Job change is a dramatic event for every professional, but it does not to be such. There are two steps to a successful job change: making the right decision to change the job (whether it is moving to a new department or a new employer) and selecting the right job (both employer and your position). The purpose of this blog is to alleviate pressure and stress related to such a move and support you in making both decisions and landing the job of your dreams.
The first set of tips will cover the following 10 topics of primary interest to professionals looking for a new job:
1. How do I make a decision whether this is right time for me to move on?
2. What is the perfect next job for me?
3. What if I am searching for a job while I am still working full-time? What if I am unemployed and need to find a new job soon?
4. Are my expectations for the new job realistic?
5. What if I selected organizations I'd like to work for but none of them are responding?
6. What do I need to have in place before I apply?
7. How do I put together a winning resume? Do I need to use professional help?
8. What are the sources for a successful job search?
9. How do I get prepared for an interview? How do I achieve a 100% offer rate?
10. When do I negotiate an offer and how?
and a bonus:
Hooray! I got an offer for my dream job. Can I relax now?
We will also cover specific job situations, such as looking for your first professional job, moving to a different department within the same organization, landing your first managerial position, or progressing to an executive level. We will discuss how to compare your options, such an a Director-level position with a Fortune 100 company and a C-level position with a startup. We will map your offer to your career objectives, short-term and long-term, so that your next step takes you where you want to be professionally. We will talk a lot about relationship building, professional associations, building your presence, and the role of referrals in your next job. There will be very specific step-by-step advice and a lot of real-world examples.
Please feel to contribute your questions and suggestions so that this information is targeted to your professional experiences and can be immediately used by you and others in landing the job of your dreams and never getting disappointed in this decision.
If you are reading this tip, most likely the decision is already made. However, we caution you against making a decision too soon. In most of situations (unless your company is doing poorly and you are aware of a massive layoff coming soon, or you are working for a small private company with an owner whose vision and methods do not resonate with yours), your best bet is to stay where you are and change the environment you are in so that you can be successful there.
There are though multiple other legitimate reasons why you may want to change your job: moving to another industry, a new role, a longer-term opportunity, moving to a company to work for a cause you are passionate about. Almost everything else - flexibility in your schedule, compensation, role, title - is negotiable, and you should make every effort to negotiate those rather than change your employer each time your requirements are not fully met. Your want to build continuity, enable your professional growth, build your reputation, strengthen relationships - and all of this is impossible if you are jumping jobs each time things do not go exactly as you want.
We've seen people jumping jobs for a 5% salary increase - and regretting is afterwards. We've seen people changing jobs because they fell upset about being passed on a promotion or receiving an unfavorable performance review. You are not hurting your employer, you are hurting yourself.
Moreover, you need to resolve your issues before you move on. And if you don't, there is a high chance that the same problem will happen with you at your next job. Even if you made a decision to move on, start by fixing whatever issue is bothering you at your current job. If it is a raise, negotiate one. If it is a promotion, achieve one (check our tips on Advance Your Career page), and then feel free to move on. You have to learn how to resolve those issues that hold you back before making a decision to move on, otherwise similar problems with haunt you at your new place of employment.
The next step is to initiate and receive feedback. It will help you a lot in reconciling your strengths and opportunities for development, and will help you achieve success in your next job.
Finally, explore the market. Get advice from your trusted network, research Glassdoor and LinkedIn as well as any job sites relevant to your subject matter area. Check the level of demand, unemployment rates, average salary for your location and expertise, review your skills in comparison to others, and study job postings. Try to get an objective picture of what you can expect once you start your job search.
Based on the feedback you received, your specific work situation (can you stay with your employer and still achieve what you are looking for if you negotiate well?) and your position on the market compared to other candidates, make an informed decision whether you want to start your job search before making any steps in that direction. Remember: job search is your last resort in achieving a successful career. At the same time, if the parameters listed above are not positive, do not be afraid to start your research. Company loyalty is not an expectation anymore, and an average full-time worker stays on their job for 4.4 years, so use the tips below to make job search fast and successful.
You've read the Tip #1 and you still made a decision to move on. Now that the decision is made, the major challenge is to find the right one. It may seem that you know exactly what you need but you may be wrong for several reasons: the job you decide to seek is not right for you or you do not have the skills and experience needed to the job that you want. In either case, there are ways to course-correct. Let's review the scenarios, and in doing so, we will start from the reason why you decided to change a job.
