At many companies, there are cultures of happiness, creation, and productivity. At certain companies, there are cultures of depression. At some point in time, people at the latter set of companies begin to discuss with their coworkers their plans for their future- which do not include the current company.
So obviously talking at your current job about quitting and moving on to greener pastures is super inappropriate, especially when nobody in the conversation actually has another job yet. If you are truly unhappy you should just confide in your close friends, right? It's a weird line that adults don't warn you about when you are in school. Once you join the working world and spend 8+ hours a day with the same cast of characters, a lot of your friends are people with whom you work.
Enter one of my coworkers (and friends) who made a habit of walking over to my desk to loudly talk about the job applications he had filed over the weekend. He'd asked me to review his resume outside of work, and always texted me when he came across a job he thought I'd like. But during the work day I sat close to our supervisor's office, so I'd hush him at remind him we were at the office and not at a bar.
"I don't care. I want them to hear," he'd say in a huff. "Maybe then they'll fire me. That would be the best day of my life."
For those of us who don't want to be fired but are looking for a new career, here are some simple ground rules.
Don't look at job sites while you are at work. I know when you are unhappy or bored it can be extremely tempting to pick up your phone and check your Monster app, write scathing Glass Door reviews, or search "anything better than this" on Google. But if somebody sees you doing this at work or notices your browser history shows you spend hours each day doing something that is not your job, this could turn out very poorly for you. Most companies have policies about internet usage (and that usually includes what you browse on your personal phone while on company time). Don't let an unprofessional environment make you an unprofessional person.
Don't talk about your job applications at work. Even if somebody else comes up to discuss his or her future plans (which is behavior you should kindly discourage), you should not respond with information about your search in return while you are in the office. You should probably not discuss this with coworkers at all, since juicy office gossip has a tendency to spread like wildfire. But if you feel like you have to tell your best friend that you have an interview, do it after work when you are not on company property.
Continue to do your best work. This can be very difficult when you are distracted dreaming of new possibilities, but don't let the theory of a new life get in the way of the job you have right in front of you. We live in a world that is continuously getting smaller with the advent of better transportation and more accessible communication devices, so a bad reputation in your current job may carry over into your future life.
Take interviews sparingly. Before you decide to leave work for an interview, make sure you are actually interested in the potential job. Ask questions if you are unclear about the opportunity and be honest with yourself. Is it a good job or just not the terrible job you feel you have right now? Many opportunities will be available to you, but you don't want to have a poor attendance record if you already know you aren't interested in the potential job.
Minimize dishonest behavior. When you have an interview half way across the country on a Wednesday, it's kind of hard to figure out what to tell your boss on your "vacation request" form. My advice is to not say anything unless directly asked, and to tell the truth (minus the interview portion) as much as possible. Don't use anything that requires others sympathy as an excuse (such as "my grandfather died", "my son is ill", or "my roommate is in the hospital"). If everything works out, they'll figure out later that you were at an interview when you accept the new position and you don't want to look like an asshole. If you decide not to take the job, you don't want the story to be interesting enough to bring up questions.
With this advice, you can find a new job without compromising yourself as an employee. By keeping your conscience clean, you can take your time looking for new work and find the perfect next step in your career.
PS. Have you ever ended up in a sticky situation while applying for jobs? Let me know in the comments!