Most folks think of their job search as a route out of an unhappy situation. And who can blame them? If you “ask Google” when it’s a good time to start looking for a new job, almost all of the articles on the first page focus on what warning signs would warrant a hasty escape.
I’m not advising that anyone should stay in a job that makes them feel miserable or unfulfilled, but you’re missing a trick if you wait until this point to start looking at your options. Instead, try incorporating the job seeker mind-set into your day-to-day work. Even if you’re happy in your current role, you should always be thinking about your next step, what skills you need to develop for that role, and who can help you get there.
Why the “Always Be Looking” Strategy Works
Let me count the ways…
1. You’ll be more self-motivated
Your current and future employers will love you for being a proactive self-improver, and these actions may result in a job promotion instead of a job change.
At any point in your career its worthwhile assessing your current skills set, determining what you need to develop in order to get to your next step, and how you can improve yourself. In addition, you need to think about your achievements. If you don’t have a few examples of where you’d added significant value to your current employer, it’s worth waiting until you do before you submit any job applications.
Fortunately there are tons of resources available to you to develop your skills, even if your employer can’t sponsor you. If you need a flexible, low-cost solution it’s worth looking at websites such as Udemy and Lynda.com. You can even try YouTube, although it may take a while to find relevant and high quality learning content on this platform.
If you’re not a fan of online learning you may have better luck looking for evening courses or meetups in your local area; this will help you meet more people in this field too!
2. You’ll develop a killer network
In today’s super competitive job market it’s never been truer that it’s not what you know but who you know that will determine your career success. One of the best strategies for active or passive job seeking is to network with people in your industry – you never know who might be able to offer a warm introduction to a hiring manager at one of your dream employers, and you might gain some valuable, life-long mentors along the way.
3. You’ll move for the right opportunity, not because “it’s time”
The right opportunity might not be available when you’re ready to move, which might force you to settle for a role that doesn’t excite you. On the flip side, you could miss out on a fantastic career move simply because you aren’t aware of what’s on the market.
Don’t wait for the stars to align – if you see a job ad that piques your interest, there’s no harm in getting in touch with the recruiter or hiring manager to see if they can tell you more about it over a phone call or over a coffee. If it turns out you’re not qualified for the role, you’ll at least know what skills gaps you need to fill.
4. You’ll be more relaxed, and in more control
There’s a lot less pressure on job seekers when they’re still happy in their current role and there’s no rush to find a new one. You can take your time to meet new people and learn about other organisations, and if a great opportunity does come up you can take it or wait for the next one. The important thing here is to be transparent with your recruiter: they deserve to know your true feelings about the roles they’re discussing with you, and how likely you’d be to accept a job offer if it was to come your way, and you don’t want to burn bridges unnecessarily.
5. You’ll be more desirable to recruiters and hiring managers
Job candidates that are positive, self-motivated and ambitious are almost always more appealing to recruiters and hiring managers than those that are fake, burnt out or bitter. You’ll come across as more confident and capable, and as a better personality fit with the team.
There is a risk that you can appear disloyal or greedy when you’re looking for a new job without “doing your time”. In these situations it’s crucial to emphasize in your informational meetings or interviews that you’re interested in a particular role because your current role isn’t allowing you to meet your potential, and you’re excited by the ability to grow and add value to the organisation. There should be no reason to bad-mouth your manager or current employer in this situation – the conversation should be purely on what you’ve achieved, what you know and where you can add value.
Instead of looking for signs that it’s time to leave your current job, try adopting a more exploratory and ambitious attitude towards your career. You may find you’ll never have to “start” looking for a new job ever again.
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