Far too often my clients tell me that they want to change jobs but there are “no jobs out there”. They then go on to say that they review the job openings online (and maybe even in a newspaper) every day but none pique their interest or fit with their experience or desires. My response is that they are barely doing what they can to get a new position. By going this route they are being reactive versus proactive. A job search is really a multi-pronged approach with the job boards being a small piece of it.
In addition, there may be opportunities within your own company that you may not be aware of. Too often my clients do not interact much, if at all, with people from other departments. They do not think to strike up conversations in the elevator and/or lunch line, join a committee, or participate in events or clubs such as softball, etc. These are effective ways to not only meet others but also to learn about how other departments function, office news, and potential openings due to retirements, temporary leaves, and resignations.
It may be difficult to start building these relationships but it takes very little to initiate a conversation. Imagine yourself in the other person’s shoes and if need be role play with a trusted friend or advisor. It may help to have a list of “go to” questions that you can use just like you should have in an interview. Such questions like “what do you like to do off hours?”, “what attracted you to this company?” and if they have been there a long time “have there been significant changes since you have been there and how has it impacted you personally and/or your department, team or division?”
I suggest to my clients to also try out a conversation where there is very little risk so as to build their confidence. Talking to a shop owner or someone at the supermarket is a good starting point. Another suggestion is to find groups/events where you share a common interest like a college alumnae event or a meet up type group. If you are very nervous, see if you can speak with the organizer ahead of time to find out who is going or review the attendee list. Once you are there seek out people who are standing alone or stand by the food.
All this can help you on your career journey but there is more you need to do. It is imperative to spend some time thinking about how the conversation went with this new person. This introspection time is critical because you need to ascertain where you asked the right or wrong questions, used certain words repeatedly like “um” and “really?”, or came off as too negative or way too goofy, bubbly, etc. Did you ramble and not let the other person get in a word or did they do all the talking and your body language conveyed that you were bored?
As you continue meeting new people, patterns may also emerge that you need to be aware of. Do you tend to dominate the conversation first and then ask questions later about the other person or vice versa? Are so you emphatic about your opinion that you shut down when someone gives a different point of view? Do you anger easily? Do you cover up your nervousness by cracking jokes and/or fidgeting?
If you still struggle with all of this, consider this other “I” word – identify. Seek out people who you can identify with and try to emulate their behaviors, word choices, and mannerisms. TedTalks can also be helpful too. I am always reading books or participating in webinars about people who I admire and try to identify things they do that could work in my life. You don’t have anything to lose but much to gain with these new insights (another “I” word). In other words, imagine the possibilities!