Here’s why you should always be looking for your next job

Job hunting can be a stressful, anxiety-inducing process. Most people hardly enjoy describing their strengths and weaknesses to strangers, or receiving rejection emails. So it can be a hard sell to tell a person that they should be looking for their next job when they’re already happily employed. But that is exactly what you should be doing.

Control Your Career Trajectory

Think about your dream job, or the next big move you’d like to make in your career. What skills would you need? What training will keep you competitive? The only way to grow your career now, is to think of where you want to be in the future. And the best time to prepare is when you’re feeling positive and secure, not when you’re unemployed and desperate to pay the bills.

Keep a list of job posts that look interesting to you, no matter how ambitious or high level they may be. Note the skills, training and experience they are looking for. Now is the time to start developing those skills and building up your resume. If you wait until you’re unemployed to think about the next step, chances are you won’t be ready.

Make More Money

In today’s job market, switching employers every 2-3 years has become the new normal for many. There are advantages and disadvantages to this behavior, but one potential advantage is to gain a bigger wage increase than you would from a yearly raise.

Of course this isn’t always the case – see public school districts and other unions for example. It also depends on the kind of job switching you’re doing. If you are making lateral transfers, it’s unlikely that you’ll see a significant raise. But if your next change is a true career move with more responsibility or higher skill requirements, you can expect a sizable wage increase. Over time, these increases can add up to much higher lifetime earnings than if you stayed in one place for ten years banking on a 2% annual raise.

Be ready when an opportunity appears

Sometimes an amazing job falls right into your lap – a friend connects you with an employer, a recruiter reaches out to you directly over LinkedIn, or your dream company advertises for someone with your exact skill set. When opportunity comes a-knocking, you want to answer the door right away. And if you’re always on the lookout for a new job, you’ll always be prepared. You’ll have an optimized LinkedIn profile that recruiters will jump at, an up-to-date resume you can submit quickly, and you’ll be keeping track of your successes and accomplishments so you can communicate them to prospective employers.

Practice Negotiating and Interviewing

When you’re unemployed, there sometimes a desperate drive to land a job, any job, as soon as possible. This means you’re less likely to take risks negotiating your contract, especially if you’ve never done it before. Applying to jobs while already employed gives you the confidence and leverage to up your negotiation game, and a safety net to fall back on if things don’t work out.

If you’ve been employed for a couple years, then your last interview may be a hazy memory. I always find that my first few interviews during a job search are not my best, and it often takes a little while to get back into the swing of things. If you apply to new jobs while employed, you’ll continue to develop your job application skills throughout your career, rather than in starts and fits.

Understand the Job Market

Thanks to the internet, the job search process is changing faster than ever. New websites appear, big platforms like Google and Facebook shake things up, and new standards and expectations come into play. If you haven’t applied to a job in five or ten years, it may be a quite a shock when you finally start looking again. Searching for jobs regularly is a great way to keep in touch with what is going on.

It’s Easier than Ever

Keeping an eye open for your next job doesn’t have to take up a lot of your time or energy. Set up a few job alerts with websites in your industry, create a spreadsheet to track jobs and their requirements, and schedule a little time each month or week to work on your professional development. It’s a small commitment that could make a big difference over the course of a lifetime.