When should you look for a job?

I’m going to be speaking tonight to a groups of volunteers interested in helping people become or remain self-reliant with regard to money, careers, etc.  I was invited to speak because of JibberJobber, of course, not because I’m so great at looking for a job :p

As I prepare for the presentation I had some thoughts that I wanted to post here – all in line with “when is the best time to look for a job”… which is, of course, when you don’t need one!

So, if you aren’t looking for a job, or don’t need one, what should you be doing to have true “job security?”  Here are a few steps that everyone that is fat and happy in their job should be doing, right now:

  1. Take a personal job seeker inventory. sit down for about an hour and pretend that you have just lost your job.  What are you going to do RIGHT NOW?
    1. How much money do you have stashed away (which will translate into when exactly do I need to have a paycheck coming in again)?
    2. Where is that resume, and is it missing anything (your latest positions, experiences, successes, etc.)?  Do you have a “master resume” that you can copy and paste from.
    3. What recruiters/headhunters do you know *that know you*?  You need to call them right away and let them know you are now available.
    4. What networking/association meetings will you go to, and when are they, so you can begin networking?
    5. How are you going to apply to job boards, which ones (are there specific industry boards that you should be on?)
    6. Who are you going to call, and how many people will you call each day, to kick your networking into high gear?
    7. When you call people, what are you going to say?
  2. Sit down with someone, casually, and discuss your preparation with them.  It should be someone that is in a position at least on your level, preferrably higher.  A lot of times an employment counselor (or coach, if you are senior enough) is a great resource because they aren’t coming at this with emotions, and have a good way of being tactfully blunt.
  3. Going back to the first point, get all of those items in order.  It will take work, but it is better to have it ready and prepared now than to have to burn the first week or two getting it all together.
  4. Go to a networking event – put on by an association or something like that.  There are tons of them, and the relationships that you develop can be invaluable down the road.  This is a great time to practice your elevator pitch – it is better to practice it here than in your first interview!
  5. Take someone out to lunch once a week.  This is just an informal chat session with a purpose.  You need to strengthen your network relationships NOW, not when you most need them.
  6. Check out Monster and other boards once a month or so to see what jobs are being posted for.  In my last job I would frequently check out competitor’s job postings which would give me information on where they were at in their company, and what strategic decisions they had made.
  7. Develop relationships with some recruiters.  It might be annoying if they call you often asking “who do you know…” – they are just looking for leads to fill a position.  Take it as a compliment that they contact you, and know that when the time comes you’ll be able to call them and they will already know you – especially if they have helped you.
  8. Mentor someone in their career.  Thinking about and helping others in their career moves, transitions, improvement, etc. will be beneficial to you during your career.

When you are happily employed, the prospect of being unemployed is like the big fat pink elephant in the break room that no one talks about.  It could happen to anyone, at any level, at any time.  You can prepare now, or burn a week or two of your job search later.