Although it may seem counterintuitive the best time to look for a job may be when you are happiest in your current position.
Associates who are doing well at their firm are highly desirable to a potential new employer. These associates may not want to search for something better. Consider, however, whether you might get even more of what you need in a new position. Has your firm been promoting associates to partnership to your satisfaction? Have there been mergers, layoffs, or departures of groups that may change your day-to-day existence? Has the firm been grooming you to eventually become an equity partner? Would you like to simplify your lifestyle, perhaps travel more, work less, start a family? Has the nature of your work changed because of a change in clients? Any of these is reason enough to conduct a “passive” search, and a recruiter may be able to help.
A passive search is one in which you survey all options, and apply only for positions that appear to be a step up from your current position. I work with several passive searchers. They decline to apply for many of the opportunities I present to them, but when a promising opportunity comes along, I make sure they are in the loop. They are in a fantastic position because they have tremendous leverage. The choice is largely theirs whether they change positions or not. They are not afraid to negotiate favorable terms with a potential new employer, because, after all, they already have a job that is giving them much of what they want. They can take their time and do all their due diligence, and if they get an offer, the decision is theirs whether or not to accept.
Employers want to be wanted; they prefer a candidate who can pick and choose, and who actively chooses to work for them after considering other options. They want their employees to be happy working there, and not leave. If they are interested in a candidate who obviously can take her time and wait for the right opportunity, they may be creative in giving that person what she needs in order to bring her aboard. For these reasons, it is an excellent idea to conduct a passive search. You may end up finding your dream job.