12.7 How to Get Your Next Job

Learning Objectives

  1. Learn the signs of when you might want to start looking.
  2. Get strategies for how to look for a new job while you still have one.

Your Career Is a Succession of Jobs

In the beginning of this chapter, we introduced the notion that your career is a succession of jobs. So you should start your career fully expecting to hold multiple jobs. Even if you stay at the same organization, your job within the organization will change:

  • You may take on increased responsibility. The schoolteacher becomes a grade or department chair, then an instructional coach, and then perhaps an administrator. The accountant becomes a project manager and then a client relationship manager.
  • You may change focus on a different specialty or area of expertise. The schoolteacher moves from an elementary grade to middle school, or from one subject to another. The accountant who worked in the financial services practice moves to the technology practice and works with different clients.
  • You may work for a different part of the organization. The schoolteacher at a public school may decide to work in the Department of Education (effectively school headquarters). In this way, he is still in education but working centrally across schools on operations, curriculum design, or another central role. The accountant may move from client-facing work to a central role helping the overall firm. She might focus on marketing, using her firsthand accounting knowledge to get published and speak at conferences as a representative of the firm. She might focus on human resources (HR), becoming a recruiter for the firm.

Your own organization is a possible source of future jobs, so you should know your organization much more broadly than your current job. Know the different departments. Know the different clients and constituents your organization serves. If your organization is part of a larger group or has partners or subsidiaries, get to know these as well. You want to know the structure, what types of jobs are available, and the protocol for moving from one part of the organization to another. Some organizations have very clear rules about applying for internal jobs—for example, you need to get your current boss’s permission before applying; you need to apply through HR or use another special application.

Multiple Options Exist If You Want to Change Organizations

Staying in your current organization is not your only option. Keep in mind, however, that in the beginning of your career, it is valuable to establish a track record. Staying at a job for one year or longer has value in the duration itself because you show that you have staying power and can follow through. People change jobs more frequently now, so prospective employers are not as critical when they see various employers on a résumé. However, multiple short stints of two years or fewer raise a red flag for employers that you might leave them just as quickly, or are otherwise unable to last. Recruiting and onboarding is expensive and time consuming, so prospective employers shy away from candidates who might be a flight risk.

That said, several signs might show that you have outgrown your current organization:

  • You are no longer challenged, and your organization is too small for you to make a lateral moveRefers to moving within an organization into a different department or function and often without a promotion or raise. In this way, it’s like moving sideways, or laterally. into other areas.
  • You want to focus on a different specialty or skill set than you can in your current organization.
  • You want to relocate, and the organization is not present in your new geography.
  • You have a business idea and decide to work for yourself.

Each of these options represents a different type of opportunity and therefore a different search.

If you are leaving for a challenge, then your search needs to focus on jobs with broader responsibility or expertise requirements than you have now. Be clear on how you will measure the amount of challenge: Are you looking to manage a team? Are you looking to have responsibility for a budget or finances? Are you looking to learn a specific skill? Your ability to define specifically what you want in your next job will enable you to search for those opportunities in a targeted way.

If you want to focus on a different specialty, skill, or geography, then you want a career change. You are not just taking the outline of your job and moving it into the context of another organization. Rather, you are changing a fundamental piece of it—industry, function, or geography.

If you are leaving to go into business for yourself, this is also a career change from traditional employment to entrepreneurship. You will have the day-to-day job as well as sales, marketing, operations, finance, and all functions of running a business. The schoolteacher who decides to open a tutoring service will still be teaching but also will need to market his services, sell to prospective parents, bill his hours, collect money, balance his books, and so forth. The accountant who opens a private practice similarly has to market, sell, and run operations of an accounting firm, in addition to accounting.

Revisiting the Six Steps Will Help You Launch a Thoughtful, Proactive Search

The job search always starts with targeting so that you can customize each subsequent step to your target. Once you have determined how your next job is defined, you can move through each of the same six steps you used to get this first job.

