Testing the Market: 3 Steps to Finding the Right Role in a Hot Job Economy

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The job market is hot, and you are probably in demand. This is your chance to go for the right role, at the right company, and with the right manager.

Finding a great job is a job of its own. It takes planning and execution to find a job better in all respects than the one you have now.

There are two common reasons why people fail to take action to find their perfect job:

  1. You don’t know what you really want next, which is a career-planning issue.
  2. You are scared the new job won’t be any better. That’s an execution issue.

Continuous stress caused by overwork, bad managers, and toxic work cultures can cause health and relationship problems under the guise of career advancement. Thinking, “I don’t have time,” is not a valid reason to delay your job search. If you are overworked at a job you dislike, then you have an even stronger reason to start a job search.

Once you’re ready to take the leap, here’s what to do:

Step 1: Figure Out What You Want, Not Just What You Can Do

You need to pay attention to three factors: the job, the company, and the management style.

First, list the desired attributes of your next job. Would you like an increase in scale and scope of duties? Different duties that are more aligned with your strengths? Opportunities to manage and develop others? All three?

Next, articulate the attributes of the management style that works best for you. What style brings out your best work? One that allows for independence or collaboration? Action-oriented decision making? A thoughtful and deliberate style that schedules as many meetings as necessary to get it right?

Finally, list the desired attributes of your next company. What are the must-haves and the nice-to-haves? Do you want a bigger or smaller company? Closer to home? Growing or turnaround? A particular corporate mission? Is the company spending money, time, and effort in the right places as far as you are concerned?

Step 2: Plan the Work and Work the Plan

Anyone can run a good job search with a little bit of daily planning and the willingness to execute the plan. The key is to get going!

The plan: Go after the best companies for you. Don’t wait for jobs to open up and be posted publicly for the whole world to compete over. The hidden job market — jobs that haven’t been made public yet — is huge in a good economy. Companies are planning to do a lot of hiring in the coming quarters. It’s too early for HR to post those jobs, but not too early for hires to be made. You just have to find the managers who own those hidden jobs.

Placement agencies and search firms are good aids, but even they don’t get wind of most of the jobs in the hidden market. Job boards are the visible job market, so by definition they give no visibility into the hidden market.

Your weekly campaign plan could be as simple as the following:

  1. List a good couple dozen companies that meet your criteria.
  2. Every other day, pick three companies to target.
  3. Use LinkedIn to find people who work at your target companies and connect with them — the more senior the better, as they are more likely to have insight into hiring plans. Not everyone will agree to talk, so just focus on the ones who do. At the end of the conversation, ask them to suggest other connections who might be helpful.
  4. On the odd days, check in with another agency or search firm. Check the job boards twice a week.
  5. Rinse and repeat for as many weeks as it takes to find the right job.

Step 3: Look for Better Matches

Figure out the approximate answers to the “do,” “want,” and “with whom” questions of Step 1 to create a model of your next great job. You can use the answers as a guide for targeting companies and for developing questions to ask during informational meetings and interviews. Then, make your plan and work it.

Remember your goal: a role you like doing more, with a manager who will develop you more, at a company you like more. Companies that don’t offer you an upgrade in those three areas doesn’t get you as a contributing employee!

David Denaro is vice president of Keystone Associates, a division of Keystone Partners.

By Dave Denaro