There used to be a stigma associated with changing jobs too frequently, but now there’s a stigma associated with not changing jobs frequently enough: people who stay in one job or at one company too long risk appearing comfortable, myopic, and insular.
Despite the increased frequency of job change and its acceptance as the new normal, too many people wait until they need a job to start preparing for the job search. It’s kind of like waiting until two weeks before the Olympics to start training.
Here are Four Things You Can Do Now to Prepare for Your Next Job Search:
1. Understand where you are now. It’s important to be able to describe your current job in a language that hiring managers and recruiters understand. The most important parameters that describe your current job are industry and function. For many people, including industry segment and function segment is useful as well. For example, let’s say you’re the VP Marketing for an oil and gas company. Your industry is oil and gas, and your function is marketing. Let’s also say that your company competes primarily in the upstream oil and gas segment, and your focus within marketing is primarily product marketing. Your industry segment is upstream oil and gas, and your function segment is product marketing. At senior and executive levels, it’s rare that someone is hired without some degree of relevant industry and function experience.
2. Map your current ecosystem. Start building a list of companies and a list of people within your industry. This is your current ecosystem. Every industry has industry associations that have directories of relevant industry companies. Every industry has industry analysts who publish information on industry companies and trends. Use LinkedIn’s advanced search feature to identify companies and people in your industry. Learning how to use information technology to research industries, companies, and people is a critical 21st century career skill.
3. Expand your ecosystem by considering interesting adjacencies. Unless you are considering a complete career change, there’s a high probability your next job will be similar to your current job in terms of industry, industry segment, function, and function segment. But even though your next job is likely to be similar, it’s also likely to be slightly different. I refer to these similar but slightly different jobs as adjacencies. For example, if you change your industry segment and transition from upstream oil and gas to midstream oil and gas, that’s an adjacency. If you change from product marketing to solution and technical marketing, that’s an adjacency as well. A less obvious adjacency might include a company that sells a software product to product marketing executives in upstream oil and gas companies. Expand your target list of companies and target list of people by including adjacencies of particular interest to you.
4. Get to know your ecosystem now. Use your list of companies and list of people in your current and expanded ecosystem to start networking now. Chances are you know some of the people and companies on your list already. But even if you don’t, there’s a very high probability that you know someone who knows the people and companies on your list. Use LinkedIn to identify these common connections, and ask for warm introductions. Schedule one networking call or meeting per week, and you’ll look up in one year and realize you have a whole new ecosystems of contacts directly related to your next job.
The process above is an application of what I call Targeted Networking. It’s a foundational skill for navigating successful job transitions in the 21st century.
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