Remember to update your marketing materials to reflect everything you have accomplished in this new job. It is good practice to update your résumé on an ongoing basis even when you are not considering a new job. Whenever you complete a new project, take on additional responsibility, or learn a new skill, add it to your résumé. This way, you are not scrambling to remember everything you accomplished (you can always edit it). Another benefit to frequent updating is it is a built-in check and balance that you are accomplishing, progressing, and learning in your job. If six months have passed and you have nothing to update, look into opportunities for training or taking on additional projects to stretch your skills and experience.

Networking is another job search step that will have changed from your first search to this current job. Your network has grown since your first job search. It now includes people you have met in your current job, as well as any professional groups you might have joined. It also includes people you met as a result of your first search. Don’t overlook helpful people from your first search.

Obligations in Your Current Job Must Continue to Be Met

The six-step job search is effective because it is thorough and enables you to retain control of your search. Because it is thorough, it takes time. You must be able to spend time on your job search without compromising your ability to do your current job. From an ethical standpoint, you have committed to this job, so you need to produce. From a practical standpoint, you need to have good references from your current job for your next job, so you must maintain good standing with your current organization.

You will be able to do a lot of your job search outside normal business hours. You can update your marketing materials, research new possibilities, and reconnect with your existing network on evenings and weekends. Once you start networking outside your immediate circle and interviewing for specific jobs, you will start to intrude on your normal workday. Save your lunch hours, vacation days, and personal daysPaid time off that is separate from your vacation days. Some organizations break out personal days from vacation days because they might have different requirements for claiming these (e.g., less advance notice, ability to use a few hours at a time, rather than just whole days). in anticipation of using them for your job search.

Another area for preplanning is your appearance! If your organization does not require formal business attire, then you will stand out in your interview suit. You might consider dressing more formally on regular days so that your interview clothes do not diverge so far from your daily wear. You also might consider not wearing a blazer at your current job, but then adding it once you are offsite.

Plan ahead for if and when you will let mentors and your boss know about your job search. You will want references from your current job, ideally from your direct supervisor. In some cases, you want to keep your job search confidential, so you can refer prospective employers to a customer who knows your work, a senior colleague who has worked with or directly supervised you, or a former colleague who could speak more freely. Check your organization’s policy regarding references. Some strict organizations do not allow employees to give references. Find out what is available to you because the reference-checking process is critical to the job search process.

Finally, plan for how you will leave your current job gracefully. Two weeks’ notice is a national standard, but this varies by industry, company, and job. If you have a specialized function, a senior role, or are currently on a long-term assignment, it might be expected that you will give more notice than two weeks. You might be expected to train your incumbent, or even help find this person. Unless you have an employment contract (rare and typically reserved for the most executive-level jobs), remember that most jobs are employment at will, so you can leave at any time with no notice. However, you want to exit gracefully so you maintain good relationships with your organization and colleagues. People move around in their careers, and in the future you may find yourself working with some of the same people.

Key Takeaways

  • A career requires a succession of jobs, which can be within the same organization.
  • You may want to leave your organization if you are no longer challenged, need to change your industry, function, or geography to something your current employer cannot accommodate, or to start your own business.
  • Use the same six-step job search process you used to get your current job, but update your marketing materials, network, and references to reflect your new experience.
  • Make sure to meet your obligations in your current job while making time for your job search.
  • Make sure that you leave your current job in good standing with your organization and colleagues by giving enough notice and helping with the transition, if needed.


  1. If you are reading this and haven’t even started your first job, career planning may seem premature. Imagine your future and think about what you’d like to be doing in ten, twenty, and thirty years—even if you have to guess. What skills do you want to be using? What people do you want to be serving? Toward what objective or mission are you working? List the skills you want to learn and the experiences you want to have in your early jobs to prepare you for this career future. You now have an outline of what you want to accomplish in your first job and what signs to look for to see if you need to move on from that job.