contacts

Networking is one of the most efficient ways to search for a job. But if you're seeking a new role and really don't want your present company to know, blasting out a note to your entire contact list probably isn't a good idea. That's because you never know which of your contacts might know someone at your company and spill the beans. A better bet is to only discuss your situation with those contacts you've known for some time, and who you trust to act with discretion.

2. Use personal time to interview

Sure, you'd probably rather use your vacation days to sit on the beach or travel than spend them locked in another company's conference room. But if you leave early or come in late several times over a relatively condensed period of time, your employer might suspect that it's because you're interviewing. On the other hand, if you have the time off available, using it to attend interviews can help you avoid suspicion.

3. Keep up your level of performance

Nothing screams "I'm looking" like a previously motivated employee who suddenly starts slacking off and skimping on responsibilities. If you don't want your company to suspect you're planning a move, be sure to maintain the level of performance your superiors have come to expect. Better yet, volunteer for new projects while you're looking for another job, or make a point of putting in a little extra effort on your regular tasks. Not only will it prevent your company from questioning your loyalty, but in the event that your search isn't fruitful, you'll have earned some bonus points for your hard work.

4. Avoid confiding in your colleagues

It's not uncommon to develop friendships with your colleagues, or to share personal details of your life with them. But when it comes to your job search outside the company, those are the last people you should bring into the loop. You never know when someone might blab, whether intentionally or not, and you could also end up putting your workplace pals in a bad position if management questions them about your departure later on. Along these lines, if you do accept a new role, be sure to submit your official notice before informing your office buddies. Even if you don't happen to like your manager, he or she deserves the respect of being the first to know that you'll be moving on.

Though honesty is often the best policy, when it comes to your career, you need to do what's necessary to protect yourself, and that often means keeping your job search a secret until you're ready to actually resign. If you're strategic about how you go about the job-search process, you can explore your options without arousing too much suspicion where you want it the least.

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