It is a freelance work world out there today. As I often coach people, you need to think and act as a freelancer, even if you are currently employed full time. We all know how easy it is to go from employee to unemployed these days and it is important to protect yourself as much as possible from unforeseen layoffs. I find, though, that many people are greatly conflicted when it comes time to investigate new job opportunities. They can feel a sense of fear, a sense of disloyalty, a sense that they are somehow cheating their current employer. Let me be the first to allay your fears. When you investigate new job opportunities, you are practicing the best elements of career self-preservation. You are doing exactly what needs to be done to build the career you deserve.
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I was recently speaking with one of my career consulting clients about this very topic. They were seeing some weaknesses in their position and their current company. They weren’t sure the company would be around for the long haul and yet they were worried about investigating some other opportunities that had recently appeared. Here is how I addressed their issues.
Researching doesn’t mean an immediate job move
Let me be the first to tell you — there is no harm in looking! You must always first remember that just because you are researching new opportunities doesn’t mean you are planning on making an immediate career move. Sure, something may come along that will better meet your career wants, needs and desires, but there will also be plenty of other opportunities that won’t interest you or that don’t pan out. You need to be constantly sifting through opportunities to separate the “wheat from the chaff.” You don’t want to be doing this in a panic when layoffs are announced. You want to make this research part of your everyday life and work. Your ears and eyes should always be open for new opportunities.
Since you are only researching these opportunities, much as you might research new technology or a new car before buying, I hope this will tamp down any discomfort you might have about feeling disloyal to your current job and company. The cold truth is this — the company will do whatever is best for itself and you must do the best for your own career. As long as you are performing your work well, you have nothing to concern or fear. You are simply doing what any smart careerist should be doing.
Research allows you to make informed decisions
While many companies may not realize it, when you are researching new opportunities in your career, it might actually be a good thing for your current employer. One product of doing your “due diligence” in these new opportunities is that you might realize your current job and company is the best fit for you. We’ve all probably heard about the “grass is greener on the other side of the fence.” The truth, of course, is this isn’t always that case.
I am sure some of you have been in my position of moving jobs only to find out the job wasn’t exactly as it was presented. It should be clear that making better, more informed decisions about your career benefits everyone. After looking at various opportunities, it might become quite clear just how good you have it in your current job. “Familiarity breeds contempt” and we might not see the benefits of our current job until we start investigating the other opportunities out there. You won’t know any of this until you begin looking at other opportunities and how they compare. Jumping into the unknown at a new job and company is just as bad as staying in a dead-end job with no prospects. You want to make informed decisions, not simply change for change’s sake.
You should never feel guilty for investigating the opportunities that surround you and your career. When opportunities come to you, it is proof that you are doing things right. You are taking the right actions, building the right skills and attracting the attention of those around you. Don’t ignore this out of some misguided belief in company loyalty. We are all freelancers today and we need to behave that way. Practice career self-preservation at all times and you will be on the right path to building the career you deserve.