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The short answer is: as soon as you're prepared to clear out your desk and leave the building.
"...[T]ake a cue from Yahoo CEO, Marissa Mayer," writes Skip Freeman at LinkedIn. "This savvy young executive demonstrated that she definitely knows how the hiring 'game' is played. ...The 'advance warning' she gave her boss at Google that she was 'looking' -- exactly 30 minutes before she left!"
Sound harsh? Consider the following:
1. Venting and helping are not the same thing.
Ask yourself why you want to let your boss know about your (possibly) impending departure. If you find that giving him a piece of your mind is high on the list, resist the urge. If you have a bad relationship with your direct manager, threatening him won't help, and if you have a good one, revealing that you're thinking about jumping ship could damage his trust in you and your ability to communicate with each other.
2. It takes time to find a new job.
The economy might be recovering, but good jobs are not as plentiful as poorly paid positions with little room for advancement. Now is not the time to quit without having another job lined up, and since that could take a while, it's best to wait. If you don't, you could wind up giving your boss months of "notice" before you actually quit.
Several states have laws prohibiting employers from firing you for looking for another job (as long as you don't do it on company time) but that doesn't mean your work life will be pleasant while you search. Think about what it would be like to toil away, possibly for months, for someone who resents you.
3. You could change your mind.
In the time it takes to line up another opportunity, your whole company could change. You could get a new boss, move to another department, or take on entirely new responsibilities. If you keep your job search a secret, you'll be able to take advantage of corporate shifts that could create a whole new career path with your current employer -- without rolling over your 401k or learning a whole new way of doing business.
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