Whether it's money, an exciting new industry, career stagnation, or the fact that you can't stand to hear your coworker slurp her soup one more day, you've decided it's time to start looking for the greener grass on the other side of the fence.
Guess what? You might think you're pretty savvy when it comes to job hunting (you found the one you're in, didn't you?), but there are a few common mistakes many women make that can derail their efforts. As a former 15-year veteran of recruiting and headhunting, I'm here to help you. (For free!) Here are seven things you'll want to avoid:
1. Your résumé still looks like it did the last time you interviewed
Nothing's worse than pulling out your résumé only to have your own, warped version of writers' block: What the hell do I do, again? That's why the general wisdom is to add job responsibilities, accolades, awards, and wins to your résumé as you go (about once a quarter, or when something amazing happens). It might seem counterintuitive to update your resume when you're not looking, but it's for two reasons: 1) You'll be less likely to forget cool things you've done and 2) Looking at all your accomplishments on a regular basis gives you a consistent sense of your worth. You're less likely to settle when the time comes to use it.
2. A job search isn't the time to start building a network
Most of us spend more time double-tapping Instagrams than cultivating a network of people who can help us further our interests. That has to change. Identifying professional organizations and/or individuals who can mentor and further your interests isn't selfish, it's smart. Between LinkedIn, Facebook groups, Twitter, and networking opportunities, take every chance to consistently identify, build, and nurture relationships with people at all levels. That coffee friend could be the person who champions your resumé right into the job of a lifetime.
3. You say no to headhunters/executive recruiters
Executive women know it pays to keep in touch with at least two headhunters at all times. It's their job to know what's out there, and they can be your ticket to your next best role. Send a few great candidates their way, and when it's your turn they'll absolutely reward you by taking you to the top. Job boards are nice, but by the time something is posted, rest assured there's a savvy recruiter who probably already knew about it. This advice applies to everything from administrative staffing agencies and freelancer agencies all the way to C-suite headhunters. Find the best, and make them your friend.
4. You don't know the cardinal rule of interviews
Do not, I repeat, DO NOT try to alter your personality in an interview. A good interview is like a great first date. You've done your research, you're not emotionally tied to the outcome, and you're just exploring your options. You're not too friendly, you're not too stiff—you're pleasant, comfortable without being unprofessional, and receptive to questions and exchanges. Honestly, they're trying to figure out what it would be like to work with you, so don't have a personality transplant before walking in the door. Relax. Also, never badmouth a former or current employer in an interview; it sets a bad tone that you'll do the same in their company. Think "pleasant professionalism" and all should fall into place.
5. You don't know your worth
Every woman needs to know her "number" at all times. Salary, bonuses, pension, stock options, executive perks, potential payouts, vesting schedules–you have to know at any minute if you walk how much you need to remain financially whole. If you know what you're worth, you're more likely to get it. Always ask for slightly higher than what you'd be willing to take. Salary negotiations are a good exercise in what it will be like to work there. If they lowball you from the beginning, conditions aren't likely to improve. Your financial negotiating power will rarely be stronger than before you start, so negotiate the strongest position you can.
6. You need consensus before making a decision
Your next best job is not a choice that should be made by committee. Asking your best friend, your partner, your parents, your barista at Starbucks, your coworkers, and your dog walker for their advice on whether or not you should take a job can lead you on the wrong path or, worse, stall your progress entirely. You know what's best, and the nagging feeling that told you to start looking is called "intuition." It's the strongest sense of direction on the planet. Trust yours, and don't be afraid to make the tough call.
7. You're emotionally unprepared to walk away
If you're not really ready to leave your current position, it wreaks havoc on your life. Your performance might suffer, your coworkers might notice, and by the time you receive an offer, they might help you pack. Women are passionate creatures, and if we don't start looking at the workplace as a playing field, we'll continued to be whipsawed by politics and feeling as if we should stay because, well, what would happen if we left? Your career is an open playing field where you should explore your options and make decisions based on your own self-interests. That's not being selfish, that's survival. Love your co-workers, make friends outside of the office, but never feel badly for taking a job that gets you closer to your dreams. Conversely, don't use your job search as a salary negotiation ploy with your current employer. That only works once (if at all), and you might find yourself replaced before you knew what hit you.
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