By Michelle Vitus
It’s not just entry-level job seekers who make rookie mistakes. As the head of a career transition services firm, I see a lot of seasoned professionals (and even executives) make some pretty egregious miscalculations in their job searches, too. Sure, many of them should really know better, but many of the most common mistakes come from overconfidence in one’s experience. Here are a few of them you’ll want to avoid at every stage of your career.
MISTAKE NO. 1: NOT PASSIVELY JOB SEEKING WHILE HAPPILY EMPLOYED
Obviously, if you love your job, don’t actively look for new work. But things can change quickly. Markets can tank unexpectedly, and so can office dynamics. It’s always wise to keep an eye on what jobs are out there, even when you’re not actively job searching.
You don’t have to be filling out job applications every week, but even just subscribing to industry newsletters can help you keep a pulse on interesting companies in your field. LinkedIn’s Jobs tool and recruiting firms’ newsletters can keep you informed of opportunities without having to actively search. If you’re thinking about a pay bump, Glassdoor’s Know Your Worth Tool, as well as compensation data available through alumni and professional networks, can help you determine if job hunting–or at least a salary renegotiation–is in order.
MISTAKE NO. 2: LETTING YOUR PROFESSIONAL PROFILES LAPSE
It’s important to keep both your LinkedIn profile and your resume updated with any noteworthy accomplishments. Use your annual performance review as a reminder to give everything a refresh. If you fall too far behind, particularly on LinkedIn, you’ll fall off recruiters’ radar.
Your LinkedIn profile should include a professional photo and an executive summary. Just make sure your profile isn’t exactly the same as your resume. Each job description should be short and high-level. But do more than just list out your work experience–you’ll want to position it in a way to entices hiring managers to learn more about you. Not sure how to do that? Here’s what recruiters say they really look for on LinkedIn profiles.
MISTAKE NO. 3: RELYING TOO HEAVILY ON RECRUITERS
Many experienced professionals–especially those who’ve worked in the same company for a while–put false hope in recruiters to find them jobs. But it’s important to remember that recruiters are retained by hiring companies, which means their allegiance belongs to the firms, not the candidates. Plus, each recruiter only works on a few active searches at any given time. Recruiters may not have visibility into the other searches under way in their own firms, nor are they incentivized to help a candidate with someone else’s search.
So whether you’re job hunting or not, you should actively cultivate relationships with high-caliber recruiters who specialize in your space. Take the call when they reach out to you and offer to be a source for industry insights and trends to keep these connections vibrant. Add your profile to search firms’ candidate databases, follow the firms on LinkedIn, and sign up to receive research reports or other communications they publish.
This can help you stay on top of potential opportunities and recruiting trends. In addition, sending a quick note to say you enjoyed an article is an easy way to stay on a recruiter’s radar. Overreliance on recruiters is a common mistake, but so is underengagement.
MISTAKE NO. 4: NEGLECTING PROFESSIONAL NETWORKS
It’s tough to carve out time to expand or even just maintain your network. As a result, many professionals’ networks become dominated by internal contacts and external vendors. Too often, experienced professionals and even executives lose touch with their extended networks–until they want new jobs.
To keep your network fresh, seek out opportunities to connect with people who have deep, relevant networks, as well as people who challenge conventional thinking in your industry. Connect with these folks a few times each year (even if it’s just to trade hellos on Facebook Messenger), whether or not you plan to switch jobs. As with any relationship, it should be a two-way street; touchpoints should be natural, not annoying.
For example, congratulate connections when you see them or their companies in the news (LinkedIn makes this easy), and comment on their social media posts. Send holiday cards or emails, or ping them to see if they’re attending industry events. With a bit of ongoing effort, you’ll cultivate a support network based on authentic relationships that you can draw on when the time comes to look for a new position.
Like most skills, job hunting is like a muscle that can deteriorate from lack of use. The secret is to lay the groundwork now so that you’re prepared for any potential move later. If that time never comes, all the better. Worst case, you’ll have increased your visibility and strengthened connections within your field, which can pay dividends throughout your career.
Michelle Vitus is founder & CEO of Slate Advisers, a career coaching platform for leading technology startups, small-to-medium sized businesses, and the Fortune 1000.
Update: an earlier version of this article mischaracterized the author as a recruiter. The error has been corrected.