I didn’t hate my job, but after four years, some of it was getting to be a bit dull. Not so much that I actively looked outside the company, but enough that I started considering possibilities within the company. As I discovered, a lot in life is a result of simply staying open to new possibilities. Last week, I got a new job without visiting a single job board or sending out a single resume. So how did I do it?

Make Good Use of Reviews and Networking
You don’t have to go to networking events or constantly troll Facebook and LinkedIn for new contacts. Simply keep your ears open and let it be known that you’re interested in new opportunities. My company does self-reviews, and one of the questions asks what we’d like to start doing more of. This year, I wrote that I wanted to move into two different areas of my company. My supervisors were surprised, but agreed I would be a good fit in those roles. At the time, neither was actually open, but it was in the back of everyone’s minds.

When a new position did become available, I was the first person they thought of. I accepted the offer, and it was done. I started almost immediately. None of that would have happened if I’d stayed silent.

Let Other People Know You’re Looking
You don’t have to send out an email blast, but you should let people know if it comes up in conversation. You never know when a friend might hear about an opening with their employer. If they know you’re looking, they’ll probably ask you to send over a resume. Having a resume passed along internally is much more likely to get you an interview than sending it in cold.

I recently attended a baby shower about a month ago and someone’s mom told me her son was in my industry and interested in changing employers. Once I found out my company was hiring, I got a resume and forwarded it on. I don’t have a personal stake in this, but it feels nice to have helped.

Check In with Job Boards Occasionally
You don’t have to dedicate hours to it every week, but hop on a job board every now and then to review the postings for higher –level positions than yours. Compare your qualifications to the requirements, then take the steps necessary to develop those skills. It could be that employers are looking for someone more specialized, so ask your current supervisor for additional training opportunities within your field. It could also be that the next step up for you is broader, so look for people with similar skills at your employer. Ask if they’ll talk about what they do or give you a training session. Most people are happy to help.

Volunteer – Inside and Outside
Many, many non-profits awash with unemployed volunteers, so there is competition here, but it’s still a great way to give back while also using your expertise and making new contacts. Find a cause you feel passionate about, then contact the volunteer director to offer your specific services. Not only is it something new for your resume, but you’ll meet other people who could be in a position to help you.

You can also volunteer inside your company. When my employer announced a special project, I offered to help with tasks I wasn’t currently trained on. That allowed me to work with other people to learn new skills AND put them to use immediately. And my supervisors knew what I was doing, so my work load was still manageable.

If you’re unhappy in your current job, but afraid to quit, you’re not alone. According to a recent article, the number of people open to accepting a new job is 110 million! You can be one of them without risking your current job or expending a lot of time pursuing new opportunities.

Every Thursday night, I pack up my laptop and files and tote them home with me for Work from Home Friday. At first, it took some getting used to. Now I find I’m much more productive when I work from home. I still value my time in the office – it’s easier to have an impromptu discussion in the kitchen if you’re all in the same kitchen – but I consider Fridays to be “Get Things Done” day. Here’s how I do it:

Set Up a Real Home Office
I don’t have kids and my cats sleep most of the day, so I don’t have those distractions, but I still prefer to work in my home office rather than at the kitchen table or on the couch. For one thing, I hate typing on laptops, so I turn on my laptop for reference, but do the bulk of my work on my home computer and upload it to the office server. I’m also more tempted to turn on the TV or wander off if I work outside my office.

Get Your Coworkers on IM or Skype
My office already uses IM to communicate while we’re at work, so we’re also on IM at home. Skype is growing in popularity for regular telecommuters because it allows for a free virtual water cooler. If you don’t have either, stay in touch by email and phone when you have questions.

Train Your Pets and Humans
When I first started working from home, I had just finished grad school, so the cats figured I would interact with them as much as before. It took some time, but they’ve now learned that they can’t jump on my keyboard while I work or attack me when I’m on the phone. Until your pets learn this lesson, save documents often and invest in a phone with a mute button. Humans may be harder to train, but if you have kids old enough to understand, let them know that you shouldn’t be disturbed except in a real emergency (define emergency for them.) Check in every hour or so when you get up to stretch.

Don’t Become the Neighborhood Gal Friday
If your neighbors learn you work from home, they may ask to have packages delivered to you when they’re not home, or drop by for coffee unannounced, or ask you to watch their kids while they run to the store. The answer to all of these is no (unless you frequently have packages delivered to them.) Gently remind them that you are actually working and have deadlines to meet or your employer won’t continue to employ you. That said, I’ve been know to use my “lunch hour” to run errands on Friday morning when I get them done faster and then have the rest of the day to concentrate.

Start on Time
This may not matter to some people, but I find it easier to get into “work mode” if I maintain the same general hours I do in the office. I might start a little earlier or work a little later, but I don’t stretch it too far. It helps me maintain the work/life balance.

Don’t Forget to Take Breaks
When you’re in the office, you probably move around a lot due to interruptions from co-workers, restroom breaks, or a run to the kitchen for more coffee. I find that my butt is in the chair longer when I work from home, so I have to remind myself to get up and stretch. I go to the gym near my office four days a week, but I also try to do a short home workout mid-day on Fridays to stretch my neck and get my energy up.

