My dad always said, “Son, the best time to look for a job is when you got a job”. He always called me son when he was saying something that I should be taking to heart. Kind of like when he used to say “Son, if your tadpole butt could keep up with your alligator mouth, you’d be one heck of a guy!” I still use that one today. But the point of the message was very clear: Don’t wait until you need something to start looking.

Status Quo

I call candidates who are currently employed all day long. What is painfully apparent from my call is that candidates often don’t see their value when they are at the top of their game. They are heads down being good at doing what they do. They don’t feel they have time to look. Personally, I get calls from other companies and other agencies trying to recruit me all the time. Of course, I listen. Why wouldn’t I? I am good at what I do and seen as someone who can add value to an existing team. This is EXACTLY when I should be listening to opportunities. That does not mean that I am taking days off work to interview though. When I am at work, I am 100% devoted to my job as everyone should be. If you are not, stop wasting your employer’s time.

When I engage a potential candidate the common response is “I am happy where I am and not looking”. When you follow up and ask for referrals to others, the response I get 99 % of the time is my all time favorite, “I don’t know anyone.” What exactly does that mean? Can someone explain it? Of course you know people. So am I doing something wrong? The more accurate answer is, “You, Mr. Recruiter, have not demonstrated to me why anyone in my very valuable network would benefit from being put in contact with you.” That is what they are really thinking.

In being close-minded from the start, it is not possible for you to make a fair judgment as to how my opportunity may potentially benefit you. Perhaps taking five minutes of your day to speak could be beneficial – if not now—potentially in the future. This is a great way to build a relationship with your recruiter and keep you top of mind. And honestly, you could not possibly make the call that everyone you know is truly happy in their job or would not explore a better opportunity. If that were the case no one would ever switch jobs. In fact, the people who are employed and happy in their job is EXACTLY who I want to speak with. They tend to be the candidates that are desirable to many employers.

Paradigm Shift

I would offer up perhaps a more open-minded response. When you are approached by an employer about an opportunity, it means they see the value in what you can potentially offer. They see you bringing something to the table that may not exist on their team currently or that they are looking to augment with some additional fresh talent. Do you realize how much power that gives you? Anytime someone comes to you to discuss an opportunity, you are in the driver’s seat. That does not mean you abuse the opportunity or the person calling. That means you should keep an open mind and at least listen.

If you are currently employed, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. You do not have to act out of desperation because you have been laid off and you need an income to keep the family fed. The opportunity presented has the potential to be better than what you currently have. I don’t know too many people who would not want to improve their current situation. Of course, the position may turn out not to be right for you, but who knows? The best candidates are always looking to improve themselves personally and professionally. Top talent are continuously evaluating themselves, their job, profession, life, personal relationships and asking, “How can I make this better?”
Let me leave you with perhaps a more open minded response. “I am currently employed and happily so. I would be open to at least hearing about your opportunity and together determining if this opportunity would be better than my current position. I am at work currently, but would be happy to spend ten minutes with you after work to explore it. If at the end of our discussion I do not feel it would benefit me, collectively let’s determine who in my network would benefit from exploring the opportunity.” This response will at a minimum position you as a forward thinking person that is open to improving your situation if the opportunity is right. If it turns out not to be a “better opportunity” — as you define better (not the person reaching out to you) — then at a minimum, you have taken this time to give your thoughts on what would be attractive to you – leaving the door open for the future. My caveat to this post is to make sure you know how your recruiter is compensated and be wary of recruiters who “sell” to you rather than explore with you. There is a VERY big difference there. A high-quality professional recruiter will want the opportunity to be win-win-win (candidate-employer-recruiter).