Help Me Rhonda: It's time for me to change jobs. I realize I've been in this particular role for far too long, and I've become too comfortable, and maybe even a little lazy. It has been so long since I've even applied for a job, I'm not sure what to do.
Signed, Feeling Like a Teenager
Dear Feeling Like a Teenager,
Welcome to those teenaged years again. Looking for a job after you've had one for a while is like getting back into the dating world too. Not fun, but sometimes you just have to jump in. And just like the elusive great first date, finding a great job feels elusive too.
Jobs are tough to find because, in most companies, jobs are already filled before they are posted. Therefore, you need to start looking for another job even before you need one, "just in case." If you are offered a new job, you can always say no if the timing is wrong for you.
Here are some strategies for job hunting:
Apply for a job, within your company, that is a little out of your reach. This shows HR that you're interested in moving up. When a job becomes available that you are qualified for and able to do, then perhaps they will think about you even before they post it. When I say "a little out of your reach," I mean just a little. Don't apply for a senior management position if you've never been in management.
Stay active within a professional network. Attend at least two meetings a year (in person), and stay active (volunteer if you can!). Participate in online discussions. Most jobs are filled through networking, so network. Belonging to a professional network also tells potential employers that you are serious about your profession and aren't just using your job to pass the time. It's easy to "sell" your professionalism in an interview when you are member of a professional association. Bonus points in your column already.
Get your professional accreditation, even if you don't need it right now. This is what will distinguish you from any future competition. It may not be needed at (or paid for by) your company, but get it anyway. If you have an area of expertise, get that accreditation as well.
Let others know you are looking, or keeping your options open. Ask your friends (including your professional network friends) and family if there are any openings in their organization. Ask them who you should speak to - and then call that person.
Post your resume with the online job databases.
Find yourself a headhunter.
Use social media to scout for jobs. I am on many of them (LinkedIn, Facebook) and can tell you that there are many opportunities posted. Join the groups that interest you, and which are applicable to your profession and your location. You can contact another member individually (which is far more personal) if something interests you. Don't post in a discussion group saying, "Does anyone want to hire me?" You do the looking for a job; don't expect others to look for you.
Treat every interview as if you are going to get the job. Even if you've applied for something out of your reach or know they're going to give the job to someone else, treat the interview as if you will be the successful candidate.
Carry business cards and resumes with you at all times. You never know.
Update your resume. I guarantee things have changed since you last looked for a job, so ensure you are current and applicable in this job market.
Keep your skills up to date. I did lose my job in the 1990s, and fortunately I had invested in my skills, without expecting my employer to always pay for that training. If you see a training program or course that you think would benefit you in the future, be willing to invest in yourself to get that training. We paint our house because we might sell it one day. We keep the upholstery clean in our car because we might sell it one day. Keep your career in shape, and invest in it, because you can't assume that your company will want or need you until the day you die. Like your house and your car, you want your skills to be worth something in the future.
It is important that we never get lazy professionally. Don't assume it can't happen to you, because it can. Even if you are very secure right now, invest in your profession, invest in yourself, invest in your future.
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