You may not be surprised to learn the best time to find a job is when you already have a job. Recent ERE.net research shows that some employers consider passive candidates—people not actively looking for work because they're employed—one of the best sources of hires.
When you consider that no job is forever, and the fact that the average employee will have between 10 and 15 jobs in a career, it's wise to take action to positively influence your chances to land a new job, even if you don't think you need one right now.
Jonathan Kreindler, founder of FreshTransition.com, a free, web-based career management system that provides guidance from a community of career experts, suggests these tips to help you stay competitive when your next transition may be just around the corner:
1. Broaden your scope. Kreindler notes: "While you likely have a full-plate at work already, consider ways to take on different challenges within your role. When you do, you'll not only become more valuable to your current employer, but you'll learn new skills, enhance your experience, and expand the number of opportunities you'll be suitable for next time you're actively looking."
2. Seize opportunities to try new things. While it is important to have niche expertise, don't let yourself be pigeonholed in one very specific area for years on end. Keep a close eye on where your field is headed and don't keep your head buried in the sand. When you're aware of trends and potential hot areas, you'll be in a better position to advance your career.
3. Don't be passive, but passively search. "Conducting a passive search doesn't necessarily mean you're applying for jobs with the intention of leaving your current role behind. Rather, it's all about exploring your options, understanding your value, and determining what gaps exist between the role you have today and the role you aspire to in the future," explains Kreindler.
Research your competitors by tracking their social media company pages (especially on LinkedIn, where you'll be able to tell when companies hire new people). Follow industry leaders on social media and keep track of the news about your field. One easy way to do this is to find and follow industry thought leaders on Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn. Read their updates and you'll keep up-to-date about what is going on in your field with very little effort on your part.
4. Prepare for surprises. Few would question that being prepared is the best way to reduce the impact of a work-related surprise. Kreindler notes: "Knowing what other job options are available to you while you're employed enables you to hit-the-ground running if you find yourself on the receiving-end of a career surprise."
He adds, "Starting a job search from scratch takes time, but turning your passive search into an active search requires only a change in your mind set."
Sign up for job alerts, keep an eye on jobs posted on LinkedIn (which shows you who posted the job and how you're connected to that person), and stay up-to-date on news that affects your industry. If a major competitor just won a huge government contract, for example, you want to make sure you know. Sign up for Google alerts for company names so you will receive emails as soon as Google indexes something about the organization.
5. Explore your interests and recalibrate as you go. "Always make a point to explore interesting careers, learn about the skills you'll need, and network with people who have jobs that you aspire to," Kreindler notes. When you actively explore and research, you'll decrease the chances that you'll be caught off guard when it's time to find something new. Additionally, Kreindler says: "You'll build your network, make yourself more employable, and focus on a direction where you want to go with your career."
Manage your own career, whether you're looking for a new job or not. Keep ahead of the competition and make yourself more marketable by planning ahead and keeping abreast of your options. You'll decrease the amount of time you spend between opportunities.
Miriam Salpeter is a job search and social media consultant, career coach, author, speaker, resume writer, and owner of Keppie Careers. She is author of Social Networking for Career Success. Miriam teaches job seekers and entrepreneurs how to incorporate social media tools along with traditional strategies to empower their success.