1. The company is not financially sound, so either you decided to leave it yourself or you have been laid off. If there is a danger to be laid off, it's always best to start your search as soon as you become aware of the issue and not wait for further confirmation or until this actually happens. To act quickly, you have to be well prepared. In order to be prepared, you have to always follow the 4 simple rules:
- always keep your resume up to date and update it once a year or once a job-related trigger happens (promotion, certification, membership in a professional association);
- update your LinkedIn profile and maintain your connections, do not be shy to ask for references (my norm is two references from each place of work or position); thank people who recommend you, post links to your presentations, certifications, and awards; participate in LinkedIn forums;
- maintain professional relationships - via LinkedIn, meetups, luncheons, conferences, and other professional events;
- maintain certifications and membership in professional associations. Many employers will cover costs, but even if they do not, it is a norm today to invest in your own education and professional growth, even if you are a full-time employee and your employer does not have a budget for professional development. This happens a lot. I worked for a Fortune 13 company, which had a training budget of $5,000 total for a group of 30+ people, but even in this case, we were able to find an internal employee who was certified to teach an important and relevant certifications class, paid a licensing fee of $100 per person (below our budget) to a certification body, and we were able to train and certify everyone within the group. So there is an opportunity to come up with creative solutions, even if your budget is restricted. Do not save on education and stay up to date!
If you follow these four rules, the job search is an easy challenge for you. You reach out to your contacts informing them that you are ready for the next step in your career, share your updated resume and a link to your LinkedIn profile, apply to a few LinkedIn postings to test the market, make calls to a couple of recruiters who have been recommended to you or with whom you worked in the past, and start interviewing.
The most complex question though is how do you decide what you want.
2. You leave your job because it is not challenging enough and you do not feel that your skills and knowledge are growing. This situation is more complex. If your primary concern is learning and your ability to grow professionally, you need to understand the culture of any organization you will be applying to. If you are in IT, check if they run internal hackathons. Once you get to an interview, ask whether they have time and budget allocated to training and professional development. Check Glassdoor reviews. Talk to people you know over there. Do not assume that if a company is doing very well financially, they have training funds. We've observed multiple companies when the situation was completely opposite. In other words, research directly and indirectly things that are specific to you.
3. Check and confirm any information you receive. 100 (500, 1000) most creative (flexible, fast growing, best place to work) company lists and many other awards may apply to a company but not apply to you. I worked for a company which was continuously on the list of best 100 US companies with flexible work policy and you would assume that if you are looking for flexible work arrangements, this company is the best employer for you. This was an educational company and its instructors did in fact have significant flexibility. However, its full-time employees in Headquarters had 9-5 work day with the expectation of their presence in the office.
They had an ability to submit a three-page document to ask for a Flexible Work Arrangement such as working from home one day per week on a specific day, but it was painful. The application had to be reviewed and approved by your manager and then took a month to go through a committee at executive level. Some of those requests were approved, some were denied and I am not sure if there were an appeal process. I wouldn't necessarily call it the most flexible work policy, but the company was consistently on the most flexible companies list for many years in a row. So the advice is: if this is important to you, verify.
4. Reconcile title with the job description. This is another important advice. In many instances, you will get the title that you like, but your actual responsibilities will turn out to be very far from what you expect. You may say that all you need is a Director title and you may get it, especially in a smaller company which has no specific rules or restrictions, and then you will join to find out that you have a zero decision-making power and are expected to follow instructions coming from a manager who is the actual decision-maker in the area of your responsibility. Check the job description and make sure that you understand every line item, and if you do not, have a conversation about it before you make a choice to accept their offer. If a title is of a concern, find out how fast people are promoted in the organization and what their actual rules are (run away if the organization values seniority, stick with those that rely on employee skills, dedication, and hard work).
Compensation is another important aspect. While compensation alone is rarely a valid reason for a move, you need your basic "financial health" before you can appreciate the motivation that you new job brings you. If compensation is not in sync with your expectations, negotiate it and do not forget your BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement) - a course of action you are prepared to take if the negotiation is not successful.
5. Ensure that company values resonate with you. This criterion is frequently overlooked but it is in fact, one of the most important parameters in your job search. We are not talking about the list of nouns on company web site (Integrity, Compassion, Reliability. etc.) - every employer has an impressive list. The list from Enron is an example widely cited.
In its annual report to shareholders, Enron listed its core values as follows:
However, multiple examples reveal that the culture stood opposed to these core values. Instead of reinforcing the code of ethics and the list of virtuous core values, the actions of leadership established a culture with values of greed and pride. And this is not the only example.
