The best time to look for a new job is while you still have a job: You have more leverage in negotiations with potential employers, not to mention a paycheck.
But that doesn't mean it's easy. You need to spread the word -- and your resume -- in a way that doesn't tip off your current employer. And you need to make sure you don't lose focus on your current job while you're searching.
Career and job-hunting experts offer eight tips for mounting a successful job search while still employed.
# First, assess your risk. In some cases -- if you're working on a contract that is ending, for example -- it may not matter if your boss knows you're looking. But other times, letting it be known that you're looking for another job could cost you your current job.
"Based on that assessment, decide how you want to approach going about looking for another job," says Richard Martinez, a management consultant who is acting vice president of human resources at NanoAmp Solutions in Milpitas, California.
# Be careful where you send or post you resume. "You'd be amazed at how many times companies find resumes of their employees on the Internet," Martinez says.
When you send out your resume, make sure you know who will receive it and what they plan to do with it. And if you have a blog, consider carefully whether you want the world to know about your unhappiness with your current job and how your search for a new one is going.
# Choose your confidants carefully. Networking is one of the best ways to find a new job, but it involves talking to lots of people. If you're going to be frank about your desire for a new position, make sure the person you're telling can be discreet. You might even ask the person up front not to tell others without your permission.
# Tone down your networking. It's a good idea to talk to as many people as possible about your search, but since you may not know all of them well enough to trust them with your secret, try to be subtle.
Ron Visconti, managing partner of the Peninsula Employment Group LLC in the San Francisco Bay Area, suggests using neutral phrasing that doesn't stress that you're looking for a job right now: "I'm always open to learning about new career opportunities."
# Search from home. Give recruiters and potential employers your cell phone or home phone number and a personal email address. Never use your work computer or company-owned cell phone for your search.
"I had a client who lost a job because he made a call to a prospective employer on a company-issued cell phone," says James Elkins, owner of Career Planning Services in Scarborough, Maine.
# Ask potential employers to keep your secret. Employers generally know to be careful when calling to check references at your current employer. But it doesn't hurt to emphasize this point. Elkins suggests including a line in your cover letter that says, "My employer is not aware of my interest in this position, so please keep my inquiry confidential."
# Stay focused on your current job. Starting a job search means deciding you want to leave your current job. Once you've crossed that emotional line, it can be tough to keep putting in your best effort. But you should.
"You always want to be held in the highest respect by your superiors, subordinates, and peers," Martinez says. "The worst thing that can happen to you is you go up to your boss and say 'I quit,' and he smiles."
# Next time, start networking before you want to leave. A strong network is "your insurance against unemployment," Visconti says. If you stay in touch with former colleagues and others who are active in your field, they'll be more likely to approach you next time a job is open.