The Perpetual Job Search

Whether you are looking to climb inside your organization or find a new job, step carefully and always make progress.

Imagine you are standing on the bottom rung of a ladder in a 20-foot-deep swimming pool. The ladder starts at the bottom of the pool, goes straight up all the way through an opening in the ceiling, and then extends 20 feet beyond that into the sky.

If you stay at the bottom rung, you will eventually drown. However, if you keep making progress one rung at a time, you will eventually get your head above water and breathe easily, and then you will eventually work your way into the wide-open sky.

Every Job Offers Rungs

In the course of every year you can climb a rung on your career ladder regardless of whether or not you leave your current position. The key is to proactively create the rungs and then climb them one at a time. There are two types of job searches : one inside your current organization and one outside your current organization.

Searching for a job inside your organization begins with a conversation with your boss. Set up a meeting with her and ask these two questions:

Question one: “What are the two most important outcomes that you want to improve in our organization over the next six to 10 months?”

Question two: “What are the most important things you feel need to be accomplished in order for us to really improve those two outcomes?”

Consider what your boss has to say, reflect on what you can do to help her achieve those desired outcomes, and set up another meeting with her to discuss your thoughts on how you can play a role in improving those results. Once the two of you agree on the role you will fulfill toward improving those outcomes, pour yourself into executing the details of that role as well as you can.

If at the end of six months or a year, you have clearly added relevant value toward the achievement of your boss’s most important objectives, you are in a position to gain greater responsibilities and compensation in your current role, take on a new position in your organization or look outside your organization for the next rung on the ladder. Avoiding career stagnation is a crucial step in generating perpetual job growth. Doing your activities at work really well does not always equate to perpetual job growth. The key is to be seen as a value adder, someone who increases the chances that your organization will achieve what it wants to achieve. One way to highlight the mechanism with which you will add value to your organization is to clarify with your boss the desired outcomes and the role you will take toward improving them.

Learn From Each Rung

Perpetual job growth is a function of being always prepared to add more value than you did with your last set of responsibilities. Consequently, taking time to learn from every career experience provides the energy and the insight you will need to move effectively to the next rung on the ladder.

Once a month answer these questions:

  1. What was my objective for the past month?
  2. What did I actually achieve relevant to that objective?
  3. What did I do to try to achieve the objective?
  4. What did I do that worked well and why did it work well?
  5. What did I do that did not work well and why did it not work well?
  6. What lessons did I learn or relearn in the past month?
  7. What will I do the same and what will I do differently going forward to improve my performance and my results?

If you will take roughly 15 minutes each month to answer those seven questions, you will dramatically improve your capacity to add value in ways that will generate sustainable improvement in results. In this manner, each rung on your career ladder will provide you with numerous insights that you will be able to use to legitimately deserve an opportunity at the next rung either inside or outside of your current organization.

Be Open to Every Possibility

Climbing a ladder straight upward from the bottom of the pool is pretty straightforward — you go straight up. Climbing a career ladder is not as intuitively obvious. You don’t always just take the next job right in front of you.

Here are two questions to keep in mind:

Question one: What is the sky that I want to be working in five years from now? What type of work do I want to be doing, what type of organization do I want to be working in and what type of compensation do I want to be receiving?

Question two: What is the next best job I should do in order to make progress toward my desired career outcome in five years?

Then work to gain that type of job either in your current organization or outside your organization.

By answering these two questions you will make the process of climbing your career ladder a carefully chosen climb versus one where you take every step that other people tell you to take. Not only do you have to climb one rung at a time, but you also have to carefully select the rungs you step on.