if you’re furloughed, how long should you wait to look for a new job?

A reader writes:

I work in the corporate office of a business in the entertainment industry. We were slowly dying before, but Covid-19 has placed our industry in an uncertain position as all of our outlets are closed. As such, I have been furloughed for an indefinite period of time. My company is amazing and is paying 100% of my benefits (health, dental, life) while I’m out without any expectation of repayment once I am back.

I love my job and my coworkers and would choose my current position over a new one (even with more pay). But I dont want to shoot myself in the foot waiting for something that wont materialize. At what point should I start looking for other opportunities?

It depends on the specifics of your situation — your job, your field, your company’s finances, and the likelihood of them being able to bring you back and when.

In the pre-Covid world, many furloughs were seasonal — businesses closed down for the season, but reliably reopened and re-hired their workforce X months later. In a case like that, you could reasonably rely on being brought back. But the type of furlough many people are experiencing right now is different — it’s often more, “We hope to be able to bring you back, but we can’t say for sure when or if it will happen.” And with those furloughs, the reality is that you can’t rely on your job being there when this ends, so unfortunately the safest move is to start job searching pretty quickly. You don’t have to accept an offer if you get one, but you don’t want to hear months from now that your company can’t bring you back and have to start a job search from scratch at that point.

Obviously, adjust this for your own circumstances. If you have years of living expenses stockpiled and can easily wait a few months to see what happens, feel free to. But basically, imagine that in three months you’re told your furlough is becoming a permanent layoff. What would you wish you’d done during this time? Whatever that is, I’d start doing it now.

if you’re furloughed, how long should you wait to look for a new job? was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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