Low-risk ways to get a better job without jumping ship

With the job market the downer it is, there's a certain amount of pressure to stay in your current position even if you're not happy. But rather than fuming in your cubicle about your dissatisfaction, there are ways to empower yourself without sending out your resume. Here's how to put out your feelers, amp up your skills, and meet the right people so when the time comes to move on, you're more than ready.

The most low-risk way to think about your next career step is something you can even do at your desk: make a list. What is it about your job that you like? What aspects give you a sense of accomplishment? Which leave you feeling depleted? Are the hours great but the work soulless? Do you feel like you're helping people but the pay barely covers your expenses? Like your co-workers but find you have to work individually more than you'd like? Get specific about where there's room for improvement, so that when you see the qualities you're looking for in the next position you'll recognize them.

Often employers will pay for or subsidize classes that will allow their employees to bring top-notch design, copy-editing or computer skills to the office. Think about certifications that might make you a more attractive candidate or certain skills you need to brush up on or areas where you could use some improvement (spreadsheets, anyone?). You'll meet people in related fields, gain some extra confidence, and have a concrete skill set to add to your resume.


Is there an organization doing great work that you'd love to be a part of? Start your work on a volunteer basis. You'll get the inside scoop on job openings and first-hand insight into the inner-workings of the place. While you're there, though, temporarily shelve your hopes of getting a job and focus on the work at hand. Ulterior motives can turn people off. Keep your eyes open and ears to the ground, be efficient and enthusiastic. Make a good impression. Even if a position doesn't open up, you now have relevant experience to bring to a similar workplace and an extra recommendation in your pocket.

These aren't just for kids seeking college admissions. Informational interviews give you a slice of the insight volunteering affords but without the time commitment. Interviews are a great way to meet people and bring your presence into their line of view. When work pops up that you'd be a good fit for, they may think of you. And you've just added another very valuable contact to your Rolodex.

You know those 427 friends on Facebook and legions of connections you've got on LinkedIn? Don't just collect them like baseball cards. Make contact. Find out where they're working now and if they're happy. Meet for a drink or buy them lunch. Just as with volunteering, focus on the relationship rather than the end goal. People can easily sense when they are being pumped for information. In other words, reach out to people you honestly respect, admire, and want to spend time with. Not just someone whose job you want.

How are you feeling about your job right now? Is it time to take steps to make a change for the better?

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