You’re headed for a career change.. You just don’t know it yet!

I recently received a note from a fellow Spartan who senses that her job may soon be eliminated. She is trying to get a head start on her next career adventure and wrote for advice. Here’s how I replied.

You’re definitely doing the right thing by being proactive. That puts you ahead of about 90% of your compatriots.

Start by doing a LinkedIn search for every MSU person falling under a keyword that best describes what you want to do. I’d pick a few who look like they might be helpful and reach out.

What about people at the next level in your profession? Do a LinkedIn search with that job title as a keyword and see what Spartans you find. The, “I’m looking for a mentor,” approach works great in this arena.

Who are your mentors within your current company? Is there anyone who might champion you staying on? I’m assuming you enjoy working there and want stay.

Are there major conferences in your career space that you attend? If so, see if you can get yourself on a panel or as a speaker. Not only is it a great resume item, it’s also a terrific way to make connections.

Are there ways you can re-brand yourself into another job category that has better prospects? I started out as a broadcaster, rebranded myself as a cable TV operations guy, then cable marketing guy, then senior telecom executive, then an entrepreneur and then a business turn-around person. Now, I think of myself as an alumni professional and author who is dedicated to helping others find their passion and live it

I reinvented myself when I got bored or saw a dead end ahead.

Crossroads like these are great opportunities to bracket your true passion. If you won the lotto and were working for love and not for money, what would you do? Is there a way you can get paid to do this now?

As your game plan solidifies, spend as much time as you can marketing yourself. If you’re going out to eat or to the bar, make sure it’s related to helping get you to your next gig. If you get to the point where you are “between opportunities” make finding a job your full time job.

Now is the time to sharpen up your LinkedIn profile, ask for recommendations from each of positions you list and look over your other social media activity to see if you have any liabilities (I know some people who still post how drunk they got last weekend on their Facebook pages – In spite of what you may have heard HR ends usually ends up seeing these things.) If you’re active on Twitter or Facebook, start posting as an expert in your field. Share interesting links, start discussions about the profession and answer questions wherever you see them. People are always subconsciously looking for good team members and they sometimes find them here.

What has your community involvement been? Is there a way you can contribute your expertise to a favorite non-profit? This goes beyond being on a board, although that helps a lot. Agencies are always in need of free advice from smart people. And it’s a good way to test a new personal brand if you want to try something else.

Here are some of blog posts from my archives that may be helpful:

The All-Star Interview

Career Building Behaviors

Reinvent Yourself

Are you “Between Opportunities”? Make the most of it! 

Another great book to read is Keith Ferrazzi’s “Never Eat Alone“. That’s still the best networking book out there. If you haven’t read Jim Collins’ “Good to Great“, grab a copy and read “First Who, Then What”, “Level 5 Leadership” and “The Stockdale Paradox”.

Update: One of my new favorite books is Tim Ferris’ “Tools of Titans”. Check that one out too!

Want more tidbits on career building? Here is my Career Quick Reference.

Of course, the best time to build your network is before you need it. Even if you don’t think you’re headed for a career change, you are. You just don’t know it yet.