What to know before you start your job search

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(MoneyWatch) During the recent recession, many disillusioned employees chose to stay put because the grass wasn't always greener on the other side. In fact, there wasn't a lot of grass anywhere. But according to Elizabeth Lions, a former headhunter for Microsoft and Wells Fargo, and author of the new book "I Quit! Working For You Isn't Working For Me," this may soon be changing: "The bulk of the clients I work with in my private career counseling practice are working, not unemployed. More jobs means choices. Choices mean people start to think 'Is this job really all there is? Could I make more money?.'" If you're asking yourself these questions, and considering leaving your place of employment, you should do so with as much knowledge of your industry and the opportunities (or lack of) available. Then, consider this input from Lions:

MoneyWatch: What are some reasons to jump ship?

Elizabeth Lions: On Sunday afternoon, do you starting dreading going to work the next morning? Do you experience anxiety, digestion issues, drinking to escape thoughts about work? Do you wake up in the middle of the night and replay conversations about what was said in the staff meeting? These are signs it's time. I've had two clients that refused to make job changes and ended up with heart attacks because they refused to find more balance. Sometimes if you don't choose to get out, the choice will be made for you.

MW: What are reasons to stay put?

EL: If you are given a bigger title and more money, that changes things. Or if you have a wonderful relationship with your boss and you like your job, try not to be enticed by headhunters. Good working relationships are very hard to find. If your company actively promotes from within, do not leave. Figure out how to get the promotion.

MW: Are counter offers a good reason to stay?

EL: No. I strongly advise that people never take the counter offer. 75-90 percent of people that take the counter offer quit or are fired within six months. People take it because they don't have to go through the trouble of learning a new boss and job, or to prove their worth by getting more money from their current company. This often backfires.

MW: How can you tell if a headhunter is worthwhile?

EL: Ask them how long they've been in the business. Anything less than a year is an issue. They don't have contacts and will cut their teeth on your career. Ask them who they have placed, and what the titles were for those jobs. Let's say you want to work for Dell and Intel. Are these companies their clients? If not, move on. If you do use one, remember that they get paid by billing and are not your friend. Understanding the purpose of the relationship will help you to keep it balanced.

MW: What should you do every day if you're ready to leave?

EL: Consistency is the big key. Set up alerts on www.indeed.com and www.simplyhired.com under your title and city. Those jobs will dump into your email basket daily. Read them. Apply at least three times a week. Focus on activity, not results, and be patient.

  • Amy Levin-Epstein On Twitter»

    Amy Levin-Epstein is a freelance writer who has been published in dozens of magazines (including Glamour, Self and Redbook), websites (including AOLHealth.com, Babble.com and Details.com) and newspapers (including The New York Post and the Boston Globe). To read more of her writing, visit AmyLevinEpstein.com.

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