Preparing for the Search


Looking for a job is difficult, but often worth it.

Don’t fall into bad career decisions that sound good at the moment.

Only leave a job if you have a good reason to leave, since you may have a personal problem unrelated to your job.

There are many pros and cons to job-hopping.

Before you start hunting, capture and measure all the work you’ve done.

Getting fired isn’t the end of the world, but you must take steps to mitigate how much it can ravage your finances and mental health.

Even when you’re starting your career, you can pull from a wide variety of non-work-related experience.

Get to thinking about what you want with your career.

Why look for a job?

What you do today ripples onto the rest of your life.

Since you spend almost half your waking hours in a full-time job, even a little bit of thought about it will dramatically improve your life.

The average person goes through 12-15 job changes in their lifetime, so job-seeking is nearly inevitable.

The first 5 years of your career often sets the pace for the rest of it:
  • You can recover from some mistakes relatively quickly, but others may haunt you for decades.

Changing jobs is usually worth the risk:
  • You will always get more experience from something you haven’t tried than something you have.
  • People who take the plunge to find a better job are usually happier from it.

To find the right job, you need a long-term goal:
  • Your boss manages your job’s goals, but you manage your career!
  • Your career should combine your preferences and abilities to balance what you want and need.
  • If you want a career with an unreliable wage (like a creative line of work), have a backup career that makes a basic living wage.

At the same time, finding happiness in work is a broader problem than simply finding enjoyable work, so don’t expect perfect satisfaction simply from the work.

Many self-destructive career decisions sound good at the time

Don’t overachieve:
  • Pretending to have hobbies or expertise you don’t have.
  • Making decisions that only give more money.
  • Overworking yourself and sacrificing your happiness.
  • Prioritizing your work over your personal life.
  • Micro-managing everything.
  • Fearing mistakes and failure.

Don’t settle or pursue laziness:
  • Settling for mediocre.
  • Making careless mistakes.
  • Not giving your best.
  • Wanting a remote-only job without counting the burden on your personal life.
  • Working toward a promotion to management to have an easier life.

Don’t “follow your passion” if it’s doesn’t pay:
  • Many people quit jobs that could have served as great starting-points toward future jobs because they didn’t like what they did.
  • While it’s great to find a job you enjoy, your current job should provide at least some sense of stability with a sufficiently livable income.

Only leave a job for good reasons

Only move into something better, not away from something you don’t like.

If you have a bad attitude, you’ll eventually bring it to your new job:

Self-assess your feelings about your present and future job:
  • Write out the pros and cons from all possible career decisions you can make.
  • Examine how you describe your work in conversations.
  • Think ahead to the feelings you’ll experience from making each choice.

Some good reasons to find another job

The job ruins your personal life:
  • You fear or dread going to work.
  • Weekends make the first day of the next work week unbearable.
  • Your work makes you cranky and irritable off-duty.

You can’t identify with the organization:
  • You don’t feel your work adds value to anything.
  • You don’t feel others in your workplace hear your ideas.
  • You don’t like spending time with your coworkers.
  • The company doesn’t fulfill your life’s purposes.
  • You’re the victim of verbal abuse, sexual harassment, or other illegal behaviors.
  • The company’s culture has changed toward something you don’t like.

You don’t see your future with the company:
  • Top management has made advancement impossible.
  • You can’t see yourself at the company in a year (about the maximum length needed to find another job).
  • You don’t see an opportunity to grow or learn from your work.
  • Your career goals have changed and don’t align with the company anymore.
  • Your company will cease operations in the foreseeable future, or you may not be needed within 6-12 months.

The position obstructs one of your main life goals:

You’ve changed as a person:
  • Your goals and values have adapted or improved.
  • A different type of work fulfills you than when you started.
  • You want a challenge or something new that your position can’t give you.
  • You’re no longer happy doing the work you once loved.
  • In the course of your duties, you’ve found something specific you would enjoy doing for hours at a time.

If you see anything unethical, you’re risking your reputation every day you’re there, so leave it as quickly as possible.

To stay legally safe, carefully consider any non-compete clauses you may have signed for your current and recent roles.

Job-hopping has pros and cons

You should stay in a job for at least fifteen months to ensure you don’t invalidate prior work experience.

Moving frequently between jobs has some drawbacks:
  • Potential employers see you as disloyal and uncommitted.
  • Since most companies lay off their newest workers, you lose some job security.
  • You can’t add the long-term impact of your work to your resume because you won’t see it.
  • Every time you change jobs, you sabotage your network.
  • Leaving a job means the company won’t hire you internally elsewhere.

