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The Best Time To Look

Pamela Norman
December 18, 2020

This blog wouldn’t even be possible without the help of the man who taught me everything I know about job hunting. My father has always been a constant source of information when it comes to employment and I’m sure I’ll be referencing his advice often in my postings. He knows how to write a cover letter. He knows how to squeeze every possible benefit out of a job offer. He’s the one who got me my first job in a business environment, giving me real-world office experience and a meaningful resume before I was out of high school. My dad has taught me a lot over the years, but there was one piece of advice that I chose not to follow. This mistake ended up costing me when I least expected it.

So what’s the best time to look for work? The answer is the same no matter the economic situation, industry, or experience level.

The best time to look for a job is when you don’t need one.

At first, this doesn’t sound very logical at all, but when you stop and think about it, it makes a lot of sense. In July of 2009, I was unexpectedly laid off from my job. To say I was completely blindsided would be a gross understatement. I eventually recovered and found something new, but had I listened to my father’s advice, I would have been in a much better situation a lot sooner. Consider the following:

1. Actively interviewing for jobs keeps your job hunting skills sharp.

When I was laid off, I was violently tossed back into the realm of the jobseekers. I was totally unprepared to be a jobhunter. I sent out some applications and even got a callback within a few weeks, but the interview didn’t go very well. I shouldn’t have been surprised. I hadn’t interviewed for a job in years. Interviewing is a “use it or lose it” skill. Actively searching for work while you’re still employed keeps your skills from getting too rusty.

2. Searching while employed gives you serious leverage during negotiations.

If you can get through the interview process unscathed and receive an offer of employment from a company, having your current job as a fallback gives you bargaining power when it comes time to discuss benefits. Go ahead and ask for that extra ten percent salary increase. Stand firm when you tell them you want to start with 2 weeks of vacation time. If you don’t like what you hear and it’s enough to turn you off to a company, you can simply walk away and continue to search for employment while bringing home a steady paycheck. You’ll find that more often than not, companies will be willing to work around a lot of standard new hire policies for their number one candidate.

3. You’ll never find a diamond in the rough if you aren’t looking.

I was searching for a job a couple of years ago and stumbled upon one that looked marginally interesting to me. I sent my cover letter and resume and lo and behold, was called to schedule an interview. I almost passed on going because I wasn’t sure that the company and the job would be a good fit for me. I ended up going anyway, very causally interviewed with them (since I wasn’t particularly interested in the job), and got an offer two days later anyway. I took the job and it turned out to be a great, low-stress position for me while I was taking graduate courses at night. Sometimes, the best jobs out there are ones that you would never think of applying for. Take a shot. You can always say “no” if you don’t like what you hear.

4. It’s better to be proactive than reactive.

In this job market, let’s say that the average job hunt takes about six months from the first application you send out to the start date of your new job. Now let’s say you leave a job (or are forced to leave) and you haven’t been looking for something new. Your six month clock starts on that day. That’s exactly what happened to me. I was not only not looking at the time, but out of interviewing practice, had an out of date resume, and had no active leads at all. If you’re in the middle of the process during an exit from an existing job, your countdown to finding something new is already underway.

Even if you’re perfectly happy in your stable job, think about what it would take to find something new if you were laid off tomorrow. Maybe the last time you needed to look for a job, the market was a lot more stable than it is today. Take a look around the classifieds and apply for something that might interest you. It will keep your skills sharp and hey, you may even find a great new job when you didn’t even need one!

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