Something is telling you it’s time to make a job change—to move on from your current in-house role to that next opportunity. Maybe there are external factors weighing on you, maybe you're itching for a new adventure or maybe you’d like more of a challenge or enhanced responsibility (or less). Whatever your reason for beginning the search for a new position, treat this as an inflection point in your career. Don't rush into this life-changing decision without putting some thought into your approach and developing a strategy. Following these six steps will prepare you as you set out on your journey to finding a new job:
Reflect and re-evaluate.
The most valuable first step is to reflect on where you currently are in your career and on why you want to make a change at this time. Take the time to carefully understand what you are looking for and consider what your ideal next role looks like. Ask yourself these questions to identify your professional goals:
Why do you want to start a job search now? Do you really want a new job or just new/increased/broader/different responsibilities in your current position or in a different role at your current company?
What new skills do you want/need to develop in order to advance your career and/or get you closer to that ultimate career goal? What experience is currently lacking in your background? What work don't you do now that you want to do?
What are your ultimate career goals? What is the next step in your career/next job that will help get you there?
What is most important to you in your next job? What are the must-haves? What are the nice-to-haves?
Take time to reflect on what type of workplace environment you are seeking. The environment you work in truly matters more than you realize; it sets the tone for each day and the attitude you bring to your work. Ask yourself:
What type of corporate environment aligns best with your personality, goals and work style?
In what type of culture have you succeeded in the past/will you continue to thrive?
What factors do you want to replicate in your next job? What not so much?
Perfect your resume.
Your resume is your first impression. It is a work in progress and there is no such thing as a perfect resume. That said, what you can make perfect is the amount of detail you provide to make your resume perfect for
this job. Explain where you are in your career, defining specific experience and skill sets and your educational background, as they relate to the job you are pursuing. You want to appear as the perfect candidate in that first impression. As a general rule, you should have more than one version of your resume and tailor the most appropriate version to specific jobs as you apply for them.
Treat your job search like a second job and create a strategy to approach your search—then execute on it. Fine tune that strategy as you go. You never know when the right job will come along, so prepare yourself for a marathon, not a sprint. Set aside specific time each day or each week to research companies, schedule calls and meetings, and send out your resume to targeted contacts and job postings.
Utilize your network, reaching out to friends, family and colleagues who can be helpful in connecting you with people who do what you want to do, are in the industry you want to break into, are at companies you would like to target, etc. And then reach out to those folks and schedule phone calls or meetings for informational interviews. Always ask: Who else do you suggest I contact? Can you make an introduction?
Be accountable to yourself.
You need to be your biggest cheerleader and motivator, so set goals for yourself that align with your strategy. Be reasonable and realistic and do things at a pace that will allow you to accomplish them. No one is going to do the work for you, so track your progress and hold yourself accountable to reaching the goals you set.
Connect with search consultants/recruiters who are industry/functional experts.
Search consultants and recruiters are wired in to hiring trends and compensation benchmarking. They are acutely aware of what is happening in the market and have their ear to the ground on opportunities. You should be on their radar screens for current and future opportunities. Reach out to recruiters the same way you would your network; answer the phone if they call even if the opportunity is not quite right; develop these relationships. Start the conversation with a recruiter about your career aspirations and they will provide you with the best guidance they can.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained!
The possibilities that come with a new job are endless. Think of your job search as a professional adventure with new skills and new connections on the horizon. Be open to challenging "stretch" opportunities that present themselves even if it means relocating or having to learn and do something you have never done. This new adventure can reap benefits and afford you opportunities you have never before experienced even if it is in an industry in which you have spent years working. So take a chance when something appealing presents itself.
Remember there is no perfect job; there is only the next position that is the best one for you at this point in your career trajectory. Prioritize what is most important to you and be willing to compromise on what is not important. Take a long view and look at this next opportunity as a place to grow and help lead you to your ultimate role!
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Deborah Z. Thompson is a Managing Director for Major, Lindsey & Africa's In-House Practice Group in Philadelphia. She has over 15 years of legal search experience with a specialty in in-house placements at all levels, including a specific focus on General Counsel and other senior level legal department positions.