The best time to look for a job is while you already have one.
Even if you're happy with your current position, you should be thinking about the future and positioning yourself for the day that you decide it's time to move on.
Investing in your career inoculates you against layoffs, closings, changes of management, or simple burnout.
Work for a better future while you're working today.
Opportunities Can Pay More Than a Raise
In a recent article discussing “How to invest in your career,” the author made the point that long-term goals are more valuable than short-term gains.
In short, it is often better to ask for opportunities than it is for raises. If a team or committee or task force is being formed, asked to join — or even run it. Extra responsibility — or the honing of a new skill — will make big gains on the next resume you send out. A nominal bump in pay will not.
Maintain a Network
Networking is one of the most over-utilized cliches in the business world, but in the case of career investment, there are few tools more valuable than a network of other professionals.
This is especially important in the era of social media.
LinkedIn and Twitter enable you to cultivate a massive stable of individuals in similar fields with similar jobs skills.
More than just asking for a lead when you're out of work, these networks enable you to monitor the discussions of dozens, hundreds, or thousands of people with similar work histories and experience.
Keep up to Date
Maintaining relevance is crucial in any industry.
Keeping current with the latest technology, the most modern techniques, and even the latest language can be a decisive factor in beating your competition if all other things are equal.
The Internet, once again, enables you to do this for essentially no cost with just a modest investment in time.
Your industry's blogs, forums, and message boards, as well as periodic hashtag searches for your industry or business on Twitter, will go a long way in keeping you current.
Consider Taking Online Classes
Online education is accessible, beneficial, and it can be inexpensive — or even free.
Taking a single course not only benefits your intellect, but it looks great on paper and shows initiative and a commitment to continuing betterment to the hiring manager at your next interview.
Scholarships and grants are available for adult education, local resources like your public library may offer free courses, and, if it's relevant to your current work, your job may pay for you to take online classes.
You are responsible for your own success, and developing tunnel vision on the task at hand is not going to procure a better tomorrow.
Think of what employers are looking for other than direct work experience.
This is especially true if you are considering changing industries.
Andrew Lisa is a freelance careers writer who covers corporate mobility and online networking.