Changing Jobs as a New Professional

In today’s economy, many college and graduate students are accepting job offers in companies they consider second tier. If their dream jobs from Google, Procter and Gamble, J.P. Morgan, IBM or McKinsey didn’t materialize, they may feel a little gun shy about pursuing other coveted companies- especially if it means turning down an expiring offer. As a result, many of these new professionals launch their careers less than 100% emotionally committed to the job. One fourth year college student I spoke with recently asked how early she could switch jobs within an industry and how she should go about it.

Whether you hit the job offer jack pot or not, it’s always good to think a few moves out in your career progression. Advance planning is a good thing, as long as you are keeping a good attitude about where you are in the here-and-now. That less than optimal job could end up the best place for you. But in the meantime, consider the following:

1. Realize that social networking is job networking. Older professionals often make business contacts through people they meet socially; younger professionals don’t generally think that way. Yes, your Friday night drinks group consists of office buddies, but how about your roommate’s office friends who you also know? They may be future contacts, especially those in your industry. Think about the crossover between your social and business circles and try to develop those relationships further. Relationships provide the best job leads during any phase of your career.

2. Executive recruiters aren’t particularly interested in junior professionals. You can contact executive recruiters, and it won’t hurt, but by far the richest source of opportunities for young professionals is word of mouth.

3. There’s really no hurry. Don’t worry; you’re not branded as a loser if you don’t work at the top firm in your industry. Your focus should be excelling in what you do at your company and developing your reputation. You have a long career ahead of you; two or three years at a company trying to break into the upper ranks could be viewed as excellent experience.

4. Gain experience in sectors that are in demand. If you are building an up-and-out strategy, push to work in areas at your company that will give you experience which is particularly demanded in the rest of the industry.

Whether you land your dream job or not, you should always position yourself for a possible transition. But who knows, maybe you’ll be responsible for turning that second tier company into an industry leader some day.