The Three Colors Of A Job Hunt

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There are essentially three ways of being in a job hunt – actively looking for a job, not looking for a job, and inactively looking at what's out there. Most time and attention is spent on the first two, but it's the third – inactive job seeking - that can yield the best, most surprising and awesome job opportunities.

Of course when you're unemployed, laid off, in a bad work situation, or in a train wreck industry you should be actively seeking a new job. This is the time you're registered on job boards, writing and rewriting your resume, tailoring cover letters, and constantly scanning options. Then, there are those of us lucky enough to be in good jobs, happily employed, or those who have decided to be out of the work force, or given up the search. These people are not looking for a job, even if they sometimes fool themselves into thinking they are.

So who are the third type of job hunters – the inactive seekers? These are people finishing up their first or second or third year in a first job, those who have hit a ceiling in their current jobs but still want to grow, or those who feel bored by now doing the same job again. Many are happily employed, but would welcome an opportunity to do something new if the opportunity presented itself.

But opportunities rarely just pop up out of the blue, so how do people inactively seek a job? A few ways:Regular Scanning of Job Listings. Even after I became employed in my latest position, I never stopped all the automated job feeds that came to me via email. When I was actively looking I got several feeds daily. Now that I'm happily employed, I get 1-2 of my favorite feeds weekly. The exercise keeps me sharp about what's available, the currently requested skill sets, and how I need to continue to grow in my current position so I'm always employable should the worst ever happen.

Selective Networking. When unemployed, active job seekers go to many networking events. Once employed, smart career professionals continue to network, just less aggressively. They can be more selective on the networking sessions, and pick the more expensive seminars that truly help them improve themselves, provide skill training or updates. This again positions a person to have a stronger network when and if they become unemployed and need to start actively asking for references, leads, and ideas on new employment.

Association Profiles. Recruiters look for employees several ways including association rosters in both professional and trade associations and by digital profile searches. Smart employees keep their profiles up-to-date including latest wins on major projects, and make sure they stay affiliated with active clubs and professional groups.

Seminar Attendance. Similar to Networking and Associations, seminar attendance puts you out in the world speaking to people interested in the same things. It helps keep you fresh in your current job, and sometimes even leads to a new one. I once lost one of my best young employees when he went to a seminar in Philadelphia on a detailed programming topic. After asking a few pointed questions, a few managers from a hot publishing firm made sure to swap business cards with him. Several phone conversations and one interview later he was offered a new job that paid much more and gave him new challenges that I couldn't match. He didn't go to the seminar looking for a job. He went to improve his skill sets, but his passion for the field and thirst for knowledge made him stand out in the crowd to his next employer.

Opening Side Comments. When you meet someone at a cocktail party, networking event, or any type of meeting, engage with your fellow participants. Just by commenting to someone that their job "sounds interesting" can lead to new opportunities. Frequently the other person might respond, "Wow, I had no idea you even liked this stuff." Just by admitting that you're happy but interested in new things can open doors you never thought existed.

Taking the Meeting. One friend was recently asked to consider a job at a competitive company. He's happy where he is, but he took the meeting, because as he admits, "You never know." He quickly stopped the interview process when he confirmed the competitive company was not for him, but not before exploring what they might offer and thanking them for the consideration.

The old saying remains that those employed are in the best position to be offered the next job. The unsaid part is that the next job offer is likely to go to someone who wasn't even "officially" on the market,but was curious enough to hear about a new challenge. In some fashion, they were inactively keeping job ideas and opportunities in their peripheral vision.

Job hunting, like most things in life, is never just a black and white endeavor –not looking at all (black), or actively looking (white). Instead, many jobs are found in the grey areas -- meetings, seminars, through unexpected, dropped comments, or a reference by someone who just sees you in a new spot they've seen. Never ignore the grey areas. Sometimes the rosiest and most amazing positions are hidden and can be found there.
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