How to Keep Your Career Options Open

Our new columnist, Arielle Patrick, shares her advice on job opportunities when you’re not looking, and how to deal with them gracefully.

As we kick off the New Year, hordes of companies are re-evaluating their balance sheets, and making new hires. When things are going well at your current job, it is easy to become “near-sighted.” But always remember: building strong relationships outside your firm is crucial to the longevity of your career. Never underestimate the importance of marketing yourself beyond your company’s walls. Always seize an opportunity to build long-term connections with others in your industry.

Informational interviews with competitors allow you the opportunity to highlight your areas of expertise, even if you are not seeking to secure a job opportunity at a given time. It’s also a way to get you noticed and respected by those you may encounter later in your career. As a human resources executive once said to me: “the best candidates are often those who are not looking to leave where they are.”

Here are some crucial tips to keep in mind when taking calls from recruiters:

1. Highlight your strengths: Talk about what’s going well where you are. Discuss your current responsibilities, and celebrate your most recent “wins.” Always speak in specific anecdotes, summarizing situations where you served as a key team player, or solved a challenging problem at your company.

2. Don’t complain: Often, recruiters will ask you about any challenges you are facing at your current company. This is a tactic often used to gauge your interest in making a move. It is also a way for HR to “pitch” you on what their company has to offer that your current one doesn’t. It is important to avoid falling into this trap. Always state that while you are quite happy with the work you are doing, the only thing you wish could be improved is the ability to do more. My next point, #3, is a maneuver that will help you glean this information, without disclosing too much.

3. Do your due diligence: Ask as many questions as possible in your interview to find out what differentiates the prospective firm from your current one. How is the team structured? What is the culture among employees? What types of career development and educational programs and opportunities are in place?

4. Stay quiet: Never discuss engagements with other firms with anyone besides close family members, and perhaps a mentor or two. Many careers have been jeopardized by information “leaks.” It is important you remain committed to your current colleagues. News travels fast. Any semblance of disloyalty could truly put the nail in the coffin at your company.

It is important to keep yourself open to other job opportunities, but always handle these engagements in a graceful manner! Treading carefully will ensure you never miss out on a career move, without compromising success in your current job. Have you ever experienced having an offer land on your lap without looking for one? Share it with us in the comments below or tweet us @mscareergirl!


Arielle Patrick

Arielle Patrick is a native of Manhattan, Princeton grad, and communications strategist in the financial sector. By night, she hosts fundraisers for non-profits and donates her time as pro bono PR Director for a few start-ups and charities. Follow her on Twitter: @akpatrick

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