Wednesday, 5 October 2011

When is the best time to start looking for a new job?

When I speak to candidates who tell me they are not interested in talking as they are not looking for a new job, this is what I tell them……

I commonly meet with individuals who are desperate to leave their current job. They were happy and maybe not that long ago, but for whatever reason they have got to the point where the very thought of turning up to work makes them feel miserable. When I meet with these people I question why it has taken them until now to start looking for a job?

Desperation nearly always means people do not present themselves as well as they normally would. Without meaning to, they will often come across negatively, jaded, even a bit miserable which are all major turn offs to future employers. But even if they can act through it,  when someone gets to this stage, they make poor decisions. Their standards and criteria drop dramatically. An average opportunity can suddenly look great although in reality it is just a way out. This will inevitably mean that in a few months, when they are seeing life a bit rosier, they will realise that they have sold themselves short and will often end up leaving the new role quickly. Suddenly their CV is starting to look a bit messy.

If you are happy in your role then the likelihood is that you won’t consider moving soon and that is fine. You may stay with your present company for another 10 years. However, things out of your control can impact your situation. Take the GFC as a recent example. A lot of people found themselves without a job very quickly, and let’s be honest, how many people predicted that? Perhaps that is unlikely to happen again, but the most seemingly secure companies can go belly up. Beyond stability, I have seen examples when new managers are bought in who have a different style, change the structure alter commission schemes etc. Suddenly a happy and financially rewarding job becomes not so great anymore. It is dangerous to assume things will always remain the same.

Outside of your own company the corporate landscape can change quickly. New companies enter the market, mergers and acquisitions occur, decision makers change and these can all create new career opportunities in your sector.  That dream job can sometimes come along, as do new and inventive bonus schemes and benefit packages that are just too good to turn down. If you are not keeping up to date with what is going on, then you are not managing your career thoroughly. As a career professional, you should have the same pro-active approach to managing your career as you do to winning new clients, building your team, increasing your profits, seeking an internal promotion or similar.

An on-going relationship with a recruiter, who can be your eyes and ears and keep you updated can be invaluable. A good recruiter will see the long term value in a relationship, even if you are not actively looking for a role. Why not meet up every 6 months just to see what is happening? Many of the people I end up placing I have been speaking to for a couple of years, often longer. Sure, a poor recruiter will just put a dollar value over your head and if you are not serious about moving now will have no interest in you. But choose wisely and you have a valuable resource in your corner.

So, don’t wait until you are desperate, miserable or forced to look, regardless of how fantastically happy and secure you are at the moment.  Give your career a regular health check – you may just need to or be surprised with what you find.

Maybe next time you are approaching a potential candidate offer them this advice. They are far more likely to be receptive than if you are “just another head-hunter trying to make a quick fee out of me”


  1. Great post Luke - and equally applies to candidates across any sector. I always tell job seekers never to dismiss a recruiters call. The relationship works both ways - you may not be interested in the role on offer, but you can always help with contacts. That way if you are looking, the headhunter may be more receptive to your call.

  2. Are you inviting people to

    1. Move when they don't have a reason to move

    2. Kick the tires when they don't need a new car

  3. I think you'll find that a lot of candidates don't respond positively to recruiter's calls because rarely do those recruiters actually know very much about the job they're pitching.

    I've stopped many a recruiter in their tracks just by asking them this one question - "What are the company getting wrong that they want this person to address?"

    In other words, what are the specific commercial challenges.

    That tends to sort out the real recruiters from the mud-slingers.

  4. Thanks for the comments.

    @KB - agree, take a longer term view of these things. It is not what you do today....

    @RA - I am always inviting people to chat but ultimately leave it up to them to decide when they want to move.

    @MS - alas there are a lot of bad recruters who have only a short term view on things. Keep sniffing out and stopping those mud-slingers for the good of us proper recruiters !

  5. Thanks for the comments

  6. Great post Luke


Thoughts, comments, observations....