I’m fortunate that my employer sees the value in working from home and is flexible about it. If your employer isn’t ready to take the leap, ask for a trial run to prove just how productive you can be away from the office.

Once you’re done listing your accomplishments for your review, take a few minutes to update your resume. In this economy, it doesn’t hurt to have your resume ready. It also pays to have it in a good economy when a headhunter might call or a friend could clue you in to an excellent opportunity. Your resume should be in a constant state of readiness – but make you sure you prep it on your own time and on your own computer.

Fix the Format
Most resumes are emailed or entered into online forms these days. Although bullet points look lovely on a printed resume you bring to an interview, you should also save it as a text file that uses commas rather than tabs and hard line breaks rather than bullet points. In a text resume, everything will be flush left. As a final test, email it to a friend or a secondary email address to see how it appears once it’s gone through the intertubes. Edit it again to fix anything that produces odd characters.

Update Your Objective
I usually tailor my objective to the job I’m looking for, however you can have a general job objective on there as a reminder of your primary goal. Make it a stretch, but also incorporate your current skills.

Update Your Title and Dates
Update your titles and employment dates to reflect any promotions since you last updated your resume. If you’ve received several promotions, consider listing all of them on your resume to show your steady progression across a period of time. For each bump, indicate the initial responsibility you took on as part of the new job.

Highlight Accomplishments
Look at your review. Copy any of those accomplishments over to your resume. If you listed a specific client that may be subject to a non-disclosure agreement, delete the specific name. Instead write: “Developed a promotional strategy for a Fortune 500 company that resulted in a 10% increase in sales.”

Add Skills
Almost any job will result in additional skills. If you have a skills section at the end of your resume, add the additional tools, programs, or skills you’ve mastered, especially if they’re highly specialized to your industry and training someone in them requires a fee or time investment.

Update Your Education
If you’ve completed a degree or received certifications, update that section of your resume as well. You should also mention if you’re in the process of receiving a higher degree, like an MBA, with an expected graduation date.

Update Your LinkedIn
After you update your resume, update your LinkedIn profile to reflect your current title. I’ve seen people list responsibilities and accomplishments on their profiles, but I’m not sure I want to disclose all of that on a public internet format. I’d rather give an overview and then send a resume for follow-up.

Tackle the Salary History Question
There are three ways to handle the issue of salary history, which some prospective employers require for consideration. Personally, I hate applications that require a salary history, especially when you’re planning to change fields. That said, here’s how to handle the issue:

  • Prepare a second resume that includes salaries (also prepare a text version.)
  • Add a salary history only when requested.
  • Include a salary history in the cover letter, but not on the resume itself.

If you’re just updating your resume but don’t have immediate plans to submit it, leave off your salary. You don’t know how many raises you’ll receive between now and the time you actually look for a new job.

In addition to helping you prepare for new opportunities, having an updated resume may even help you keep your current job. During layoffs or mergers, some employees must re-interview for their jobs. You’ll be ready at a moment’s notice if you already have your resume updated.

Many companies conduct an annual review for each employee at year-end, while others do it at the hiring anniversary. If you have a review coming up soon, don’t wait until the day before to start planning. Start preparing now so you can sparkle when the day finally comes.

Pull Out Your Old Review
If you received a written assessment after your last review, pull it out now to review the items they said needed work. Make sure you’ve corrected those deficiencies. You should also check any goals they set for you, or you set for yourself. Have you accomplished them? If not, figure out why so you can explain at your review.

Write a Review Memo
Some employers ask their employees to write a review memo or do a self-review. Others simply poll supervisors and prepare the document themselves. Even if you aren’t required to write a review memo, do it anyway. As soon as your supervisor schedules the review, hand them your memo. It should highlight the following things:

Accomplishments. Did you save the company money? Bring in new business? Contribute to a team? Spearhead a project? Use as many hard numbers and facts as you can.

Goals. Did you meet or exceed any goals? Set new goals for yourself, but make them reasonable. This will hopefully guide your employer when they set annual goals. You should also set a challenge goal for yourself. Do you want to become a manager or team lead? Say so in your review and ask for guidance in achieving that goal.

Challenges. Were there any challenges that prevented you from meeting your goals? If they are personal challenges, detail how you will improve them. If you need additional staff or equipment, indicate that so they can include it in the budget.

Dress Professionally
Your review day is not the time to declare a personal casual day. You don’t have to wear a suit if you work in a casual office, but try to at least wear a slightly nicer shirt, jeans without holes, and real shoes (no flip-flops.)

Don’t Argue
If your boss indicates that you have a shortcoming, take it in stride and agree on a plan to improve it. Don’t pass blame, argue that it’s not your fault, or be combative. This should be a pleasant experience. If you don’t expect it to be pleasant, think about why that might be. Maybe it’s time to step up your game.

This year, your employee review could well be the thing that determines whether or not you’re included in lay-offs. Make sure you sparkle when the big day comes by starting to prepare for it now.

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