Just How Much Does Not Having a Job Hurt You in Your Job Search?

Editors' pick: Originally published July 29.

Unfortunately for those looking for work, those who already have a job may have a step up on getting that next one.

A new study suggests "passive job seekers" — those who have jobs but are still curious about new opportunities — have a better chance of being hired than "active job seekers" — those searching for work. In fact, 80% of human resource professionals believe "passive job seekers" become the most effective employees, according to a survey by research firm Future Workplace and career site Beyond.

Passive job seekers are more attractive candidates for many reasons, career experts say.

"They know what type of opportunity they are looking for and will only move for the right position," said Lesley Mitler, co-founder of career guidance firm Early Stage Careers. "They are viewing the job with a more long-term perspective since they are not actively seeking a change."

Generational maturing also can play a role, Mitler added.

"Millennials after their first job are often more ready for the right opportunities," Mitler said. "Let's just say they are typically more humbled. They've transitioned."

"If they are not in the right career area they can spend time meeting others, be it for exploration or job exploration," she added. "But being currently employed gives prospective employers and them more confidence."

The study reveals there are a variety of reasons why perspective employers see benefits of hiring a passive job seeker over an active one. More than 40% of those surveyed said passive job seekers have more experience, possess valuable skills and they take their careers seriously.

Timothy Wiedman, a retired associate professor of management and human resources at Doane University, said it is important that if someone realizes that a career change makes sense to simply quit immediately due to the benefits it does give a person.

"Whenever possible, the best time to find a new job is before you quit your current one," Wiedman said. "And during your search, be as diligent as possible doing your current job. Further, go the extra mile to be pleasant and cooperative with your colleagues."

He adds it's also important to try not to leave your employer in the lurch. After finding another job, try to give a reasonable amount of notice, since former supervisors and colleagues may be helpful in the future, he said.

"And when you think that you have found the right position, make sure that the job offer represents a good fit with your skills, ambitions and temperament," Wiedman said.

"Too many people stay in jobs that they hate," he adds. "And their frustration often leads to layoffs or termination. If you are in the wrong job, do something about your situation. Be proactive. You must take charge of your own career."

However, just because someone is employed, it does not mean any time is a good time to look for a new job, said Bruce Harpham is the founder of career advice site ProjectManagementHacks.com.

"The best time for a candidate to search for a job is immediately after a major win at their current job," Harpham said. "A major win includes finishing a project for a customer, exceeding the annual sales quota or completing audit season."

Harpham said this matters for the candidate, because they will have higher confidence when they are fresh from a win and will have a compelling story to tell in the job interview, as well as it helps maintain past relationships.

"Leaving a company in the midst of a big project tends to result in burnt bridges," Harpham said. "Careers are built over decades so it pays to take a long-term perspective."

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