Your job isn’t bad. The pay’s good, you like (most of) your co-workers, and over the years you’ve learned how to manage your boss’ quirks.
But, well, it’s also not great. And it’s certainly not what you want to be doing for the rest of your career.
There’s a lot that gets us stuck in this professional purgatory. (And, yes, I’ve been there too.) You’re comfortable. Your year-end bonus is right around the corner. You really don’t want to spend your precious nights and weekends crafting cover letters.
Which is all fair. But if you’re starting to get restless at work and know you want to get out of there someday, you owe it to yourself to start taking a few baby steps in the direction of something better.
That doesn’t mean you need to jump into full-on job search mode, though. In fact, there are plenty things you can be doing now that don’t take much time at all—but that will set you up perfectly when it’s time to move on to the next big thing.
1. Use Your Breaks for Informational Interviews
I know: Lunch breaks are for grabbing a sandwich from the place downstairs and trying not to get mustard on your keyboard as you scan through the entirety of your Facebook feed in one sitting.
But, they can also be for catching up with good friends, old co-workers, and people you’ve met at conferences. A) It’s more fun than your daily food run. And b) when you do start actively job hunting, the best first move you can make is to turn to your network, so it’s a good idea to start getting back on people’s radars now. Try committing to one to two lunch or coffee dates a week (or, if you really can’t leave the office for a break, emailing people to catch up). And while you’re at it…
2. Start Paying Attention to the Jobs You Want
For many, the most difficult part of the job search is figuring out what to search for in the first place. Sound like you? You can start the process casually now by simply talking to people about their jobs. Meet someone at a party with an interesting-sounding role? Ask him what he’s currently working on and what the best and toughest parts of his job are. Always thought your sister’s best friend’s job sounded fascinating? Reach out and ask her about it.
Start making a list of companies that excite you, and take notes on what you’ve learned about potential roles. When you do start looking, you’ll have already narrowed down the types of positions you should be focusing on.
3. Squeeze Every Last Drop Out of Your Current Job
As you’re talking to people, you’ll probably be hearing about the skills and responsibilities employers are looking for. And what’s a great place to pick up these skills and responsibilities? You guessed it—your current workplace.
Look around and see on-the-job opportunities are available to you. Are there trainings you can take? A conference you’ve been eyeing? A professional development budget you can use for online classes? Or, is there a special project or initiative you’ve been interested in—even if it’s in a different department or not totally related to your role?
Whatever it is, now’s the time to take advantage of it. You’ll add some bullets to your resume. You’ll likely meet some new people (hello, networking). And at the very least, you’ll shake up your day-to-day routine.
4. Make Recruiters Come to You
You might not always be job searching, but recruiters are always looking for people to add to their teams. So, if you’re thinking you might be ready to put feelers out there someday, it’s worth spending an hour or so updating your LinkedIn profile.
Not so much that your boss will immediately think, “Hmm, someone’s on the job search,” of course. (You can—and should—turn off notifying your network of profile changes.) But update your photo, make sure you have a creative headline and compelling summary, and add a line in your profile inviting people to reach out to you. Job search expert and Muse columnist Jenny Foss recommends something like, “I’m fascinated by all things digital marketing and enjoy meeting like-minded people. Feel free to contact me at YourEmail@gmail.com.” It’s recruiter code for: “I might be looking.”
It’s easy to stay in a job that’s just OK—a whole lot easier than embarking upon a full-fledged job search. But there are definitely easy ways to get started. Try to take just one small step this week, and see what happens.