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.

Nick’s Reply

should you interviewWhen 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?

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  1. Dear Nick,
    What you describe is building a useful network to rely on when you need it, but as well to contribute to on a regular basis. This is very important to do this all the time.
    It is as well good to practice job interviews from time to time to be ready if you need to shine.
    Still, I think you should not do job interviews too often since they might distract your focus on your current job. And doing job interviews without a real focus and passion for the job does not make a lot of sense – at least to me.
    Just my two cents to share :)

    I love to read your stories. Please keep up your great work!

  2. In my experience, keep your options open through networking. I never applied for jobs, sent resumes or interviewed unless I was unemployed … which was rare since I had a strong network. Utilize industry associations to learn, expand your knowledge and meet people who can either hire you or refer you to people who need your talent.

    The glory of my day would come when talking with an executive who would invariably say something like; “I wish I had you on my team… call me if you’re ever looking for a new challenge.”

    And, your network will watch out for you… I was once “saved” after my company sold out by a referral from my network that landed me a desired relocation and great job.

  3. When networking and informational interviewing, especially in this crazy job market, it’s important to let people know, clearly, why we’re contacting them, and to give them a totally free choice to accept our request or not.

    Some people use an approach like, “Hi. My name is Chris. I’m looking for a job. Are you hiring, or do you know anyone who is?” or “Hi. I’m looking for a job, and I see that your organization is hiring for what I’m looking for. Can you refer me to someone there, or recommend me?”

    A much better (and way more effective) way to approach people is as follows:

    Barbara, my name is Chester Goodfellow, and LaLan Smith from Home Again Ministries suggested I contact you. I just returned home here in Palo Alto after being gone for about ten years, and am looking for employment in the heating and air conditioning trades or manufacturing maintenance. Please understand, I don’t expect you to be hiring or to know anyone who is, but LaLan thought you might be able to give me some advice and guidance regarding the commercial heating and cooling market, and I have three specific questions that I’d like to ask you. Would it be possible to arrange a time to talk together for no more than twenty minutes sometime in the next week or two?”


    Bernadeau, my name is Chester Goodfellow, and LaLan Smith from Home Again Ministries suggested I contact you. I just returned home here in Palo Alto after being gone for about ten years, and am looking for employment in manufacturing maintenance. I looked at your website and see that you’re hiring, but please understand, that’s not why I’m calling. LaLan thought you might be able to give me some insight into the new California Trades Enhancement Initiative, and how it’s impacting companies like yours. Would it be possible to arrange a time to talk together for no more than twenty minutes sometime in the next week or two?”

    • Chris: You know how much I love “how to say it!” Thanks for the words!

  4. The resistance consistently shown toward “socializing”/networking never ceases to amaze. How hard is it? Apparently having friends (unless something material can be extracted) doesn’t exist in our culture today.

  5. Frankly, from the recruiting & Hiring Mgr standpoints I don’t like the idea of
    exploratory interviewing. From the standpoint of the interviewee, yes they offer useful practice, & gain useful info. But mostly it wastes my time & that of others. Because when I interviewed someone & I think they’re serious, they don’t just talk to me, but a # of others in my team as well as other interested parties. And usually it becomes obvious when a candidate is tire kicking, & the waste of time is on me, my bad.

    The ideas of transparent info exchange, info gathering, and all the other of Nick’s suggestions that constitute the bricks of building a network are spot on.

    When intentions are up front I’ll gladly invest time with someone who’s happy where they are, but want to kick the tires of my company. It benefits my network building. In which case, they’ll meet only with me.

    I think we all sin when it comes to keeping your head up & tending to network building. And when you’d like to draw on your network, it has dried up. And you have to effect that change you want from a cold start, instead of at least a warm one.

    When people land in a new spot the natural tendency is to bear down, focus on making your new job a success and you quickly lose sight of the outside world. Time flies when you’re having fun and off you go into the woodwork.

    It’s easy to say, but it’s good personal business to keep you head up and invest some of your time in yourself. Make it your business to be involved in all those activities Nick noted. And any others that you find works for you. Stick time on your calendar just for that type of business & keep it in your face. Nag yourself to do it.

    One good way is to help others. There’s always an ample supply of job hunters in your field or generally. And whatever your professional interests are there’s a good # of others currently happy in where they are who would like to meet other in their field. Someone has to take the initiative to make meetings happen, Be that person.

    Wrestle yourself to the ground and force yourself to crawl out from under your happy (or not) work rock and put some substance into the concept of an informational interview. Give people some of your time. If you know enough about job hunting to be dangerous, offer help to job hunters. If approached, be receptive.

    Invest in time that makes you findable. Don’t just attend professional meetings, be a speaker. Share. Help out the professional group. Run meetings. move the chairs and tables around. Write white papers. You’ll be remembered.

    There’s a flip side to the old saying that success is root in who you know. It’s much better when people know you and/or about you. You’ll be sought out, not the seeker.

    As to the writer, I’d advise, please don’t do that. But..put your time into trying to connect to hiring managers and be up front. Tell them you’re happily employed, but their need caught your eye, & at this point don’t want to waste their time. & how about lunch?

    • @Don: I, too, discourage interviewing for its own sake. It’s far more productive to seek out, hang out with, and talk with people who do the work you want to do in companies where you’d like to do it.

  6. Absolutely! ABN — Always Be Networking

  7. “It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark.”

    Howard Ruff

  8. Such a wonderful advice, and hopefully young people do read this article since that will cultivate in them the desire to understand how to create long lasting connections and relationships that can lead them further into a more satisfying career path.

    Your list of what to do – is so good!


    Dohrea Bardell, PhD
    BioImmersion Inc.

  9. Sounds great.

    I can’t get anyone to answer me. I’m in a remote area and reliant on public transport so I can’t just pop to networking events for a drink either.

  10. Yes, please do the informational interviews. YOU will be learning. Iteresting that the HR guy done not like it when you kick the tires but that is what theu do to everybody else! But HR does not feel confortable with the same practice. Tit for tat, and the emplyee learns a lot. Look at it as having fun with HR.

    The real way to create a powerful career is to set out your desired salary progression from initial hire to when you retire, alonmg with promotions, titles, bonuses, stock gtants, etc. Be aggressive.

    Use a spreadsheet and update it monthly. Yes, momthly. Plot out various senarios. Start, for example, with the salary for your first job. On top of that add amounts of bojuses, stock, etc making sure to identifu each. Do the same for your next job. Then, when you are up to date, continue with salary, bonus, stock cash values that you wish to receive over the life of your career. Save theis. Then copy this oinformation to several orher Excel tabs.Experiment with differing scenarious of time between raises, bonuses, stock grants, etc. Actually, do this for a dozen tagbs.

    Then, go back and see what money, cash, et al that you might be giving away if you do not promotion-hop or job-hop with high frequency. NOTE: a person with a higher current salary receives an even higher salary on each succeeding promotion or job / employer change. TRY IT YOU’LL LIKE IT!

    Ignore the employer propaganda bout job hoppingt. When they reloize that you have the greater achievements, the ogher job titles, the higher bonuses, promotions, et al, you will be the one who gets the next higher job with all of its benefits.

    Be always looking for how you can brint in the cash for your employer. [I know people who have added $10,000,000 to their employer’s bank account and never receive a “Than you.” Another, added $500,000,000 in one year.I know, I was with each when the employer’s Treasurer and their Controller (two different people) confirmed these facts.] Never ever a “Thank you.” No money either.

    If you don’t plan out your career in this manner you will most definitely be taken advantage of. Opportunities never obtained. Cash never received. Nor stock. Nor bonuses. Nor training. nor … everything.