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Do’s and Don’ts Before Considering a Job Change

Do’s and Don’ts Before Considering a Job Change
Now that the economy is strong and the media is reporting on-going “Talent shortages”, maybe you’ve thought about taking a look outside of your current employment – Is the grass really greener on the other side?

Your reasons could vary – perhaps your current employer doesn’t offer the career growth they promised you, maybe you didn’t receive an expected year end bonus, maybe you know you can make more money somewhere else, possibly your contributions are not recognized or it could be simply that you don’t get along with your boss. There are plenty of reasons to move on, and now could be the time to start looking. However, before cutting the ties with your current employer, consider these important Do’s and Don’ts.

  1. Don’t Quit without having another job to go to. Even if you’ve got lots of money socked away in the bank, you are most likely going to experience a few months of searching, interviewing, and negotiating before landing that next job. What if it falls through? You’re back to a continued search. A month turns into several months, sometimes even a year. Then a potential employer wants to know why you quit your job, why you’ve been unemployed for so long? Both are red flags that can mean the difference between an interview and continued unemployment. Plus, if you quit, you carry a certain stigma with you that can also create a red flag to a potential employer. “Why did he quit? If he gets frustrated here, will he just up and quit as well?”
  2. Do Ask Yourself Why you want to leave your current job. Before you consider a move, make sure you have done everything you can to make changes at your current employer. When I speak to a potential candidate about leaving a current job, I ask them this question: “If you were your boss what four things about your current job, would you change?” There are no right and wrong answers here, but the answers themselves will divulge the real reasons you are searching for another position. You may find that the answers are issues that you can resolve simply by speaking with your boss or co-workers. If “more money” is your reason, exhaust all avenues of obtaining a raise before seeking employment elsewhere. Headhunters are not prone to working with candidates whose main reason for leaving a company is “more money”. Why? Because these candidates are most likely to accept a counter-offer by their employer. Accepting a counter-offer from your current employer is a recipe for disaster. In short, you’ve marked yourself as a person not happy where you are and disloyal in the eyes of many employers. Guess who will be laid off at the most convenient time for the employer? Guess who will be passed over for promotion? Guess who will find themselves on the outside of “inside information” circles? If you are truly serious about looking for a new opportunity to better your career, go ahead and look, but be discreet and continue to give your current employer 100%.
  3. Do Accept Calls from Headhunters. As a professional, you should have a relationship with a headhunter or two, before you ever need one. Just as you have a team of health, legal and financial management in the form of a doctor, dentist, attorney, financial planner and CPA, you must also have a headhunter as part of your career management. Working with headhunters gives you an opportunity for broader exposure than you can get on your own. Always take their call. On average, three out of ten people won’t return a headhunters calls or will say they’re too busy to talk, with science and technology professionals being the worst offenders. If you don’t cooperate, chances are you won’t be contacted by that firm again.

    One engineer I know refused to speak to a recruiter when he called about an opening for a vice president of engineering job. Less than a month later, that same engineer’s resume arrived at the search firm. He’d been downsized out of his job. Want to guess where his resume went? Not wanting to talk to a recruiter shows that you lack sophistication — a definite blow to your prospects.

    I recall one company that threatened to fire its employees if they accepted a call from a headhunter. Did that stop employees from talking? No, it actually encouraged it; they just carried on the conversations at home. Any company that threatens its employees can’t be the best environment for an employee and sets itself up for turnover issues. Today, that company is out of business.

    What if you don’t get calls from headhunters? Make yourself more visible within the market and industry. Become involved in industry associations, professional networks (I don’t mean Chamber of Commerce events either, see below) and research recruiters that specialize in your industry; call them and introduce yourself. Don’t email blast your resume to every headhunter in the universe – it just ends up in the trash file. Also, don’t send mass “snail mail” of your resume to recruiters. That just ends up in the trash can as well. Offer to be a source of leads. “Give and you shall receive” goes a long way here. I have a large network of industry people who keep in touch with me, some offer me leads, some I bounce prospective searches by, some give me feedback on industry and market trends, while in turn, I give away tons of advice on career situations, resume writing, search methods as well as national trends I see in the industry. Some candidates I’ve helped place twice in their industry due to company restructuring. This is because I maintain a relationship with candidates I’ve worked with in the past.

    What if you are not “the best”? Let’s face it; although we may rule the roost at home, not all of us are “top dogs” at work. Not all of us are superstars, trend-setters, and employee of the month. Many of us are “salt of the earth”, loyal, hardworking, get the job done kind of people. Does that mean you are not deserving of bettering your career? Not in the least. Despite beliefs to the contrary, employers are not always looking just for the superstar, or the person who walks on water. Most Type A personalities, superstars, and water walkers are also hard to manage. Some may be superstars, but many times they also require high maintenance. Executives and mangers also depend greatly on the “salt of the earth” employee. So what do you have to offer a potential employer if you are not a superstar? Well, take an honest assessment of your career – we’ve all had accomplishments – list them. Do you also have a strong work ethic? You’d be amazed at how many people today have no work ethic, are self centered, and believe they are entitled to everything in life for free. Employers are not looking for people like this. They are looking for team players with a strong work ethic, loyalty, hard workers, and those dedicated to company and industry. These are but a few traits you can offer a new employer.

