I’ve worked for my company for five years. I get assigned to different jobs often enough that I never get bored, and I keep learning new skills. So I’m not in danger of getting rusty or falling behind on training. I’m really pretty happy and I’m treated well. I envision staying in my industry a few more years, then I would look around for something else, maybe even in another city where housing prices are reasonable. So, should I apply to the occasional job posting online and interview anyway, even if I’m happy? My vacation time is precious, and I’d hate to waste my time or other people’s time on job interviews when I’m not really looking.
When you walk into a restaurant because you want maple-glazed salmon, do you think the chef runs out to go fish for your salmon while the sous chef taps a couple of maple trees? My guess is the restaurant developed ready sources of ingredients long before it needed them, because planning ahead is good.
So you, too, should line up now what you will need later: new friends and contacts, opportunities, employers and options. In fact, you should have started two years ago because that’s how long it can take to land a good job. In other words, you should always be doing that.
Should you interview even if you don’t need to seek a job? It doesn’t have to involve applying for jobs or interviewing. Exploring future job opportunities doesn’t have to culminate in discussions about a job today. But here’s the key: It’s enough to pinpoint companies and people where you might go when the time comes. Knowing where you want to go and who can help get you there, before it’s time to move, will give you an incredible edge in your job search.
Should you interview now?
Sure. But it’s more than that — and it’s even less. There are things you must do before you can get good interviews.
- Start meeting people who work in companies where you think you might like to work. If these companies are out of town, meet them via e-mail, on the phone, via Zoom – or when you’re traveling. These connections will grow in value, often slowly, but there are no returns in isolation.
- Did you read a good article about a certain company or business line? Drop a note to the author (or to the people mentioned in the article) or call them. Explore the subject of the article further. Ask about their company, about their career, about the place they live. Make a new friend.
- Stay in touch. Trade useful information as an ongoing habit. I find people are more inclined to respond when you’re not fishing for a job.
- Attend some trade shows or training programs where you can easily meet people in your industry. Have a beer with someone you don’t know. The more people you meet, the more likely you are to become “the person that’s wired for the job.”
- Take advantage of virtual meeting tools, but make no mistake. You are not likely to compete effectively against someone who makes first-degree contact — that is, in person — with people you need to meet.
- At these events, participate in discussions about jobs and employers. Add your two bits. Offer to give someone who’s interested in your company a “cook’s tour,” or to make an introduction. (I’m sure your company would love such referrals!)
- What goes around comes around. It’s good to do career favors for others. These need not be big favors. Don’t expect something in return each time, but trust that contributing to the pool of good deeds produces more good deeds, and that will make your life better. It may even help you find your next job.
But, should you interview now?
It’s not really about interviewing, but going on an interview now and then, if a company really sparks your interest, can be a good thing. (See Which companies should I apply to?) There’s no guarantee they’re going to hire you, so don’t feel you have to be ready to accept a job. As long as you’re genuinely interested in the people, the business and the work, don’t worry about misrepresenting your intentions. The purpose of interviews is for employers and workers to meet one another and explore.
You might have noticed a common thread in all these suggestions: They all involve taking the initiative to meet new people and doing it all the time, even if you’re not interviewing. That’s where future job opportunities come from. That’s how you can keep your supply chain of opportunities stocked without wasting anyone’s time. Do your fishing before you need to eat.
It’s good to hear from someone who likes their work and their employer. Thanks for a new spin on an old question.
For real? A last word
I know many people will read my suggestions and scratch their heads. “For real, Nick? Who has the time or inclination to do all or any of that? It all sounds great but it’s not realistic in any job market!”
If you don’t do some of the things I suggest, you’re left with the status quo. You will get rejected again and again for jobs you applied for just because they came along — not because you really want them or can do them, or because they’re good for your career. The Employment System is an overly automated database-numbers game. Cynics play along and hope for the best, which usually means they get hired for a job they will likely soon quit or get fired from because it was wrong for them to begin with.
There is no easy, automated way to let the Employment System lead you to a job. This System leaves personal and business catastrophes in its wake every day. Pretending it might work when you need it is, I believe, a big mistake.
Do you wait until you need a job to find a job? How much time do you invest in cultivating relationships and connections in advance of a job search? Should you interview regularly to stay ahead of the game? What’s the best way to do it?