As A Company of One, you owe it to yourself (and your stakeholders) to be on the look out for opportunities to advance your career, expand your industry or professional knowledge or create awareness for yourself and your professional brand.
If you wait until your current employer (primary customer) is no longer satisfied with your results, needs to reduce costs or goes out of business, you are way too late. Regardless of whether you are currently employed or not, you should evaluate every opportunity you come across until either you decide to move forward or decline an offer.
I’ve talked with hundreds of people who tell me that they are frustrated at work or feel like their career has taken a turn for the mundane. I’ll ask them if they are looking around, or if they have a list of companies they are targeting for their next “great job”. After the crickets stop chirping, they’ll hem and haw, mumble something about “things are going okay”, or “needing to be more proactive and network” (ugh… see my blog on NetLearning). Sometimes they’ll tell me that they get calls from recruiters and that some of the companies or positions sound interesting but they don’t pursue them because they don’t know anything about the company or they are afraid their boss might find out.
How do you know if a company is as “cool” as it’s brand, has real potential for long term growth or offers career growth opportunities if you don’t interview?
What they don’t realize is that if they are a consistently productive and engaged team member and their employers discover they are “prospecting”, their employers will be more interested in discovering ways they can keep them. You owe it to yourself and your career to consistently evaluate the competitive landscape, identify potential employers (customers) and engage with them to see if there is long term opportunity for you.
When a corporate or agency recruiter is calling you about a position, there’s a reason! They either have a job order to fill and need qualified and interested candidates, or they are building their network of potential candidates for future job orders.
Either way, whether you are happy in your current role or not. Instead of hiding out in your office, do what every successful sales person does, even when they are on target to reach their goals.
- TAKE THE CALL…. Just like a first date, the initial call is just to get to know each other, you don’t have to go straight to the church! Even if the company the recruiter is pitching you on isn’t on your current short list, how do you know if they shouldn’t be? It’s just a phone call. Let them tell you about the company and the opportunity. Tell them about your experience, what you are working on, why you might be interested in a new gig. Ask them pointed (but professional) questions about their growth, culture etc…
- EXPLORE…. If the opportunity isn’t right, or you just aren’t interested in the company, thank them for considering you. If you know of someone that might be interested, tell them. But, if they think you might be a good fit and it seems interesting to you, then you owe it to yourself to agree to a confidential interview.
- QUALIFY… Either side of the table can decide it’s not a good fit at any point, for whatever reason… It’s not failure, you both are just exploring potential. You may discover that they are working on a new innovation in your industry, they may find out you have a skill set that’s not on your resume. If so, keep dancing.
- BE PREPARED TO SAY NO…(professionally). Just because you go to an interview doesn’t mean you have to pack your bags. Before you go, you should do as much research as possible and be prepared to ask thoughtful, but direct questions about the company, interviewer, position, growth, culture, potential issues etc.
- MAYBE LATER….You may find out that the company is in trouble, it’s a sweat shop and the culture kills or that the position is a dead end…. If so, tell them, but let them know you appreciated the opportunity to learn more. Who knows if you may dance again…
OK, so I’m not saying you should be asking for time off every week to go show your wares to every one who whistles. But your Company of One can stagnate and die, or it can continue to stretch and grow.
Know what your next great position looks like. When someone asks, take the call. Explore and Learn. Demonstrate your ability, but qualify them. Be prepared to say no (or yes).
Whether you decide to stay where you are or accept a new opportunity, you can best understand your potential market and position your Company of One for success by being flexible and prepared to always be interviewing.