The Casual Job Search: When & How To Do It

the casual job search when and how to do it

Most of the time, when you’re applying to jobs, it’s because you’re actively looking for a new opportunity. You’re ready to make a change, and more often than not, the sooner you can make the jump, the better. If this is the only way you job hunt, though, you could unknowingly be missing out on some great opportunities.

Being happy and content in your career is what we all strive for, right? Finding a place where you feel like your talents are being put to good use while appropriately rewarded for your work. It’s a great situation to find yourself in, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t something even better out there, and there is no harm in checking out job boards on occasion just to confirm you’re not missing out. That’s where casual job searching comes in. 

Essentially, a casual job search will open you up to possibilities that you can choose to pursue or not. In some cases, it can even help set you up for advancement in your own company. A casual job search can take your already-good career and make it even better when done right. 

What is a Casual Job Search? 

Casual job searching is when you simply browse openings here and there and are very selective in which positions you submit a job application to. When you’re actively hunting for a new job, you typically go online once a day (or so), look at new openings, and apply to several in one sitting. With casual job searching, the only opportunities worth pursuing are those you’d consider leaving your current (happy) job. 

Additionally, unlike active job searching, where you’re deeply invested in the outcome of every application you submit, casual job searching is low-stress. Sure, you’d be happy to score an interview, but if all you receive are rejection emails, it’s not a big deal because you’re already in a comfortable role. It’s low risk and high reward. 

Typically, when you’re casually job searching, you’re already perfectly content in your current position, so you hold a lot more power if you get invited to an interview than when you’re actively searching. Going into an interview when you’re actively searching for a job is usually intimidating. Still, when you’re casually job searching, you’ll probably find yourself walking a little taller and feeling more confident and relaxed because you already know that if things don’t work out, it’s not changing much. 

The confidence that comes along with a casual job search is truly an asset to interviewing, too, because it can significantly impact how you perform overall and significantly improve your chances of landing a new job. In a 2020 study published in the International Journal of Human Resource Studies, 260 decision-makers (including employers, HR managers, recruitment consultants and executives, and recruitment directors) across several industries were asked how a job candidate’s self-confidence influenced their decision on whether or not to move forward with them in the hiring process. Researchers found that a job candidate's self-confidence significantly impacted their outcome across every key decision point, whether progress in the interview process or job offer. The candidates who appeared the most confident were the ones who ultimately had the most success.

When to Casually Job Search

When you’re actively searching, it’s usually a good idea to have a target for the number of new jobs you’ll apply for every week and a plan or schedule to help you meet your goal. It is not the case when you’re casually looking for jobs because the opportunities worth going for are few and far between. Similarly, there’s no need to consciously carve out time to look for opportunities. It’s something you can do at your leisure. 

The best time to start casually searching for jobs is when you’re content and successful in your current situation, whether you’re on a career pause, working part-time, or working full-time. If you are currently employed, it might be beneficial to hold off until after you’ve made it past the training period for your role and truly understand the full scope. 

You may also consider job searching casually when you’re at a crossroads with your current employer. For example, suppose you’ve been up for a promotion for a while and there hasn’t been a progression. In that case, you may find that you can move up with another company instead (plus, maybe your employer will finalize your promotion once they know you can get it somewhere else). Also, if you’ve been advocating for a salary bump, casual job searching can help you better understand your value and give you data to back up your argument to your employer. 

Still, while a casual job search can result in favorable outcomes for you, it’s not entirely risk-free. There are some drawbacks. For instance, if you’re applying for a job with a competitor or through someone in your network, that information could make its way to your employer simply by word of mouth. Also, when you use a casual job search as leverage for a promotion or salary, your employer may still say no and you’ll have to decide whether to leave a job you enjoy or stay, knowing they called your bluff. Finally, if you end up landing a new opportunity, there’s always a risk that it isn’t as wonderful as you thought.

Casual Job Search Tips

Just because you’re not as invested in a casual job search as you would be in an active job search, there are still some best practices to consider during the process. Here are a few to consider:

  • While the confidence boost of casual job searching is a nice perk, it’s important not to act cocky when speaking with recruiters or hiring managers
  • Discretion is just as important in a casual job search as it is in an active job search
  • If you are asked to interview for a role, follow standard interview etiquette if you decide it’s not the best option for you by formally withdrawing yourself from the process
  • Make sure every application you submit is complete and includes an updated resume; even if you don’t get/take a job with them now, you may want to try again in the future, so you’ll want to leave a good impression
  • Treat your hunt as research by taking note of the skills/qualifications required to move up professionally (and work on acquiring the skills in the meantime)
  • Use this as an opportunity to apply for jobs that you’re not fully qualified for; you could end up landing the role or connecting with someone who would consider you again in the future

Remember to Appreciate What You Have

The nice thing about a casual job search is that you’re already in a great spot, and it’s important to remember that in the process. During a casual job hunt, you’ll read through many other company benefit summaries, discover a variety of starting salary ranges (some higher than what you’re making), and see a highlight reel for every prospective employer out there. But don’t let these things draw your attention away from all of the reasons you love your current job/employer. You have it good as it is, and while it’s okay to be on the lookout for your next opportunity, don’t forget to appreciate where you presently are. 

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