Do you feel incredibly lucky and secure in your job? Does your boss praise you constantly, leading you to believe he or she would never, ever let you go? Can imagine working there for 25+ years?
You may be a fool if you believe these feelings will last forever. Because in today's workforce and economy, the only constant is change.
Let me count the ways your career could be turned upside down in a matter of seconds: Your company could go bankrupt or be bought by another larger one. You could be transferred departments. Your boss could get fired or quit, which might jeopardize your job, too. Your company's benefits could change and no longer support your family or lifestyle. You could even face a situation (good or bad) that requires you to resign and relocate.
I'm not trying to scare you, so don't panic. You won't be nearly as overwhelmed when all of this happens if you've been job searching all along. Yes, that's what I meant. No matter how happy and (seemingly) secure you are in your job, you should be job searching. Right. Now.
After media critic and editor-at-Large Jack Shaffer was laid off from Slate, he told future journalists, "No matter how good your job is - and mine was great - you should always be looking for your next gig."
Here's why and how to optimize your job search little by little when you have the time and freedom, rather than when you're in a tight bind down the road:
Keep your antenna up
Knowing what jobs are out there will give you a leg up should you ever need to start a dire job application blitz. Online job-search sites are endless, so how can you save time and energy in this process? First off, forget the mass-marketed sites like CareerBuilder, Monster, Indeed and focus on niche markets.
Learning the ropes of today's job search tools is also a lesson in tech savvyness.
Using a variety of tools to automate and streamline your search is your best bet.
Spend a week following a bunch of niche sites in your field, and then try to narrow those down to the top three to five resources. You can even ask a friend in your field or co-worker who was recently hired for their favorites.
To simplify even more, sign up for RSS feeds or add sites to Google Reader when possible. Some job search outlets utilize Google or Yahoo groups, while others use listserves to ensure efficiency. By signing up, you can simply skim each email or alert you receive.
Networking can be the scariest part of the job search, so why not start early? That way, you've already made those crucial contacts before you need to say au revoir to your employer.
Social media has made finding meaningful connections a cinch. Follow and "like" industry leaders on Twitter and Facebook, and make your voice heard by retweeting or posting comments about their content or company. This is even a great opportunity to step out of your comfort zone and interact with individuals in unfamiliar - but intriguing - fields. Always wanted to work in international relations? Follow those who already do to learn about major issues and challenges.
Brazen Careerist's Network Roulette is another great way to meet people in your industry from the comfort of your couch. Since the events are organized by industry, you are sure to meet other Brazenites with similar interests. Keep these acquaintances via social media, email or other methods, so when you're jobless, you can reconnect for advice or direction.
Even while using online tools, you can still take advantage of in-person events and conferences to meet interesting professionals. Be outgoing and enthusiastic at these events, so the people you meet will remember you. You never know when a position might open up and when you might need that back-door contact.
Dream big but narrow
As you sign up for alerts and peruse postings, start to think about what types of job descriptions appeal to you. Do you want less administrative work and more hands-on responsibilities? Have you always wanted to do more marketing and less public relations? This is a great opportunity to gauge not only what you want but also how you might excel. Look for requirements in job descriptions where you find yourself thinking, "Oh, I could do that!" Write them down for future reference.
Start tallying all of these things into a "Bucket List," of jobs you might like. These could be specific or general, ranging from "Work at the National Institutes of Health," to "Do something with kids." Having a better definition of what you want will help you narrow a focus when you do decide to move on.
Set reasonable boundaries
Even though you should absolutely dream big in your Bucket List, don't forget to be rational and avoid rash decision making. Just because your eyes light up at the description of your dream job at the Museum of Modern Art in New York doesn't mean you should drop everything and relocate from your inexpensive studio apartment in the middle-of-nowhere Wyoming and managerial job at a small art gallery. Ask yourself if this is really the best decision for you - financially, personally and professionally.
It's easy to salivate over all the terrific job postings out there, but remember, actually landing those jobs can still be a shot in the dark - especially if you're focusing your efforts on job boards. That's not to say keeping an eye on the boards can't be helpful in figuring out what type of company and position may be up your alley, you just need to complement those efforts with networking.
Once in a blue moon, however, you may stumble across a not-to-be-missed opportunity. How will you know one when you see it? If you sleep on it for several nights and still find your mind lingering on this potential, then maybe it's time to polish up that resume.
That's the true beauty of job searching when you aren't in the market. You may come across a life-changing prospect you would have otherwise missed!
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