I’m often asked, “what is the best time to look for a job?” The answer often surprises people. The best time to look for a job is when you are happy at your current job. The common retort is, “why would I want to leave my current job if I’m happy?” It’s a fair question, with a basic answer – because you have the tactical advantage. The best time to look for a job is when you’re generally happy because:
1) Passive Candidates are Most Desirable to Employers and Recruiters – potential employers and recruiters covet the “passive” candidate market. The perception is that passive candidates are the best at what they do. A passive person is likely to only consider an opportunity on a highly selective basis. This makes the candidate less likely to be scooped up by another competitor. It also reassures the potential employer that if the candidate takes the job they will be very committed.
2) Bargaining Power – if you don’t need to leave, you have tremendous bargaining power when looking for a job. First, and most importantly, when you compare a potential opportunity against your current good situation, you are likely to be very selective. The odds of taking a “bad job” are reduced greatly because you are in a position to really scrutinize the opportunity. Secondly, you are far more likely to negotiate the best possible job offer. A potential employer knows they’ll have to step up to the plate with a great offer package to entice you.
3) You’ll Interview Better – if you go into an interview with the confidence of knowing you are in a good situation and don’t “need” a new job, your interview presentation will be much stronger. Your confidence level will be higher, and it will show.
When you are unhappy at your current job, or unemployed, it is often the worst time to look for a new job. The opposite of the above reasons become true. If you appear to be too active, employers and recruiters alike may be turned off because the chances of losing you to another employer are greater. Second, if you “need it” or appear desperate in any way, the employer is going to be less interested, and at best you’ll have far less negotiating power. Finally, you’re bound to be more nervous and appear more needy for the job if you are in a bad situation.
Even though when you are happy is the best time to look for a job, keep in mind that it doesn’t mean you have to take a job. As I mentioned above, you can be extremely picky when evaluating outside opportunities when you are happy in your current role. If you see an amazing opportunity and have a tough decision to make, that’s a pretty good situation to be in! Additionally, if you aren’t open to entertaining outside opportunities because you are happy, you can only potentially miss great potential jobs.