So I made a promise to myself not to find another job, but to find the perfect job for the next 10 years.
I read the book What Color is Your Parachute and did all the exercises in it. I was able to take my time when going through the book because it wasn’t forced or pressured—I still had my job and there was no concern that I was going to be fired. That was huge. I could really dig in, take my time, and define what that right job would be for me.
The job that I found did last about 10 years exactly. And when I started to get restless and felt the need for a change, I did a similar round of “soul-searching” and found another cool opportunity within the company. Again, it wasn’t a forced change, it was a proactive one. Which made it much less stressful.
The lesson I learned in all of this is don’t wait until you need a new job or role to look for one. Pay close attention to the subtle signs that a change is needed—a decreased amount of discretionary effort, less fulfillment in accomplishments, a general change in energy. When you start to see these, start exploring other options. This exploration will be more efficient and open-minded when you’re not stressing about the needing a paycheck or dreading going to the office.
In fact, I advise you to take it one step further: don’t wait until you want or need a new job to make yourself marketable. Why? Well the truth is in today’s world no job is secure. You could have an amazing job with no signs of a needed change, and next thing you know a new leader comes in, the company is acquired, or a scandal hits and in one instant your perfect job turns into nightmare. Additionally, there are just so many cool opportunities that are out there that one may come to you without you even having to seek it out. Keeping yourself marketable will help you stay at the top of people’s mind, so when they are having conversations about new opportunities, your name could come up even if you’re not in the room.
Additionally, if you’ve marketed yourself well and people are seeking you out, you could have an advantage when it comes to things like negotiating flexibility and salary. I’ve experienced this first-hand. I’ve been sought out for roles at other companies (which I opted not to take) and, because I didn’t need a job and have been marketing myself through things such as this blog, I felt confident asking for a flexible schedule, specific salary, etc. I knew that if they couldn’t offer me what I wanted, it didn’t matter because I already had a job that I loved. That actually led to me to ask for more than what I would have had I been desperate to have a job—and in some cases the company was willing to deliver on my asks!
Here are some tips on how to make yourself marketable:
- Define your personal brand. Spend some time thinking about how you want to be seen and perceived first, so you can market yourself to that brand. For tips on how to define and build your personal brand, read my blog post on personal brand. Don’t just think about where you are, think about where you want to be, and market to that.
- Keep a list of your accomplishments. Don’t wait until you’re working on your resume or your self-assessment for your annual review to try and think of all the great wins you’ve had over the past year. Have a place, whether it’s a computer file, notebook, or whiteboard, where you track your wins and accomplishments as they happen. This helps you ensure that you don’t miss any.
- Keep your LinkedIn and internal company talent profile current. You never know when a recruiter will pull you up in a search. Every time your job changes or you get a cool new project, review your LinkedIn profile and see if you need to update it. If your company has a talent management system and the opportunity to create a profile on it, do so, and keep it current.
- Leverage the power of networking. I know there are so many articles about networking, and I’ve even published a blog post about it, but that’s because it is so important! Network now, not just when you need something.
- Learn always. If you stop learning and growing, you’ll stop moving. Everything is evolving at lightning speed in today’s world, and chances are how you do what you’re doing today will change in just a few short years. Don’t wait for someone to tell you how it will change—be the one to suggest the change based on new learnings.
- Be creative. Start a blog. Get involved in a community organization. Give some talks at a local college. There are fun and fulfilling ways to market yourself that will help you grow, learn, and try new things.
Not waiting until you need a job to make yourself marketable makes the whole experience more fun and less stressful. So don’t wait until you hand in your resignation to start strengthening your presence. Spending just a little time each week on it now can pay off in many ways in the long-run.