NEW YORK (MainStreet) — While it may be easier to find a job when you have a job, that's often easier said than done. There are only so many hours in the day, and it can be tempting to browse job listings from your work computer or take a long lunch to run out on an interview. Just don't push it too far. Our experts weigh in on just how much job hunting is acceptable and what's likely to get you fired.
1. Rely on your smartphone when you can.
Even 20 years ago, job hunters had very limited means of communicating about a prospective job, says Ian Meklinsky, co-chairman of the labor and employment group at Fox Rothschild. Today, instead of having to fax something or send a physical package via UPS or the USPS, employees can sit comfortably with their smartphones, browsing and applying for jobs.
"You can't type out a resume on a smartphone, but you can create a resume and cover letter on your home computer, and then store them on your phone so they're ready to send out when you see a job you want to apply for," Meklinsky says.
Most all major job boards have apps that allow full access to all listings, he says.
"It's so easy today, there are so many sources out there. You can browse jobs on your commute, while you're standing in line for coffee or while you're traveling. Just make sure when you're forwarding your resume that you're using your personal email address."
2. Use your work computer at your own risk.
"To put it simply, you shouldn't be using your work computer to do a job search, ever," Meklinsky says. "Most companies' electronic communication policies provide that you have no expectation of privacy. It's public access. Most employers don't go searching for that type of data, but you never know."
If you're employed as a secretary, it's not likely someone is going to check to see if you've been sending out resumes, Meklinsky says. But if you're the head scientist at a major company, your employer may be paying closer attention.
"If you look for jobs on company time using company resources, at best it's poor form and at worst it may wind up getting you fired," he says. "As long as you're using the company Internet connection, you run a risk should someone see what you're doing."
3. Lunch breaks and weekends are your best friends.
During your lunch break you can do what you want on your personal computer, Meklinsky says. It may not be fun to carry your personal computer to work with you, but if you want to apply for jobs during the day, it's the safest option.
As for going on interviews during the workweek, that's a little trickier. Unless you have an extremely flexible lunch hour, it's not going to work for most people, Meklinsky says.
"If their office is 20 minutes away and then the interviewer is running late, all of a sudden you've been gone for two hours. In most cases, it's impractical. You don't want to be in the position of saying, 'You know what, I'd love to talk longer, but I really have to get back.'"
If you do leave work to attend an interview, treat it like any other appointment and take some time off or make use of your flexible hours, says Kaitlyn Annaert, human resources manager at Voices.com.
"Using time off gives you zero reasons to lie about what you are doing. Your appointments are no one's business and, therefore, you should not have to answer questions if you're using the time away properly," she says.
If you're considering sending out resumes over the weekend, don't worry that your documents will be overlooked. Applications that arrive in someone's inbox on a Saturday or Sunday are just as likely to be seen and considered, Meklinsky says.
"No one looks down on that. They know people are busy, and they're still going to see your application," he says.
4. Don't take a sick day to go on an interview.
Take a personal day or any other type of PTO you may have available, but whatever you do, don't take a sick day to go on an interview, Meklinsky says. The risk of getting caught or seen by someone else at your company is just too great.
"Don't lie to your employer," he says. "Most employment is at will. If you are lying and they find out about it, you can be terminated."
5. Don't let your performance slack — or your mouth open.
Finding the right job takes time, so while you are looking, make sure you continue to perform in your current role and keep your options open, says Joe Weinlick, vice president of marketing at career network Beyond.com.
"Who knows, if you work hard at work while looking, you may create new opportunities and find a new job without leaving the company you are in," he says.
Also, make sure to keep things quiet on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or other social media platforms.
"Instead, reach out privately," Weinlick says. "Make sure your privacy settings won't broadcast your desire to get a new job. For instance, LinkedIn normally alerts your network whenever you change your profile. If you don't want your co-workers to know that you are improving your profile in order to appeal to recruiters, then change this setting so that your updates aren't broadcast."
— By Kathryn Tuggle for MainStreet