When you join a company, check the actual values that govern decision making. If you want to help other people, review their charity record. Check how they contribute to making the world a better place. Many companies even allocate workdays or funds to their employees to support charities of their choice.
If you want to change the world for the better, you may enjoy, for example, working more for an healthcare provider or an educational company with forward thinking rather than for a financial services company. If this does not matter to you, look for the values that resonate with you personally.
6. Find out whether the company has what you are looking for, based on your professional aspirations and career interest. Confirm that you have what it takes to be successful in the role that you chose for yourself. Consider job type: if you want to experience many companies and gain knowledge, check consulting jobs. If you care more about job security and are ready to stay with your new employer for a long time, choose a full-time permanent job.
Give a lot of thought to a company you want to work for. Maybe you value a short commute and you only have a few companies that are in close geographic proximity to you that you offer jobs in your area of expertise. Then think: what makes you happy at work. Is it the environment? ability to achieve career growth? ability to be noticed? For example, Google is an outstanding employer but if you are looking for a fast career growth and an ability to stand out, this won't be easy there or even fast. If you are overly competitive or looking for a promotion, Google has a complex system for self-nomination and subsequent reviews which will take time and effort. If you want to make an immediate impact, you may choose a smaller and less competitive organization where each individual is easier to be noticed or to provide a lasting impact. Don't let free lunch and weekly massage offered by many startups backed up by venture capital fool you into the environment that is not right for you.
On the other side, assess your skills. Calibrate you competencies by learning new skills, by interviewing with several companies that are not your first or second choice before interviewing with the ones where you can't wait to work, ask your interviewers questions about the skills you lack or need to build. Act upon that promptly by building the skills or calibrating your expectations.
7. Ask! And most importantly, ask questions. Ask about a prospective employer, review Glassdoor reviews, LinkedIn postings, reach out to the individuals who are connected with you on LinkedIn, directly or indirectly. Verify any information that is important to you and never stay away from any opportunity to learn more. And in addition to that, remember that the best job is the one where you have been referred to. Invest in your research and you won't be disappointed in your next professional step.
The timing of your job search may seam like a no-brainer to you. You search for a job when you need one. However, the answer is not as simple. To further complicate this question, I want to introduce several types of job search.
1. Exploratory job search. I suggest that you conduct exploratory job search on a regular basis but no more frequently than once per year. You need it to know your market value and to assess the job market for your specific profession, skills, and experience. It encourages you to update your resume at least annually, even if you are not looking for a job. You also need it to get job search experience so that you do not get "stale". Job interviewing skills are like muscles. You need to train them to make them stronger. Just make sure to indicate confidential nature of your job search so that it would not hurt your current employment, and build strength to resist in case you receive an attractive offer.
2. Targeted job search. You conduct this job search when you are ready to change a job. You are still employed but you are determined to change your job, you career, or you just became aware that a massive layoff is coming up. In this case, you are well prepared for this experience by your exploratory job searches. Polish your interviewing skills, get feedback on your resume, target your employers of choice, and rehearse answers to most frequent 10 questions. Prepare your "elevator pitch" and get on the road.
3. Desperate job search. This is the timing for your job search that you want to avoid at all costs. You are not employed and are looking for a job. This raises a ton of questions: what happened? how long have you been unemployed? Your value as a professional is constantly being questioned. Interviewing experience becomes intimidating, and your chances for success diminish every day. Your responsibility is to avoid this type of search at all costs. However, sometimes you cannot. Unexpected layoffs happen and people lose their jobs. There are two simple tips I can give you in this case:
A. If you do not like your job but need one, try to stay there until you find a new one.
B. If you are laid off and have no job, engage in professional activities that show that you maintain professional value. Volunteer at a local User Group meeting, join a leadership network board, or organize a conference. Do freelancing on elance.com or guru.com. Or even open your own consulting company, depending on your line of work. Do not get depressed, do not become desperate, but even if you do feel desperate at some point, do not show it. Interviewers will sense it and if you are not confident in your strength, don't expect them to be. Stay confident and composed, and bad timing will no longer be a focus, your skills and knowledge will.
Remember: there is no bad timing, there is only lack of confidence.
About the Blog
The difference between our career advice site and many others on this topic comes from the fact that it is not written by a career consultant who has limited experience with achieving career growth in a professional environment. This site comes from an industry expert who achieved career progression step by step and learned the lessons that are now generously shared with you.
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