Maybe you’re a little bored. Maybe you’re too comfortable. Maybe you hate your boss. Maybe you’re about to be laid off. Maybe you’re just operating below your top capacity. Maybe you’re not sure it’s time for a job search, but you’re thinking about it anyway.
Wherever you’re at, even if you’re relatively new in a job, it’s never too early to ask yourself, “when is the right time to start a job search?”
Your answer should always be a personal one, and it’s never all about the job itself. There have been times in my career and my husband’s career where we both “hung in there” with work that wasn’t our dream job because other things in life–family commitments, personal needs, the balance in our home life—were a more important use of our energy than starting up a job search.
BUT, whenever I was in that situation I was always keeping my ears open for opportunistic opportunities to move into jobs that were a better fit for my lifestyle, ambitions and needs. And a couple of times, those opportunities found me! My husband had a similar experience.
When you do this, stay open to possibilities, recruiters call you a “Passive Job Seeker,” which just means that you’re not actively seeking new employment, but you’d be open to moving if the right opportunity came along. With today’s constantly in-flux job market, we should really all be passive job seekers. And if you know it’s time for a move, then by all means, become active!
Plus, in my experience, the secret to career satisfaction has been always considering myself in some form of “career transition.” Here are the three phases I’ve seen in my own experience and my clients’. Which phase are you in and are you putting yourself “out there” in the right way for the phase you’re in?
Your career is a life’s work.
Stage 1: Happily Employed (Passive Job Seeker)
When you’re enjoying your job and growing, you want to be sure to get the most out of it. Happily Employed is a great time to put this particular job at the center of your career-life intentions and personal vision. This helps you perform the job you love with an intentional focus on how it’s contributing to your longer-term career vision of success. At this phase you’re a passive job seeker. The way you present yourself to the world can help you plant great seeds for your next job search:
- Network to succeed today and build connections you can call on later
- Make sure your LinkedIn contact rules* are set to “career opportunities,” so you hear about openings that might be good for you to think about moving to next—when you’re ready
*LinkedIn is always updating their navigation, which can make it tough to find this setting. As of now, you can find the setting by doing a search for “edit contact settings” and look under “communications” and “messages from members”.
Stage 2: Getting Itchy (Proactive Passive Job Seeker)
At some point in everyone’s career the job gets a little routine or you see a life change on the horizon that will make your current job less satisfactory. When this kind of itch starts, it’s important that you get proactive about the beginning phases of a job search. When you’re proactive, you start doing some of the legwork to research the kinds of opportunities that would make a good next step. And the good news is that you can do it at a comfortable pace, without the underlying panic that a deadline is approaching. At this phase the way you present yourself to the world can help you plant great seeds for your next job search:
- Keep networking –for your current job and with the intention to gather data on your next career move
- Start researching job trends and opportunities in your field and begin to construct your idea of the “perfect job”, which will guide your efforts to find such a thing
Stage 3: Start Looking (Active Job Seeker)
When it’s time to go from passive to active status in your job search, it’s best if you have a good idea about what you want (see Phase 2) and can start the process of getting it. This is when you tweak your online profile and resume into shape to share with recruiters and network contacts that can introduce you to people in a hiring mode. You want to do your homework and be ready to go to an informational or job interview on 24 hours notice (or less). At this phase you’re actively talking to contacts* about what kind of opportunity you’re looking for, researching opportunities online and asking your network to introduce you to people who can help you. Make sure you’re:
- Networking every day
- Constantly refining your online profile and resume to stay current with what you’re learning about how to present yourself for the jobs that you want most.
* If you don’t want your current employer to know you’re on the hunt, be extra careful about who you tell about your job search. Make sure you tell people you trust to be discreet. Don’t submit your resume to large online databases because (1) your employer might find you there and (2) most people don’t find jobs that way anyway.