So you’re starting to feel that itch: You’re a little bored in your current job, and you’re antsy for a new challenge and to expand your skills. Or maybe today’s encouraging jobs climate — with hiring up in many fields and the unemployment rate hovering at pre-recession levels — makes you wonder if better options are out there.
If you’re not ready to throw everything at a new job search but want to scope out opportunities, consider a soft-launch on your hunt — making small moves to put yourself in the right position to evaluate the possibilities in your field. These expert-suggested tips can help you start testing the waters.
Sign Up for Job Alerts
Career sites like Glassdoor, Recruiter and LinkedIn offer this feature: Input the type of job you’re looking for, and positions that fit your criteria will continually land in your inbox. Many companies also send out alerts to job seekers who sign up on their sites as well.
The drawback is, you’ll only hear about advertised openings as opposed to those that never make it to external job boards. But since you’re not full-on looking anyway, why not hang back on the couch and let these search engines comb through listings for you.
Reach out to Recruiters
“People often shrug off recruiters who call them when they’re not looking for a new role, but this is a mistake,” says Joseph Liu, career change consultant and host of the Career Relaunch podcast. OK, so maybe you did blow off a few recruiter queries since you started your current gig. What now?
Liu recommends sending a short note with an update on your role and recent accomplishments to any recruiter who has contacted you in the past. No contacts? Scour the “open position” section of relevant trade websites. You’ll start noticing the same recruitment firms posting ads there, which indicates that they’re among the most active and reputable firms in your industry, says Liu. Google a firm, find a name or two and shoot over a note introducing yourself.
Use These Magic Words
“I’m open to opportunities,” is the phrase Liu recommends using at industry events to get the word out that you’re looking around. Short, sweet and desperation-free, it communicates that you’re not necessarily dissatisfied with your current role … but you would entertain an offer if one came along.
You can also use this phrase at non-work parties and social events, since it comes off as friendly and inquisitive rather than opportunistic. “Ask people about their jobs, and if their company or role sounds intriguing, tell them this and ask them to keep you in mind if anything opens up in their space,” suggests Lori Scherwin, executive coach and founder of career firm Strategize That.
Dive Deeper Into LinkedIn
No disrespect to Insta and Snap, but when it comes to job searching, LinkedIn is still the network to turn to first. But you need to do more than just post a photo, completed profile and updated contact info to boost your visibility and signal to recruiters that you’re kinda-sorta on the hunt.
First, join and actively participate in groups in your industry by posting updates or news articles on the main feed, and grow your number of connections. Then, since many recruiters do keyword searches when they look for job candidates, load up your headline as well as the “summary” and “experience” categories with industry buzzwords. Not sure which words resonate? Do intel by viewing profiles of industry leaders, or go through job listings and see what words pop up most often.
Don’t forget to activate the free “open candidates” feature, which signals to recruiters that you’re job searching without revealing this to your wider network. (Though keep in mind that anything you post on LinkedIn is public, so it’s possible your boss can find out.) Click on the “jobs” tab at the top of your home page, hit “preferences,” then go to the “open candidates” subsection, advises Jessica Hernandez, president and CEO of Great Resumes Fast. Fill out the questionnaire and wait for HR reps to come your way.
Network Within Your Workplace
Letting coworkers you trust know that you’re thinking of climbing the next rung of the ladder is another soft-launch tactic, says Scherwin. You aren’t announcing to everyone that you want to move; you’re just talking to close confidantes.
Think of it as networking inside your own company. Invite a coworker to lunch or coffee and ask if they know of openings or recruiters you can talk to. Show up at internal events, trainings and presentations, where you can build relationships with a larger range of colleagues and have conversations with people in other departments, suggests Scherwin. Then inquire about opportunities.
As for looking for open positions within your current workplace, don’t talk to your boss or go to HR quite yet. Since you’re not 100% in job-hunting mode, you might give the impression that you’re already halfway out the door, which can backfire on you. Instead, keep tabs on the internal job board. Although some roles are never posted, most large companies have an online system where you can get a feel for what’s open.
The underlying objective of all these soft-search suggestions is the same: It’s not necessarily to job hunt, but to build your own professional and personal network. You never know where that might take you, says Scherwin.