Let’s face it – when we are on the hunt for a new opportunity, whether that is through a different job or by going out on our own to start a new business, the transition is not as clean as it may appear. The majority of people do not say sayonara to their old job with absolutely no plan; they have been laying the groundwork to get themselves set up for that big jump.
So how do you go about making the most of your remaining time with employer X, while getting your ducks in a row for the next opportunity? Here are a few thoughts on the matter. You can take them or leave them, based on what you feel is right (and honestly, what you feel is right may often be based on how kind your current employer has been to you now and in the past).
If training is offered by your current employer, by all means, take advantage of it! Certification programs and software trainings, as a few examples, can provide you with valuable skills that will serve you in your current position, as well as future ones. You may want to think outside the box here, as some skills may be acquired by volunteering for a new role or project at your current job. You may have no idea if you are going to be with your current employer for another six months or another week. Plan for your exit, but don’t feel bad about taking on roles that will teach you new skills, even if you are just getting up to speed when it’s time to say goodbye.
Just be sure to do some research on what are marketable skills and certifications in your desired job field. This could be done by browsing job boards to see what experience specific postings ask for, or through interviewing people already in that field.
2. Leave a Lasting (Good) Impression
It has been said that ‘it’s a small world,’ and depending on your profession and location, this can be very true. You never know who else in your organization you will come across elsewhere, so be nice. They also say to not burn bridges and this is so true. You never know when a coworker will be the decision-maker in a future position you apply for. If you have made an especially good impression with that person, they might even reach out to you for an opportunity later on, once they have moved on to your dream organization!
I make a point of doing the occasional coffee meeting with folks outside of my immediate office. This helps me keep up on what’s going on around the building while also getting a chance to build professional relationships. You may network within your own organization, or look for opportunities to network with people in your field outside of your organization. This could be done by joining a professional association and participating in their local chapter. You could also take on volunteer roles in your local community or even on the board of a non-profit. Find a couple of organizations that relate to your career field, your desired career field, or even related to a cause you believe in. And then start keeping up to speed on their events and activities. Follow them on Twitter, get on their email list, attend their annual charity dinner, or whatever else you can to show your interest in and commitment to their cause. At the very least, you will make some new friends, and you could possibly find your next job through the connections you make.
You know that person you just had coffee with? They may be a great reference down the line. The key here is to have references lined up ahead of time. I can’t tell you how many times I have been applying a job on the day it closes, only to find that they want three references and I am left scrambling. Don’t let this happen to you. Get a few references now, and ensure you have their most current contact information. Reach out regularly to your intended references – at least once a year – and make sure they know they are still on your list. That way they won’t be caught off guard if a potential employer reaches out.
LinkedIn – LinkedIn has an option which allows you to request a recommendation from a colleague. The recommendation will then be posted (upon your approval) on your LinkedIn page. I think some people go overboard here by adding too many recommendations but I think it’s nice to have two or three, with at least one from a person who works with you currently.
5. Maintaining Existing Relationships
While this sounds a lot like networking, I’m talking about relationships you have with folks outside of your networking efforts. Think college classmates, old high school friends, even that distant cousin who managed to score a job with that cool new start-up. We are all busy, and no one is expecting you to meet them weekly for a business lunch, but you can certainly keep communications open with people. Do you have a colleague you bounce business ideas off of? A friend from college who’s profession interests you? Check in with them occasionally. Drop a line to a few folks on FaceBook, just to say hi and see how they are doing (and keep doing this on occasion). If you do decide to leave your current employer, get coworkers’ contact information, or simply connect with them on LinkedIn. You may want to pick their brain later on down the road, as you transition to another employer or career field.
This probably goes without saying, but be happy you currently have an income. If you must, use some of your extra cash to stand up your next venture, to hire a career coach or to attend a business conference you are interested in. It’ll be much easier to convince yourself (and your spouse) to make the investment while you still have money coming in.
7. Talk Yourself Up
Ok, ok. I am not saying you need to brag and be ‘that person’ at parties, but let people know what field you are in. Tell your neighbors a little about what you do, without getting to the point of oversharing. I know many people (myself included) who don’t mix their professional and personal worlds too much. But if an opportunity comes up and no one in your personal life even knows what you do for a living or what your skill sets are, they certainly can’t recommend you. So be sure to let others know what you do – and do it while you still have a job. Then you sharing this information doesn’t come from a place of desperation (i.e. “I am an accountant, are you hiring?!”).
You may not love where you are now, but there are plenty of ways to benefit from your current job while being a valuable asset to that employer. Make it a win-win for you both by continuing to do good work for your employer as you continue building your own knowledge, skills and networks.