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Where to Start?

Searching for a new job is seldom a pleasant experience. What's more, starting a job search while still employed takes determination and discipline. It also requires a great deal of discretion and caution.

If you're going to start looking, you should:

Keep it confidential. Resist the urge to share your plans and "vent" about your current employer with co-workers. It may sound silly, but trust no one beyond your immediate family.

Take care of yourself. Get a thorough medical exam and take care of chronic or serious conditions. Develop a serious plan for exercise and fitness. Maybe it's time to try to quit smoking or drinking. You've got to regain a positive outlook on yourself and work, especially if you've allowed yourself to get into a rut.

Identify what you want to do, and target preferred employers. Get a clear idea of what occupation you want and where you want to work.

Build your network. Start rebuilding (or building for the first time) your personal and professional networks. Attend professional events and conferences. Join LinkedIn.com and similar social networking sites. Get comfortable at meet-and-greet sessions, and discreetly get the word out that you're interested in what opportunities might be out there.

Identify people you can call on for references. Contact previous supervisors, managers, co-workers, clients, and vendors who can serve as references for you. Tell them about your career objectives, and enlist their help. Ask these advisers for candid feedback on what type of job would play to your strengths.

Get organized. Set up a dedicated e-mail address for your search. Develop a specific job search plan and timetable. Keep records of all your search activities and contacts.

Last, but not least, keep up with your current job. Keep that paycheck coming in until you're ready to give your notice.

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