Read the subtitle. Do you know the answer? The answer is simple: all of those you should do when you can. Not when you have to.
I can't tell you how many times I was approached by a friend who had just lost his or her job due to a restructuring in their company, panicking, asking me to help them "network" and introduce them to as many people as possible so they can find a new job. My first advice to you is to never wait for that moment when you have to get a job. Look for your next job when you already have one. I know, it's hard to think about your next job right now, but believe me--you don't want to wait.
The second mistake we make is to "mold" ourselves to fit the job openings we can easily see. I'm going to be blunt here and say that we do that because we are lazy. Instead, ask yourself: what am I good at? What will companies be willing to pay me a lot of money to do? Answer this question in two dimensions: domain and skill set.
First, the domain. What is an area that you really know a lot, have a lot of experience in, and are passionate about? In 2001, for me, it was the Wi-Fi technology. Of course, back then it was not very popular, and was not yet called Wi-Fi... I bought my first access point and PC card, and loved it! I knew I had to be more involved, so I started studying the technology, went to IEEE standard-setting meetings, and participated in the process of developing the standards. You have to look at the domain in tiers. For me, the domain was technology. At a higher-level tier, it was electronics. Even above that--it was communications, then wireless, and then wireless local area networking (Wi-Fi). That was the top tier of my domain knowledge, expertise, and passion.
Second, the skill set. What do you enjoy doing? Is it manufacturing? Finance? Development? Marketing? Similarly to the domain, look at this in tiers. On top, for me, was an area called "industry relations" (creating relationships with other companies and people in the industry that will allow the technology to be adopted). Then, it was business development, then business at the lowest level. But the most focused area I believed I was really good at and passionate about was industry relations.
These two will define your ideal job. This is the job you should find.
But how do you become the perfect candidate for it? This is the next step. Learn the domain subject all the time. Don't just learn "on the job." Don't just learn what your company does. Learn from books. Go to conferences. Improve both your domain knowledge and your skill level. All the time. Never stop.
Even that's not enough. You need to be known. Write articles. Even write a book. Seek speaking engagements in conferences (even local and small ones. That's a good start). It's hard to get published or get a good speaking engagement, but there is one guaranteed way to never get them: not trying at all. With every published article or speaking engagement--fortify your LinkedIn profile. It wouldn't be a bad idea to start your own blog. Whether on your own website, on blogger.com, or anywhere else.
You see, as a hiring manager I can tell you that when I'm looking to fill a position I tend to hire thought leaders. Not people who are available and who applied for the position we advertised. And so do recruiters. We live in a world of specialization. We look less for "generic" employees that can do everything reasonably. We look for "highly professional" employees that can do one thing better than anyone else.
Finally, when you look for a job, ask yourself "what company would need what I have to give? Exactly what I want to give?" Make yourself known to those companies. If you are right--they don't have to have a job posting for you. They will create an opening once they realize what you can give them.
In summary, here are the 7 steps to find your ideal job and be the perfect candidate for it:
- Look for your next job now. Not when you need one.
- Know what your domain knowledge, expertise, and passion are and focus on those.
- Know what your skills are, and what kind of work you like to do, and focus on that.
- Learn all the time.
- Teach, write, speak, and publish. Be known as an authority in your field.
- Advertise yourself. Let recruiters find you.
- Research who your perfect employer would be.
When I decided to look for my next job in the winter of 2001 (while still working for PCTEL), I defined myself as an "industry relations" person in the "Wi-Fi" industry. I reached out to companies who might need someone like that. I published articles. I built up my resume and profile. I spoke in conferences. In May 2002 I was hired by Texas Instruments to be their strategy and industry relations director for the Wi-Fi business unit. The funny thing? That position didn't exist there yet...
So, look for your next job now. And fasten your seat belt!