Making a big career change can sometimes feel like the most natural thing in the world, like the next step in a straight path, or a step up a wide staircase propelling you upwards towards the next big challenge.
Sometimes, we know, it can feel like complex calculus – a cost/benefit, risk/reward calculation involving reaching out into the unknown, taking a chance, giving up something in the hope of achieving something new.
This is our short guide to taking those first, initial steps and deciding whether a career move is the right thing for you. We’ll cover when to look for new opportunities, how to look, how to navigate a complex recruitment market, and making the decision to apply.
This is the first in a series of short guides that will also cover making a job applications and advice at interview.
When Should You Be Looking for Opportunities?
The first question it makes sense to ask is: When should I be looking for a new job, be it an internal promotion or an opportunity elsewhere? You might expect us to say something like “When you’re ready for a new challenge,” or “When you feel yourself becoming too comfortable.” We’re not going to tell you to wait, however. We believe you should always be on the lookout for new opportunities – otherwise, your dream job might just pass you by.
This isn’t to say that you should spend your nights applying to each and every job that you see advertised in your field, nor harass your management team for promotion. Simply, you should never be closed off to hearing about new opportunities, because you never know what might come along while you’re busy elsewhere.
In the next section, we’ll talk about ways for you to passively always be on the lookout for what might be the next big thing in your career
How to Passively Look for Work
There will be times in your life when it makes sense to actively look for work. Maybe you aren’t being challenged in your current role, or a change in circumstance has necessitated a change in location, or perhaps you’ve been left looking for work following a redundancy. In this case, it makes sense to scour job listings, contact recruiters, spend your evenings updating your CV and firing off multiple applications.
However, what if you’re relatively happy where you are – you’re comfortable, like your team, find the work challenging? This doesn’t mean you ought to be complacent. Here are a couple of ways you should be passively looking for work, even if you don’t think you’re interested in making a move.
Discuss Your Ambitions
Firstly, if you are happy in your current role and company culture, it is always worth ensuring that those around you and those senior to you are aware that you are open to new responsibilities, new challenges, and new opportunities. This can be as simple as regular conversations with your direct manager or senior figures within the business. If you are truly happy in your current position this will never come across as too forward, but simply a reflection of your commitment to the values and the mission of the company and your desire to be part of its successes.
When senior roles do arise, you will often find that management will bring them to your attention, with the suggestion that you apply and, perhaps, even the offer of advice and guidance in your application. This encouragement and validation can, in turn, be an excellent indication that the time is right to take on a new challenge.
Set Up Email Alerts
There are things you can do to keep an eye on the wider job market, as well. The first, if you haven’t already done so, is to set up email alerts for some key roles in your industry. Our advice is to pick one or two of the larger recruitment sites, like Indeed or S1Jobs, as well as something more specialised to your field. Setting up email alerts automates the process, so that you no longer need to motivate yourself to actively check out job sites on a regular basis.
You can generally choose to receive daily, or weekly emails and this can serve as a reminder, or even just something to quickly scroll through when you have some time to yourself or are clearing out your inbox. It’s good to be aware of what’s happening in the job market, in your own industry, and what opportunities are available. Being aware of wider market trends and salary expectations can help you, even when going for an internal position. You never know, one of those email alerts could contain your dream job, and you don’t want to miss out on it.
Speak to Recruiters
It might seem strange to think about talking to recruiters when you’re not actively looking for work, but in fact this can be the best time. Being known amongst those most in the know about your industry can never have negative consequences, and you never know what opportunities might come your way, be it new employment, industry news, or even a source of new recruits when you’re in a position to hire.
Recruiters can also pass on industry trends, such as in demand skills and training opportunities that can make you more desirable to future employers without having to make a leap.
Having people who know you, your skillset, and what you’re interested in career-wise makes it much more likely you’ll hear about the kind of positions you’d jump at the chance to apply for, with very little additional effort on your part.
If you’re reading this article, chances are you already work within a specialised field and you know other who work in your field from previous employment, industry events, or even social media such as LinkedIn.
“Networking” can sometimes feel like a dirty word, implying that social interactions are necessarily transactional, but this really isn’t the case. Being involved in industry events, keeping up with past co-workers, it’s something we all do quite naturally. You probably already do without thinking. But, if you haven’t updated your profile lately, or you’re on the fence about next month’s conference, remember — you never know what’s around the corner.
So what happens next, now the perfect opportunity has come your way? In our next articles we’ll talk through the application process, from updating your CV to writing an eye-catching cover letter.