When you’re on the job, you probably don’t have much time to think about your next career move. You’re more worried about hitting that next deadline than thinking about the accolades and props you got for your recent successes. But one of the most important things you should consider in your career is that you must always be looking towards your next career move.
Even if you’re entirely satisfied at your current job, you should always be looking. Constantly being in job search mode doesn’t mean you have to apply to jobs while you’re at a job you don’t want to leave. You do, however, have to be aware of the opportunities available to you, how your recent accomplishments factor into a better job and a higher salary, and how your skills development drives your career forward.
Here are a few easy steps you can take today to make your next job hunt a walk in the park.
Pay attention to trends
While you don’t have to search for opportunities each day, it’s important to stay updated on the various industry trends around hiring and desired skills. Knowing the latest and greatest in new technology, methodologies, and processes that are optimizing your line of work can be the difference between having the skills you need to impress your next employer and being a middle of the pack candidate. And this trend awareness will also help you in your current job, allowing you to increase productivity and have more success in your projects with better-optimized work habits.
Keeping up to date is easy in the digital age. It just takes finding the right news outlets, blogs, and forward-thinking professionals in your field and keeping an eye on the content they put out. So research the top 10 bloggers in your field. Find the vocal executives who are sharing articles and having active conversations on Twitter. Join LinkedIn groups and contribute articles and opinions to the conversation. And when you learn something that truly stands out as a great way to do things differently, learn how to do it and implement it in your own workflow.
Pro tip: Set up Google alerts for keywords in your industry or find relevant RSS feeds to major blogs and news sources to always have the latest news funneled straight to your email inbox.
Keep a running log
You may not think much of a commendation you get from your boss, a client, or a co-worker for a job well done. Beyond the temporary boost in your morale and job satisfaction, those compliments are affirmations that you’re performing above and beyond expectations. That’s an awesome thing to know, but it’s also an awesome thing to note.
Part of being able to properly sell your skills and contributions to potential employers is the ability to iterate in your own words the reasons why you’re a stand-out professional. The compliments you receive, the rewards you earn, your promotions, feedback from your clients and customers, and any other comments on your value from a second or third party are a great source from which you can draw in describing yourself.
To take full advantage of this resource, it’s important that you keep have the specific quotes, awards, and email chains on hand in an easily searchable location. As you receive new commendations, make a habit of noting them down in a notebook, spreadsheet, or Word document immediately. Write down the specific people who gave great reviews of your work, alongside their contact info and LinkedIn profile. You never know who might help you with a reference or referral later.
Pro tip: Don’t wait until the end of the day or week to update your log, as you’ll find yourself forgetting critical details. And definitely don’t wait until you’re in a job seeking situation. Keep a log or journal of all your accolades and upload them in a place that you directly associate with your career or your job search, such as your JobHero dashboard.
Keep your job search skills sharp
Too many professionals stop doing the things that make them good job seekers the moment they find new jobs. They stop networking with other professionals. They stop talking about themselves. They stop updating their resume as new accomplishments and responsibilities crop up. Instead of letting your job search muscles atrophy, keep them strong by practicing the necessary skills for finding a job.
The nice thing about job search skill is that the activities needed to be a good job seeker easily translate into activities of a good working professional. So go to networking events and chat with other professionals in your field. Learn from them and share your own expertise. Talk about yourself and learn about others, always with an eye to expand your professional network. As you practice your own elevator pitch, update your resume with the latest and greatest details of your career.
Pro tip: Keep an eye out for company-sponsored networking events that you can attend. These are typically internal events or ones where partners and the industry community are invited for a few drinks and discussion. They're low-stress, low-intensity events that are the perfect place for you to meet new people without putting in a ton of effort.
Keep your connections in the loop
While growing your network will be critical for your next job search, it is also important to nurture the relationships that you have already formed with others in your industry and beyond.
It's these relationships that you will be able to lean on in the future when you're out of a job or looking for a change of pace. The better they know and remember you, the more likely these connections and friends will be to vouch for you with their network. You'll open up doors directly into companies, allowing you to circumvent the dreaded online application and land straight on the hiring manager's desk.
So make it a habit to stay in touch with your connections. Send them the occasional insightful and relevant article you found and start a discussion. Meet them for coffee or lunch every few months to catch up. Take interest in their work and offer to help them brainstorm new ideas if they seem stuck in a rut. If you see a big success in the news or on social media, take the time to congratulate them. Give something of value to your professional network, and they'll be happy to give something in return.
Pro tip: Constantly forgetting to keep in touch? Use recurring reminders in a calendar app, reminder tool, or to-do list to keep yourself up to date on who you need to reach out to next. And take notes on what you talked about last time you spoke. It'll serve as a good reference point for new conversations, as well as help you avoid having the same conversation multiple times.
Focus on education
A large part of standing out from the crowd of other candidates, whether for a new job or a promotion, is to show a healthy progression curve in your skillset. The candidates that refuse to take the steps they are afforded, whether internally through company organizational development courses or through any of the numerous free and paid online education tools, fall behind their peers on the career ladder.
So invest time and even some money in your education while you're on the job and your financial situation is stable. Take certification courses for skills that would take you to the next step in your career path. Don't know statistics, but it's a requirement for the managerial level promotion you're seeking? Take a statistics course online or at a local community college. Need to sharpen your sales skills for that account executive position you're pining after? Take a public speaking course or join an improv group. Focus on developing the core skills you'll need to be successful at your next desired role.
Pro tip: No idea what skills you should focus on? Gather up ten job descriptions of roles that you think are the perfect evolution for your career. Don't go lateral - always go a step above your current pay grade. List all the skills the descriptions ask for and rate yourself on how strong you are at each one. That list will tell you exactly what skills you need to develop.
When it comes time to look for a job, the transition from working professional to job seeker will feel natural, like slipping on a well-worn glove. You’ve already developed and nurtured the habits needed to find a new job. You’ve already grown and nurtured a network you can tap into for job referrals. So take the little bit of effort today to do the things you might not have the time, resources, or energy for when you need to start a job search. Your future job seeker self will thank you for it.