There are a number of reasons why you’d actively look for a job. For example, you may hate what you do, get fired or laid off, or move to a new city. In these circumstances, you spend much of your free time filling out applications and reaching out to your contacts.
But there are a host of other scenarios too, such as starting a new position, enjoying what you do, or feeling like your current role is the key to broader career goals. In these instances, you might take a break from looking around, leave your resume untouched and maybe even let your network grow cold.
Certainly, I’m not suggesting you spend every day scouring job sites regardless of whether you’re actually interested in pursuing new opportunities. However, it’s unwise to see job hunting as an all-or-nothing activity (i.e., that when you want new employment it’s all you can do, and the rest of the time it’s the furthest thing from your mind). Why? Here’s just one example: Your contacts will see right through you reaching out only when you want job leads or a reference.
So, instead of thinking on terms of absolutes, think in terms of degree. This way, you won’t feel like you’re always job hunting or like you never get to take a rest from being a candidate. Instead, you’ll be pursuing a few career-boosting activities (that could also prepare you for an opportunity you don’t even know you want yet).
1. Stay in touch with your network
When you’re searching for a new job, you’re actively reaching out to your network. You’ll want to reconnect with dormant contacts, ask friends if they’d be comfortable recommending you and meet new people in your sector. And for good reason:
Now, when you’re not seeking new employment, you can dial it back a bit: There’s no need to send your resume to everyone you know and see how many coffee dates you can line up. However, as mentioned above, you’ll seem a lot more genuine when you reach out down the road, if you keep in touch with contacts semi-regularly. So, consider sending people a New Year’s card and then reaching out over the next twelve months — sending a quick update in early spring, and then asking how their summer went later in the year. Set aside some time each week to send LinkedIn invitations to people you’ve recently met. See if you know two people you can connect.
These small steps take a lot less effort than the job seeker’s version of networking, but they’ll benefit you in the meantime.
2. Keep your resume up to date
When you’re job hunting, updating your resume is key. You may adjust its aesthetic as well as its content; and you may be creating multiple versions, optimized for a variety of positions or an applicant tracking system.
When you’re not looking for a job, you don’t need to spend as much time tweaking (and re-tweaking) your resume. However, there are many benefits to keeping it generally updated. This way, if you meet someone who offers you a great opportunity — maybe to participate in an upcoming conference or be introduced to someone prestigious — you can follow up with your resume and be assured it’ll only take you a quick once-over to get it ready, rather than several hours to add in your new job (or jobs), choose what to remove, etc.
Bonus: If you keep your LinkedIn profile up to date, you’ll be able to quickly cross-reference (or add) dates and responsibilities, and in a pinch, send your profile along.
3. Stay relevant
When you’re applying to a new job, you do more than keep an eye (or ear) out for new opportunities. You want to make sure you’re out there, with current social profiles and maybe a website, blog or articles on different platforms.
But this is hard to do overnight. It’s noticeable if you only started writing articles on LinkedIn or Medium last week, or if there’s a six month lag in your blog posts or tweets. So, commit to keeping a regular schedule for your personal branding and influencer activities — even if it’s just updating your personal website with fresh content and then sharing that across your platforms.
In the future, these activities will help you have a good track record, and maybe even draw in recruiters and headhunters. You could be approached with an opportunity you’d never know existed otherwise — be it for a full-time position or a side gig.
It’s true: Job hunting is stressful. But the answer is not to restrict all activities you associate with it to times when you’re desperate for a new position. Instead, tailor them to your unique situation and view them as career-boosting moves. The fact that you’ll already be ahead of the game the next time you start a job search is just a perk.