Last time, we begin the examination of factors to consider in making a job change from the big picture perspective. How about from the personal perspective?
Remember the line from Alice in Wonderland? “If you don’t know where you’re going any road will lead you there.” The impetus behind any career move should begin with your life plan. What do you want to do with your engineering career? What are your major goals? These questions and the thought, planning and due diligence behind them should guide your day-to-day and month-to-month activities. This is critical to remember, because as an engineer you are accustomed to resolving issues that serve a project, mainly short-term objectives.
Often, as we consider career moves, they too arise out of reactive circumstance. A company is acquired, moved, reorganized and you are left to fend for yourself. A better way to advance your career goals is to be proactive. As a headhunter, I suggest that you always have a resume prepared and updated. This is not simply so that you can be more reactive and prepared, but because there is no clearer way to summarize your career progress than to condense it on a resume.
This is not to say that you should always be looking for a new role, but it is essential that you know where you stand in relation to your life plan. Is management your ultimate goal? Retirement or a second career? Your own consulting firm? Executive management? Where are you on your progressive realization of that goal? Are the roles you perform in your current company taking you toward or away from your endgame? Stephen Covey’s Habit number two, “Begin with the end in mind” is a great start to develop such thinking. It allows you to “chunk your career” creating the building blocks or successive steps that each career role fulfills.
Are you meeting the educational needs to move into the next phase of your career. If you are aiming for the executive suite, balancing an MBA with your B.S. will round out your executive credentials. Likewise, advanced study in your engineering specialty may pave the way to teaching or advanced growth in your area of specialization. Now as you consider your progress, it may be measured against the ultimate ends you wish to achieve.
This is the time to “look passively” for a job. Find a recruiter with whom you can establish a relationship of trust, confidentiality and advocacy. Like you, most recruiters are reacting to urgent client needs. But the essence of working most effectively with a recruiting professional is to make him aware of your career plan and review the opportunities that match your credentials and goals. He can suggest opportunities that arise in line with those aims and review them with you. Often, these are career opportunities that never become search assignments. They are areas of pain or need with a client that can’t proceed with a project or strategy without the “right person in the right seat on the bus.” In contact with managers and company executives, a recruiting specialist can suggest your skill sets and game plan and arrange confidential exploratory interviews to flesh out an ideal partnership.
These are the best ways to conduct a job search. Begin with a plan. Chart your steps. Secure the necessary credentials and education. Find career mentors and advocates. Be proactive not reactive in your career moves. In this way, you can be aware of career opportunities that meet your needs, in the time and direction of your choosing. This is also the best way to negotiate your best compensation and job description…before a position is open and defined. It is created around you and your specific and unique skill sets.
In this scenario, in pursuing the job that meets your needs and aims, matching your credentials, before a requisition is ever created, the only competition is you. Sound good? Why, you’ll be grinning like the Cheshire cat.