Guest post by Tom Dunn, Senior Managing Consultant with Helbling & Associates.
Actively seeking a new position while being employed can be a daunting situation. You’re ready to take on the next challenge in your career, but you want to do so without jeopardizing your current performance and position, avoid souring relations with your employer, or making a lateral move. The rules for best handling this process can be very different dependent on your experience level and the type of position that you are seeking, but there is one simple suggestion that can provide a major benefit to your search…
NETWORK! The idea of networking has become somewhat of a cliché, so do not necessarily view networking as attending industry functions, going to golf outings, etc. Networking needs to be a daily practice with multiple layers and approaches, many of which are relatively easy to manage. First, know who your peers (and potential bosses) are within competing organizations. It is easy to get caught in your own world in the day-to-day, but making sure that you know key individuals within your competition is important on multiple levels. You gain valuable strategic insight into your competitors as well as into future potential employers. By knowing this information and fostering those relationships, you will position yourself to be a front-of-the-mind target when those organizations are seeking talent. (I am always surprised about how little people know about individuals within their competition when asking for referrals during a search.)
Secondly, (and I may be biased here), avoid ignoring recruiters. Not all recruiters are created equal, and you should be able to sort that out fairly quickly based on how a recruiter presents an opportunity, the questions that they ask, and the overall approach that they take. Spending 10-15 minutes of your life to talk to a recruiter, even if you pass on an opportunity, can lead to major benefits in the long term. For more senior-level positions, creating relationships with retained search firms will provide you the greatest benefit, but if you are early in your career also consider listening to a contingency recruiter who may be responsible for a high-volume of needs. That being said, if confidentiality is a concern, it may be prudent to stick to retained search firms who are working exclusively for a single client to avoid your resume showing up within organizations you may want to avoid. Ultimately, recruiters are the gatekeepers for some of the most coveted positions within the industry, so if you are on their radar and maintain a positive relationship, you will be a target for future searches.
All in all, there is no magic formula for actively seeking a new job while employed, but you can do a few small things to put yourself in a better position for your next job to find you. Also, keep in mind that your next career move can become a moot point if you are not performing in your current role, so it is critical that you stay highly engaged in your current duties while exploring potential opportunities to avoid tarnishing the strong reputation that you worked hard to build.
Tom Dunn is a Senior Managing Consultant with Helbling & Associates. Tom joined Helbling & Associates in early 2010, and has broad experience in developing search strategies, performing recruitment and managing executive searches for domestic and Canadian contractors, specialty contractors, engineering conglomerates, private equity firms, real estate developers, energy management firms, healthcare systems, museums, and universities and colleges.