5 Ways to Put Out Feelers Before Starting an All-Out Search

  1. Make yourself visible—discreetly.
    Raise your career profile through social-networking sites that work through referrals, such as Linkedin.com and Zoominfo.com. Many recruiters these sites as a starting base, says recruiter David Perry, managing partner of Perry-Martel International Inc. in Ottawa. “You’ve got to do maybe a half hour’s worth of work, and you make yourself eminently findable, without exposing yourself.”
  2. Work your industry associations.
    These groups provide another safe harbor for networking. Participating in a business organization with which your company is affiliated won’t raise the eyebrows of your colleagues or boss. “It’s where they’d normally expect to see you,” says David Opton, founder and chief executive officer of ExecuNet, a career-networking organization in Norwalk, Conn. Consider volunteering to chair a committee. “If you take a leadership role, it’s going to create visibility.” But just attending monthly meetings and mingling during the cocktail hour can also boost a job search.
  3. Network like a headhunter.
    Mr. Perry teaches candidates a technique that borrows from his recruiting research: Target 10 or 15 companies you want to work for. Then use Web search engines to identify some of their former employees and their current contact information. Phone them, and ask them about the company, the potential boss and the department you’re interested in. “You’d be surprised what people will tell you,” says Mr. Perry, who wrote about the strategy in his book Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters (Wiley, 2005).
  4. Rebuild your network.
    When you know you’re going to need your network in the next few months, start putting it in place now, says Alisa Cohn, president of A & C Associates, an executive-coaching firm in Brookline, Mass. “You need to figure out who is going to be an important contact for you,” she says.
  5. Do some self-assessment.
    Think about what you really want to do. Take into account your strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes. Ask yourself what you want more and less of, says Ms. Cohn.

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