By: Terri Cramer, Associate Director with Kelley Graduate Career Services
The Greek philosopher Heraclitus wrote, “Change is the only constant in life.” It’s a potent quote to apply to your work life these days as a growing percentage of the workforce suffers job losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether it’s the market, your responsibilities, the tools you use to do your job (e.g. working from home), satisfaction with your boss, your stakeholders’ expectations, or the organization itself, you are constantly going to be in a position where you will need to decide whether it is time for you to create change, or if it is time for you to react to a changing situation. In order to be ready when change happens and action is needed, you need to have an exit strategy.
What is an exit strategy? It’s the combination of activities you can engage in now to equip you to make a job change on short notice. We are all seeing the daily headlines illustrating the dynamism of the economy—companies who are implementing layoffs and others who need to ramp up their hiring at a jaw-dropping pace.
If you find that you need to change jobs, you do not want to start your search from the ground up. Most searches can take three to six months, even if you are staying in the same function, in the same industry, and in the same city. Landing a new job will take even longer if you are trying to move to a new city, and/or if you are trying to pivot to a new industry or function. So even if you have job stability now, be proactive, so that if you do need to switch, you can shorten the timing.
What does an exit strategy look like? Preparation in these three areas can ensure you will be ready for change: 1) Make networking a habit; 2) Keep your resume current and stay active on LinkedIn, and 3) Stay open to new possibilities; stay connected to the outside world.
1. Make networking a habit. No doubt about it, people get new jobs through networking. If you find yourself cringing at the idea of networking, then you should broaden your definition. Most people don’t like networking because they feel like they are asking other people for help or asking people to give them things that they otherwise have not earned. That’s not networking. Networking is about building strong relationships that create mutual value over time.
Think about connecting with people who are in jobs that you want to have, or who work for companies that you are interested in. Broaden your thinking to include alumni from all the institutions you’ve attended, vendors you work with, colleagues who have moved on, friends-of-friends, and people in your various communities. You likely have a lot of people in your network already that you may just not be thinking about.
2. Keep your resume and LinkedIn profile up to date. It’s so much harder to recall the results of your performance after time has passed. Make your resume a living document that contains a running master list of your achievements, outcomes, and deliverables, updated as they happen.
You can avoid worrying about whether being active on LinkedIn signals your company that you are seeking a new job by always being active. Follow thought leaders, “like” the posts that your connections put out there, share articles and quotes that you think people in your network might want to read, or that really resonate with you. If you are knowledgeable about a topic, write an article, and share it. You might be surprised at just how many people are interested in what you do. These activities are a great way to build your reputation in the open marketplace and to get noticed by recruiters.
3. Stay open to new possibilities; stay connected to the outside world. It is important to know what your market value is. Stay connected to the world outside of your organization. LinkedIn is a great way to learn what is going on in an industry, to learn about training opportunities, to learn about and understand your competition, and to stay in touch with your professional colleagues.
Terri Cramer is an Associate Director with Kelley Graduate Career Services. She helps alums figure out their next big thing by providing help with search strategies, feedback on resumes, and practice with interviewing and negotiating skills. For a listing of career services resources available to alumni and details for setting up an appointment to talk with Terri, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.