  4. Do Join a network of professionals. Make it easy for headhunters and recruiters, as well as business associates to find you. I recommend Linked-In and Zoom Info. Professionals can post their bios for free. Not only can you be found, you but you can also network with people within your industry. Industry trade associations are other great places to meet like minded professionals as well as network for new job opportunities without announcing to the world that you are ready to leave your current employer. Building a network for yourself will be an invaluable asset if you decide (or are forced) to make a career change.
  5. Don’t Post Your Resume On Job Boards. There are large job boards, and there are specialized job boards, many of which will allow you to post your resume for free. Job board postings are for unemployed people. What do you think your current employer will think when they find out (and they will) that your resume is posted online? Some will call a headhunter and start a search for a new person to fill your position. The least that will happen is that you will be branded disloyal and ostracized from the “inner group”.
  6. Do Go back to School. If you do not have a four year degree, you are at an extreme disadvantage in the employment market as well as advancing in your career. You can argue all day long about how successful you’ve been without a degree or how smart you are without a degree, but the simple facts of life are: if you want to move up in your career, a degree is vital. I recruit in the technology markets and I can’t remember a client over the past ten years that would even look at a candidate who didn’t possess a four year degree. It’s a fact of life in the business world, so if you don’t have one, get one. I recall a candidate who was one credit shy of receiving his bachelors degree. After ten years, he still hadn’t gone back to earn that one credit. He had every excuse in the book; marriage, kids, new home, hobbies, etc. This reflected a red flag to the potential employer about his personality and professional ability to complete projects. They wouldn’t hire him.
  7. Do Make A Decision. Once you’ve made a decision to explore new employment situations, look for situations that would fit your behavior, skills and background. If you want to change careers to a new field, you need to speak with a career counselor, not a recruiter. Recruiters and headhunters specialize in placing people in specific positions that they are already qualified and experienced to fill. When I’m approached by employees who are not happy where they are, I ask them to do three things: First, make a decision as to what they are looking for in a new situation. Second, list geographical areas they are willing to consider relocating to and Third, decide what companies they are interested in working at.
    • To start, decide what you are looking for in a new opportunity, go back to the list of reasons you want to leave your current job. There you will find your reason for wanting a new situation. Be realistic though. If you are an engineer now, you may want a new job as a Director, but realistically, you need to be looking for the next step towards that title which may be a Team Leader, or Group Manager.
    • Decide what geographical area you are willing to consider. Many candidates decide they will not, under any circumstance, relocate. Nine months of unemployment later, they start to change their mind. You may be passing up the best situation for your life or career by refusing to look outside of your current city. Your current industry may also limit your opportunities by not relocating. You may also have kids in high school or a spouse whose career is not relocatable. These are all situations to consider. Remember, headhunters usually work a national desk, so most are unable to use the full extent of their skills, network, and expertise to help you, if you limit yourself geographically. I have a brilliant engineering friend who hates his current employer and calls me every other week to see if I’ve found him a job. He has limited his geographical area to a 30 minute commute from his home in Los Angeles. Well that’s extremely limiting to a headhunter, so as you can see, there’s not much I can do to help him, unless he goes to the next step.
    • Decide what companies you want to work for. You may ask, “Isn’t that the job of a headhunter, to find opportunities for the candidate?” No, its not. A headhunter is paid by employers to find top talent for a specific position. Many may specialize in a specific industry and know of other opportunities not posted on line. Most headhunters will also market a select few candidates, what is called a “Most Placeable Candidate” (MPC) to industry companies. I ask employees who request this type of assistance from me, to give me a list of 25-50 companies they would like to work for. It doesn’t matter if they have a position posted or not. There is an entire “hidden job market” out there in companies that do not post jobs on-line because they get inundated with thousands of unemployed, non-qualified resumes. Other companies will look at a top talent, knowing they will need to hire someone a few months down the road anyway, and if the right person came along now – it would be time to grab them. HR may not even know this, so if you blast your resume out to the company HR department, it may be overlooked or chucked in the deleted file, but, if a headhunter picks up the phone and calls an executive of a desired company and “sells” your skills and abilities, you just may have a shot at an interview. I know some people who are arrogant enough to think they can do this themselves – these are the same people who think they can diagnose their own illnesses, represent themselves in a court case, and cut their own hair.

Decision making on your part must include your significant other as well. You’d be amazed at how many people, especially men, will talk to a headhunter about relocating to a city, without ever talking to their significant other, only later to find out that they will be divorced if they accept a new job in that location.

These are some of the most important things to keep in mind when you are considering making a career move. Depending on which poll you subscribe to, sixty to eighty percent of employees are not happy at any given moment with their current employment. If you aren’t happy, decide why and if you can correct the situation before investing the time and energy into seeking greener grass elsewhere. If you’ve tried with no success, then it’s time and the economy and market today make it a great time to make a move.

Gary Perman is President of Perman Technical Search Group, a national search firm that specializes in recruiting Executives to Engineers in the technology industry since 1996.
If you have questions about this article, feel free to contact him at [email protected]

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Gary Perman is a certified recruiting professional and owns PermanTech, which specializes in recruiting technology executives, managers and engineers. He hosts an employment-technology blog.

See our Blog for Technology discussions,Interviewing advice, comments relating to IT, Software, Technology issues.