Whether you’re burnt out on your current job or too excited about a different opportunity, considering a new job can be both intimidating and exhilarating—and it can be difficult to know the best first step. While there’s no textbook formula, these tips can help you get started as you embark on the job hunt.
Before looking at open roles or starting to have conversations, get honest with yourself about what it is you’re lacking in your current role, and what might help to make you more fulfilled. The job search is full of black holes, and it can be easy to get lost if you don’t have a clear direction. Spending time on this first can help you to avoid wasting time on opportunities that don’t end up being the right fit, as well as to narrow in on the narrative you want to tell as you’re interviewing.
While a new job at a new company might be more compelling at face value, it’s worth considering whether a role or team switch within your current employer is an option. You’ve likely spent a lot of time and energy building respect and credibility with your colleagues and manager, so the range of roles available to you may be wider than if you look outside your company. This can be true whether you’re looking to move up within the same function or laterally into a different role or team. Have transparent conversations with your manager and other people you’d like to work with in the company to explain why you’re unhappy and what might help the situation. After all, it’s in their best interest to create a compelling case for you to stay, so use that to your advantage.
Regardless of the type of role you’re looking for, speaking to people can be helpful for a huge variety of reasons—from offering a different perspective on a company you’re considering to getting you an introduction to the hiring manager for your dream role. If you’re early in the job search, start setting up chats with mentors, ex-colleagues, friends, and even cold contacts who have interesting jobs or work at companies you’d like to be a part of. Don't get discouraged if nothing immediately actionable comes out of a conversation, as finding a great role often involves knowing the right people at the right times—so stay in touch after the chat in order to stay top-of-mind as opportunities become available.
Sending your resume to every corner of the internet can feel productive, but often leads to disappointment when nothing comes of your efforts. Instead, use your narrowed focus from above to start identifying dream roles, and spend more time and effort on those opportunities. Network your way into your target companies by asking friends for introductions or sending thoughtful notes to cold contacts on the team you’re interested in—both of which take significantly more time than sending a cold application, but can increase your chances of success.
While it may seem premature to set your salary expectations before starting the job hunt, doing so can help you to quickly compare options and rule out positions with compensation packages you wouldn’t be happy with—not to mention reducing the amount of work you’ll need to do before going into a negotiation. Particularly if you’re looking to transition into a different function, spend some time surveying the market (including looking at salary reports) to come up with an idea of what you can reasonably expect to be offered based on the job function, your level of seniority, and location. Once you have an idea of overall market rates, chat with some friends or colleagues in similar roles to layer on their perspectives; While you don’t necessarily need to ask for their exact salary, they may have a new perspective to add given their experience and understanding of what companies are willing to pay.
So—as you embark on the search for the best next role to further your career, use the above guidance to help you get started. If you set yourself up for success from the beginning, the search itself will likely be more enjoyable—and can yield an even better outcome.