Thinking of making a move when the time is right? Here are 11 steps to take now:
I know this isn’t what you’re in the mood for, but you’re going to need to be able to talk about your accomplishments – in interviews, in networking, on your resume and your online profiles.
Take a few notes at the end of each workday about any wins: projects completed, problems solved, kudos received. (Include the relevant quantities: How many hours or dollars saved, etc.)
To help build the habit, combine it with some other task you already do at the end of the day. If you feel a need to explain what you’re doing, you can tell people you’re assessing the day to improve your methods. Your journal will build your confidence, too.
Caution: Be sure to get this personal data home somehow, discreetly but regularly. If you leave suddenly, you may not get a chance.
2. If you aren’t clear on your career goals, explore and get clear. If you do know what you want, imagine it, frequently and vividly.
When we have a clear vision, we tend to move toward it, and job search works better with a clear goal. There are lots of helpful career exploration resources online, such as the Department of Labor sites www.acinet.org/explore and www.onetcenter.org.
3. Draft a Personal Marketing Plan.
This can be a simple one- to two-page document consisting of your career goal, a branding statement or brief summary of your key professional strengths, your criteria for companies you’d consider working for (e.g., “healthcare or pharmaceutical organizations, 1,000+ employees, greater San Francisco Bay Area and possibly Sacramento”), and an evolving list of companies.
This prepares you for a proactive job search that includes the “hidden job market” – the many excellent jobs that are not publicly posted. Even if you’re in stealth mode, this plan can guide the research and networking that lay the groundwork for your move.
Professional associations, volunteering, professional e-lists and social media may all be important in making contacts and increasing your visibility. And do use LinkedIn – it’s a “must” for most white-collar occupations.
It doesn’t have to look like you’re job-hunting. Look for ways this networking can be relevant to your current job. Many employers like their employees to be visible in the professional community and with the public.
Learn about how to targeted networking that focuses on developing your knowledge and contacts related to specific organizations you’re interested in working for.
5. Revamp your resume, of course.
If you wait until an opportunity comes up, you’ll have to do this in a hurry and the quality may suffer. And if you think you may want to hire a resume writer, waiting until the last minute puts you in the position of choosing a writer on the basis of “how soon” they can do it rather than “how well.” Many resume writers avoid taking on rush projects, or charge extra if they do.
6. Keep doing a great job even if you’re planning to leave.
You can probably think of several reasons why this is important, e.g., feeling good about yourself, looking good to the many employers who prefer to hire the already-employed, and getting good references. (Officially or “off the record,” people talk!)
7. Look for opportunities to grow.
If your day-to-day work isn’t building your marketability, consider volunteering for a skill-building project or finding a problem to solve. It may be hard to make the time, but your career will benefit more from doing something special than from simply “keeping the conveyor belt moving.”
8. Work on improving any financial issues that could hold you back.
If you’re not sure you can afford any costs associated with a career change, be aware that the uncertainty itself may be making you anxious and holding you back. Crunch the numbers. Find a financial advisor. Reconsider your budget. Look for additional income streams.
9. Set action items and goals, and make it happen.
Are you thinking “All of this advice makes sense, but I’m not sure I’ll really get around to it”? Try one or more of the following:
- Use “baby steps” – small actions that can add up over time.
- Schedule a specific time for these activities, and/or “piggyback” them onto other things you do routinely.
- Enlist a buddy or coach to help you stay focused and moving forward.
Commit to doing what will make your life better.
10. If you’re tempted to do anything rash, take a time-out and proceed with care.
It’s usually best to secure a new job before quitting your current one, for several reasons. As stated earlier, employers look more favorably on applicants who are employed. And there’s always the possibility that quitting will lead to a lengthy gap between jobs. Even if you can afford that financially, it can weaken your resume for years to come.
Nevertheless, there are times when the demands and constraints of the current job require you to “get out first, search later.” If so, just be sure you do it with proper notice and a professional manner, for your own sake. Take a few days or weeks for R&R, then start a smart, steady job search and aim for being back to work within as few months as possible. Don’t let it drag out.
11. Invest in “Me, Inc.”
You are not your job. Jobs come and go. Take the longer view of where you’re going in your career, define what success means for you, reach out for information and support, be persistent, and make it happen!