Dear JobsBlog: I’m pretty happily with my current job, but I’m ready to take the next step in my career. How do I negotiate a job search while I am still employed? I am nervous about my current employer finding out that I am interested in looking at other companies. Is there a way for me to do this tactfully?
Dear Happy: Though it might be scary, one of the best things you can do for yourself while you are content in your current job is to keep yourself marketable. This means that you have to take the initiative and step out of your comfort zone a bit. Trying a few of these things below can really keep your skills fresh. And who knows? It may also lead you exactly to that next step in your career.
1. “Finding out what you’re worth” – Someone I know recently coined this phrase. It had been 14 years since he had last interviewed outside of his company and it was an eye opening experience for him. To keep yourself marketable, you should interview outside of your company at least once every two years to keep your interview skills strong, see how employers in your field are evaluating candidates, and to “see what you’re worth” as far as any potential offers might receive. This is invaluable because you are forced to go through preparation, perform industry research, and see what it takes to get to the next step or into the top company for your field. If you can’t even get out of the gate (i.e. land an interview) you know that you have a lot of work to do. And that is a whole other blog topic!
2. Keep your resume ‘interview ready’ – As you put in the years at your current company, you undoubtedly are doing amazing things. Keep a running personal cheat sheet that documents what you do in each job as you move up; any awards you receive, patents you file, huge projects you have shipped successfully, etc. When it comes time to write your resume, you won’t be scratching your head and thinking about where to start. You have the main components of your resume handy and all of the content was written when it was fresh in your mind.
3. Do your research – Keeping up to date on your industry – the big deals, new comers, and technology changes – will keep you sharp. You should also occasionally look at what employers are looking for as far as requirements. You don’t want to have too much of a gap in skills. You can stay competitive by taking a look at the skills, requirements, and technologies/methodologies that keep on popping up and then reading up, picking up a book, or taking a class to close the gap.
4. Lastly, and really this is the answer to your question, most recruiters and companies will generally keep your search confidential. But it is up to you to make sure you ask about the recruitment process as well. They should let you know about the process they follow and when a reference check or background check will occur in the greater recruitment process. So you should be armed with the ‘when’ and ‘how’ and that might help you feel like you’re more in control. Also, and this should go without saying, don’t launch your job search on company equipment or company time
One of the things I love about Microsoft is that we ARE working on cutting edge technology and often setting the standards/requirements for talent in our areas of expertise. I hope that you take a chance and “find out what you’re worth”. This is just one of the great ways to keep competitive in our industry!
Best of luck,