But, done right, rapid job-hopping has some hidden benefits:
  • More work experience across a variety of industries makes you more creative and indispensable.
  • If you know what you’re doing, you can build a potent professional network.
  • You can quickly upgrade your title, salary, and benefits after only a few years.

However, staying in the same position or the wrong position for a long time will make you look unambitious:
  • Even if you’re happy with your simple job, you should slowly migrate to positions with greater responsibility as you gain experience.
    • There are usually very similar jobs in other companies with a more embellished title (e.g., Customer Service Representative vs. Customer Care Specialist).
  • On any entry-level job, most hiring managers expect you to move into another role within 3-5 years.
  • To stay marketable and competitive, your career should not be a straight line.

If you keep job-hopping long enough, you must develop patience and stay in a stable job for a few years to “reset” your situation.

Capture and measure all the work you’ve done

With all the changes you’ll make, organize what you have before you start looking.

Archive and save everything that shows the work you’ve done at that job:
  • After you’ve given notice of leaving, it’s possible you won’t have access to your own work anymore.
  • Download your contacts and customers lists from all company-owned devices.
  • Save copies of documents you’ve made that highlight your accomplishments.
  • Only save copies of things that aren’t the company’s intellectual property.

If you’re okay with others knowing, ask for reference letters from key coworkers who know you, and give them 3-5 items you want them to include if they don’t have much time.

If you have one, closely research the exact restrictions of your non-competition or non-disclosure agreement (which may include legal counsel).

If you’re losing your job soon, update your LinkedIn profile and resume while you’re still employed.

Alert your references in advance about receiving a call from another employer and request for them to praise your past work.

If you’re starting your career

You won’t get a glamorous job:
  • Unless you’re well-connected, expect to find work that’s hard labor, in fast food, or extremely boring.
  • Even when you find an excellent job, nobody in your workplace will respect you for months until you’ve proven yourself.

Make a list of any relevant volunteer experience, extracurricular activities or hobbies that could interest an employer:
  • Clubs or organizations
  • Team and individual sports
  • Church involvement
  • Plays and performances
  • Volunteering in retirement centers, animal shelters, and homeless shelters
  • Any hobbies that involved building something

Don’t go to college to find a job unless you have a full-ride scholarship.

Your best chance of building a professional network comes through helping others succeed, not necessarily from becoming better at anything, so work toward benefiting others more than getting an education.

If you were fired or laid off

If you’ll be unemployed soon, feverishly search to avoid a gap in employment.

If you don’t promptly quit or someone doesn’t fire you at least once in your career, you’re not trying enough:
  • This fast-paced world requires risks, and some will backfire in a job loss.
  • If you have major mental issues or personal problems, getting fired is the wake-up call you may have needed.
  • If you learn from your mistakes, your job loss can become your success story.

Many reasons for getting fired should provoke you to do some serious soul-searching:
  • Extreme negativity
  • Promising something you didn’t deliver
  • Trying to “sell” something unrelated to the company inside the company
  • Insufficient emotional intelligence
  • Misusing company resources or supplies
  • Speaking wrongly or presumptuously on behalf of the company
  • Multiple back-to-back firings or quitting

However, some things are worth getting fired over:
  • Principles or values you stand for
  • An abusive work environment
  • Unhealthy favoritism or family-style dysfunctional roles playing out in a company

If you’ve gotten fired, don’t make any major life decisions for at least 3 months:

As much as it may hurt and feel alienating, nobody will care about your unemployment as much as you:
  • This world is harsh, and genuine empathy about unemployment is rare.
  • In spite of the circumstances, learn satisfaction and gratitude and try to be a better comfort to others in the situation you’ll encounter later.

Download your bank statement and figure out how much money you have left:
  1. Make a budget and find what you can cut to survive until the next job.
  2. Make a general best-case and worst-case prediction about how long your money will last.
    • Consider alternative situations that could make your money last longer (e.g., moving in with family, government aid).
  3. Treat the worst-case scenario as your deadline to start work, which usually takes 3-30 days to start from a successful interview depending on the industry.
  4. If you go past that deadline, shift to a state of prolonged unemployment.

Even if you were fired, your work results at that company might still be useful:
  • If you were fired, do not use your boss as a reference: use a coworker you were friends with at the time instead.
  • It’s not your fault for things you couldn’t have prevented.
  • However, if automation made your job obsolete, try to avoid looking for a similar future role.

While termination is the end of something, it’s the beginning of something else, and it’s impossible to lose if you don’t give up!

Brainstorm what you want

Finding a new job is a huge endeavor, so make sure you’re ready for the experience.

When you’re ready to consider another job, it’s time to start making plans!