You might be in a job you love, but career experts say you should always be on the lookout for another. It’s not that you’re ungrateful or hard to please, but going through the process of job hunting while still employed makes you a better person and, one could even argue, a better employee. Here are ten reasons why you should always be looking for your next job:
1. Loyalty is nice, but it doesn’t always pay – We’ve all heard the story about the employee who worked for a company for 40 years and retired with a cake and a gold watch. The employee probably made good friends and maybe a decent living, but strictly from a financial standpoint, that employee probably cheated him or herself. According to research from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, external hires to a company make 18-20% more than someone hired from the inside, even though the external hire gets poorer job performance reviews. If the external hire ends up staying with the company more than two years, he/she is promoted more frequently.
2. Helps you clarify what you want – You might have left college with a clear career goal. You knew you wanted to be an accountant, but after three years on the job you’re feeling just a little bit restless. By exploring other opportunities, you can see more clearly what is important to you. Maybe you’re more suited for a job in sales. What about this potential new job excites you? Working with people? Working from home? Earning commission? Understanding yourself is never a bad thing.
3. Helps you appreciate what you have, too – Along the same lines, going out to look for a new job helps you see your existing job more clearly. That boss that you don’t like might look like an angel compared to the one who interviewed you today. Like the old 80’s hair band Cinderella once sang, “You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.”
4. You see how valuable you are – By interviewing with other companies, you get a better sense of what potential employers see as valuable in you. Skills you think have been taken for granted either by you or your existing employer are welcomed with open arms by a new boss. When you see what you’re worth, you can go back to your current job with more confidence to assert yourself and get what you want.
5. You gain interviewing skills – Let’s face it, no one enjoys job interviews. You’re tasked with trying to sell your accomplishments to a stranger, trying to convince them that you’re the right person for the job, even when you’re not sure yourself. You become hyper-aware of your posture and mannerisms. Even if you don’t want or get the job, you return to your current employer with more skills that could serve you well on the job.
6. It forces you to keep your resume up to date – You might think that you have no need to keep that resume up to date if you have no plan on getting a new job. But making updates to the resume every 6 months or so just makes sense. Will you remember the exact name of that project you headed up or that committee you chaired years from now when you really need an updated resume. When you get a new assignment or accomplishment, get it on your resume immediately. According to CareerCast.com, more companies are seeking electronically submitted resumes, so it’s important to make sure your resume is formatted correctly and contains searchable keywords.
7. You’ll become more aware of your social media presence – If you know potential employers’ eyeballs are on your Twitter and Facebook feed, you might be less likely to post things that could come back to haunt you later. Along the same lines, job hunting gives you reason enough to keep your LinkedIn profile where you want it to be.
8. Talk is not cheap – If a potential employer calls and asks you out for coffee to talk about a new opportunity, your first inclination might be to turn her down. “I’m happy where I am, thanks.” But you never know what could come of that conversation. You might very well stay in your current job, but the contact you make with that person could be valuable years down the road (or even in a project at your current job). It never hurts to hear someone out. You can always say “no.”
9. Things can change quickly – Before the financial collapse of 2008, thousands of Americans would have told you they felt secure in their jobs. But things can change quickly. Your company might go under or your position in your existing company might plummet. You might be the golden child to your current supervisor, but what happens if she leaves and your new boss doesn’t like you? Keep your options open.
10. Change is good – It might be a cliché, but change is good. Staying at a job that doesn’t float your boat for too long can sink you. You earn a paycheck but your life has become stagnant. According to CareerBuilder.com, most employers these days actually expect you to look around a bit. Exploring your potential with other employers might reignite your career fire.
So whether you’re looking to learn more about yourself and your career goals, improve your skills, or improve your existing position, poking around the job market a bit might be the smartest career move you can make.