Be ready for the next job even if you’re not looking right now.
January is a time when a lot of us start thinking about a new job. The rush of the holidays is over. Our current job probably stressed us out with some end of the year project. The family has gone home. We can think straight. We start looking. (Probably for many of the same reasons online dating spikes at the same time.)
But who is ready? I have plenty of friends looking for a new job or just curious what’s available but no one seems prepared in the moment to move. Here are two reasons why you should be ready:
1. Not being ready for the opportunity puts you at a serious disadvantage.
You’ll lose so many hours trying to decide on a portfolio, figure out how to word your resume, collect numbers and emails for references. All that paperwork kills the enthusiasm to move. Moving to a new job is no easy feat once you’ve got an offer. Having to think about all the to-dos before you can begin a job hunt in earnest is a needless hassle that often derails a person into settling with the status quo.
2. Another danger in not having those things ready when the time comes is that you’ll settle too soon.
I’ve gone through this and I’ve watched friends go through this scenario: we kinda want to look for a job, a friend refers us, shares a link, or we spontaneously apply somewhere. Suddenly, the job responds and wants to see a resume and references. We scramble to put that together and we don’t really contemplate the job that’s accidentally fallen into our lap.
I learned many years ago that I wouldn’t know when the right opportunity would come along so it would be best to keep everything current. Here are four things you can do to make sure you’re ready:
1. Make a resume in Google Docs and iterate it.
For years, I’ve kept a resume in Google Docs dated with the month and year. That lets me know the last time I updated it. Any time something interesting appears on my radar, I make a copy, change the date and then update the info in the document. So I have versioning of my resume. In the past, I’d always go crazy digging up old resumes and cutting/pasting info from one to another.
One really great thing about keeping up your resume this way is that you can see when it’s time to roll old jobs off the resume. Don’t worry about that outdated advice to keep your resume to one page. That’s ridiculous. Everyone who does that makes a terrible impression with their one page onto which they’ve tried to cram everything. But keeping old versions and iterating forward helps you see when three pages stretches to four that you can lose that internship from senior year that no one cares about.
Obviously, I preach iteration in everything, but the really important point is this: don’t get so hung up on the perfection of something that you can’t launch it. Don’t sweat a fancy format for a resume. Just make a resume. A plain text, sans-serif resume is all you need. I say that as a guy who has looked at a lot of resumes. All fancy formatting could ever do is turn me off.
And here’s another secret: when you go through online applications or placement agencies, the resume that gets spit out on the employer’s end has terrible formatting. Interviewers just want the overview, the timeline. They get the specifics in person.
2. Join LinkedIn
To my friends looking for a job but NOT on LinkedIn, I understand but I still shake my head. I joined the network several years ago and didn’t see any benefit from it so I quit. When I rejoined last year, I was pleased to see LinkedIn had grown up significantly since I’d used it. I now don’t understand how one looks for a job without it. The job listings on LinkedIn isn’t great but the recruiters there are. And it’s such a quick way to look over someone’s experience. I send others’ LinkedIn profiles and my own to anyone I know in a professional context.
3. Have a portfolio
Look, the carpenter’s house is never finished. No one keeps her portfolio up to date. But, like keeping a version of your resume on Docs, you should at the very least have a portfolio that you can update when you’re looking for a new job and refer people to for some examples of your work. When you don’t have this, you’re going to burn energy looking for the best portfolio service, deciding on a handle, trying to locate all those old files, et cetera. You’re going to waste time building instead of updating and applying.
An added benefit is that you can reduce the resume pages even more since you don’t have to list out individual pieces but can instead refer to your online portfolio.
4. Collect those references
Like all of the above, don’t be caught short looking for phone numbers and emails when an opportunity comes around. I keep my references in my resume so I look at them every time I update that document. I do add new people from time to time, not only to keep it current, but to make sure that my references speak best to the type of job I’m seeking.
Getting angry at your current position, being overlooked for a raise, hitting the end of a difficult year and making resolutions — these are all great motivators for a job search. But unless you have the pieces in place to follow through, you’re going to get frustrated and drain your energy much faster than you would with a little preparation. When my friends bitch to me about their jobs, I try to be helpful in my reply but often I say, with a little snark, “How’s your resume looking?” When they say they don’t have one or it isn’t current, I know they’ll be in the same place for a while.