If you subscribe to recruiting- or employment-related newsletters or blogs, you’ll know they all have a common theme – how to get a job. There are just as many strategies for finding a job as there are jobs themselves!

Granted, there are a lot of people in the job market today, but the one thing I’ve noticed is there isn’t much information regarding what to do about moving forward if you already have a job. The truth is, there is an overwhelming number of employees who hate their jobs. You may be familiar with the term “golden handcuffs“: If your job pays fairly well, and you can’t see yourself leaving for fear of not finding a comparable salary/benefits package, then consider yourself shackled.

But fear not! There’s hope.

In my opinion, the best time to look for a job is when you have a job. It’s the same as looking for a car when yours is running just fine. You’re simply interested in seeing what’s out there. It’s an exploratory process, one you can carry out with a completely clear head and probably a bit of excitement. No pressure – just a fun experience.

Several years ago, a mentor of mine said to me, “The first day on your new job is the first day toward your next job.” What? I didn’t quite understand the statement at the time, but I later came to realize what he meant. Everything you do at work prepares you for the future. With that in mind, no effort is ever wasted and no task is ever completed without a valuable lesson.

You’ve probably heard of how beneficial it can be to keep a journal or diary. Can you imagine how easy it would be to update your resume if you kept track of all the things you did/learned at work? I would even suggest updating your resume at least once every six months – and more often if you’re seriously thinking about changing jobs or vying for a promotion.

RocksAnother way you can sharpen your sword is through networking. I can never say enough about this. There’s quite a bit of truth to the phrase, “It’s not what you know; it’s whom you know.” More times than not, the position you’re looking for is closer than you think. Building relationships through networking is a great way to keep conversations going. By keeping your ear to the rail, you may gain access to key information you wouldn’t have otherwise.

If there’s a particular company you’re interested in, become a student of what it’s doing both in the market and in the community. More importantly, make a list that identifies your “conditions of satisfaction.” That is a list of must-have or nice-to-have items in a job. For example, if health insurance and other traditional benefits are important, that’s a must-have. A company that participates in college scholarship programs or other corporate social responsibility initiatives may be a nice-to-have. All of this is a part of your homework.

Remember, your place of employment is a relationship. If you treat it that way, you will be more likely to find the right fit between yourself and your next employer.

Getting ahead isn’t luck or fate – it’s about engaging your network, which is by far the most valuable resource in any job hunt. Another option is to consider working with a coach. A coaching relationship can yield immeasurable results. (While coaching is somewhat of a different conversation, it’s at least worth mentioning here.)

All in all, the ultimate job search consists of just a few steps. So here’s a recap:

  1. Keep a journal/list of accomplishments, training, and new experiences.
  2. Inquire as to what’s out there in the job market (conditions of satisfaction).
  3. Stay active within your network (continuously expand it).
  4. Surround yourself with valuable resources.

Get it? Stay current. Stay informed. Stay visible. Stay engaged. It’s just that simple!

Reginald Jackson is an executive and leadership coach and the founder of Joyful Satisfaction Coaching.

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