A good job brings stability and a desired lifestyle. Couple that with a career you enjoy, and it’s easy to fall into a comfortable routine.
But even in the best of times, you never know what lies ahead. Sometimes unforeseen circumstances can thrust you into the job market when you least expect it. The lingering economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the quickening pace of technological change mean that everyone, no matter how secure they feel, should have an eye toward their next job hunt. And employment disruption is one of the most stressful situations you can face in life.
“Looking for work is exhausting and can be as intense as a full-time job in and of itself,” said Laurie Ruettimann, a human resources professional in Raleigh, North Carolina, and author of the new book Betting on You: How to Put Yourself First and (Finally) Take Control of Your Career.
One way to mitigate the anxiety that comes with a sudden job search is to be ready for it. And that means preparing for your next job hunt now.
Ruettimann and Cheryl Simpson, an executive career coach and president of Executive Resume Rescue, of Westerville, Ohio, share ways to be prepared to spring into action, even when you are already happily employed.
Maximise LinkedIn. Having a LinkedIn profile is a standard strategy for showcasing your education and experience and for maintaining visibility in the marketplace. That LinkedIn profile becomes a more powerful asset when it is “packed to the gills with good information about you”, Ruettimann said. She recommends filling every field the LinkedIn platform offers and not limiting yourself to your current and past jobs and accomplishments.
“Craft a future-forward profile that includes what you are excited about doing over the next 12 to 18 months in your career, education, and life,” she said.
Even the best LinkedIn profile won’t serve you well if it doesn’t rank high on search engines, Simpson said. She suggests the key to making your profile stand out is keeping it active by making frequent updates. “LinkedIn is essentially a database, and databases crave fresh data,” she added.
“Even minor adjustments, like tweaking your lead paragraph, updating the description of your skills, or adding comments to posts, will keep your profile alive and enhance your visibility,” she said.
Stay connected to your network. An effective network of colleagues and influencers can help you navigate your career, but they won’t serve you in the long run if you don’t maintain relationships with them, Simpson said.
“This means keeping your connection alive by checking in with them periodically or congratulating them on their successes,” she said. If you begin a job search, one of the first things you need to do is reach out to your network, and it’s so much easier if you have maintained your relationship with them.
“People helping each other is the heart and soul of networking,” Simpson said.
Grow through service to others. Being of service is not just good for humanity, it is also good for your career and keeps you connected to your community, Ruettimann said.
“Whether volunteering at your place of worship, in your hometown, or with your favourite nonprofit, serving others helps you learn and grow, and when you are growing, you’re thriving, and that makes you attractive to prospective employers,” she said. Volunteering also raises your visibility in the marketplace and is a great way to expand your skills.
Pursue relationships through mentoring. Ruettimann points to mentorship as a vital professional component and recommends both serving as a mentor to others and seeking mentors to nurture your own career.
“It is important to be a mentor, because no matter where you are in your career, you can always volunteer your services to help others who might be struggling,” she said. At the same time, having a mentor helps you stay connected with trusted advisers who can help you and guide you through your career if you have to suddenly start looking for a job.
“In addition to serving others, the beautiful thing about mentorship is that it expands your network, and it lets other people know you take professional and personal growth seriously,” Ruettimann said.
Keep your portfolio up to date. Just like keeping your résumé or CV up to date, Simpson recommends keeping samples of your best work and professional achievements current. Having them easily accessible and organised helps you hit the ground running if you lose your job or if a new opportunity suddenly presents itself.
“Over time, we forget the important things we do, and they get lost in the day-to-day grind of life,” she said. Options for managing records of your accomplishments include storing them in a file cabinet, saving them in a folder on your hard drive, listing them on a spreadsheet, creating a slide deck, setting up a personal website or blog, or adopting a journaling app such as Evernote or Day One.
Invest in professional development. When you are employed, be sure to accept offers to participate in professional development activities. Simpson recommends taking advantage of every opportunity that comes your way, whether your company pays for it or you cover the cost yourself. After all, professional development is a great way to invest in yourself.
“Some career coaches recommend devoting from 1% to 3% of your annual gross income to your professional endeavours,” Simpson said. Maintaining continuing education not only sharpens your skills, but it also demonstrates a commitment to your profession that prospective employers will notice.
Practice self-care. While feeling good in body, mind, and spirit is important for your quality of life, it also provides the strong foundation you need when you embark on a job search. Staying balanced and in a good place mentally will help mitigate anxiety if you make a career change, and it will help you be your best self in interviews, because a recruiter or potential employer can sense if your spirits are down, Ruettimann said.
“I tell people to really think about their sleep, their nutrition, and their movement, and to maintain their energy levels,” she said.
She recommends setting aside time for praying, meditating, exercising, or even going for a walk in the woods.
“These mind-clearing activities help you be present and thoughtful in life and work, including job interviews, and that’s what gets you hired,” she said.
— Teri Saylor is a freelance writer based in North Carolina. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Drew Adamek, an FM magazine senior editor, at Andrew.Adamek@aicpa-cima.com.