The Proactive Job Search

Proactive Job Search
The Proactive Job Search

You’ve probably known people who are in perpetual job-search mode.  As soon as they get a new job, they’re actively looking for their next job.  I’ve known people who don’t even hide it.  They talk to recruiters on the phone right out in the open as if to advertise that their current job is just a stepping stone in their quest for more money and a higher position.

I’ve always found that to be unprofessional.  My father worked for the same company for nearly 40 years. To be sure, this is not our fathers’ economy.  People complain that there is no loyalty left in the corporate world anymore.  But like it or not, that’s just the way it is.  Companies are quick to lay people off when times get rough, and employees are prone to leave when they feel they can get a better opportunity.

If you’re going to look for another job, do it discretely.  It should be done on your own time.  If you need to talk to a recruiter during business hours, do it during a break or your lunch hour.  And find a private location to have the conversation.

The proactive job search

Now that we’ve established that it’s okay to change jobs, there are active job seekers and more passive job seekers.  Perpetually actively looking is a big drain on time.  It’s apt to slow your work production, take away from your limited personal time, or both.

On the other extreme, I’ve known people – myself included – that have waited until it’s too late to look for a job.  In my first job out of college, I worked for a small consulting firm for about three years when the firm went into chapter-11 bankruptcy protection.

Things didn’t look good for the firm.  I was trying to buy my first house and I didn’t want to change jobs while applying for a mortgage.  As soon I got into a house, I planned to begin my job search.  I ended up buying new construction, which took a little longer than buying an existing home.

On the day of the closing on my house, I learned that the company decided to close its doors as well.

The reactive job search

So there I was, a new homeowner with a big mortgage and no more paychecks coming in.  I got my resume updated pronto, started networking, and was able to find a new position within a month.

It could have been much worse.  If hiring had been slower at the time or my skills were not as much in demand, I could have waited for several months to find a job, possibly at lower pay.

My lesson learned from that experience was to always be in proactive job search mode.  I’m not suggesting that one should always be sending out resumes or posting it on online job sites.  But you should have the steps in place to be ready for to look for a job at any time.

Some of the proactive things you can do are:

  • Develop a network and stay active in it.  Connecting via LinkedIn is a good start, but also keep in touch with those people.  Ping them once in a while to see how they’re doing.  Follow your connections on Twitter and interact with them. Re-tweet their interesting posts to your followers.
  • Keep your resume and LinkedIn profile up to date.  If you work on a new project and learn a new skill, include it.  Make sure to use keywords in your LinkedIn profile so that it can be found by anyone looking for those skills.
  • Don’t immediately blow off recruiters when they call.   Granted, there are a lot of slimy recruiters out there that don’t deserve your time.  But there are also some good ones out there.  Find a couple of good ones and keep in touch.  I worked with a recruiter who has gotten me job offers in two separate job searches.  When I went back to her a third time, she told me that since she had placed me with my current employer, she couldn’t help me leave that employer.  Not all recruiters follow their contract or ethics that closely.
  • Develop a personal brand.  All of the above items will contribute to your brand.  In addition, publish articles, blogs, podcasts, etc. that demonstrate your capabilities.  Establishing a brand takes time.  Nike didn’t do it overnight and nether will you.  If you’ve worked on it for a year or two, your personal SEO begins to permeate the web.  The jobs may start searching for you.

I don’t recommend being in continuous job search mode.  It’s distracting and negatively affects your performance.  But everyone should be proactive about their job search.  Treat your career as if you are an independent consultant, ready to search for a new job at any time.  That way you won’t be playing catch-up when it happens.

 See my related post: The Consultant’s Private Resume

What tactics have you used to stay in the market while still employed?

If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at Amazon.com

As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.  I’d enjoy hearing your thoughts and discussion items. 

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