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What it Means to be a Passive Job Seeker Right Now

Let’s say you were a passive job seeker pre-COVID-19, now what? Maybe you are still in the same situation, maybe you feel like your career has stagnated, or you want more responsibility, or you want to grow or learn something new. Is this a good time to go looking or should you hold tight?

In reality, even in this economic climate, there are still jobs available. Employers may be taking a little bit longer to hire, or they may have temporarily put hiring on hold, but there are companies continuing to grow, and many who have not had their business impacted by COVID-19. Many of these organizations are hiring just as aggressively as they were prior to the pandemic.

Even as a passive job seeker, it’s important to treat your job search seriously. Here are some tips to guide you through a thoughtful process, one which will result in finding the right job for you.


Looking for a job is a lot like the process of looking for a house. It’s often difficult at the beginning of a search to know exactly what you want. Maybe you have a vision in your head, or maybe you know a couple of things that you don’t want. In the end, you have to go out and look at some houses, get some advice, and start to formulate an opinion of where you want to live, what type of house, and what features it needs to have.

With any big decision, it’s a good practice to make a list of the things that are essential versus “nice to have.” The same applies to looking for a new job. Identify what you most want in the new position, then prioritize.

Too often a passive job seeker finds that their search spins on and on without any closure because they fail to prioritize what is most important to them. Maybe you’re focusing too much on something that is in reality very low on your priority list. Step back and put things in perspective and figure out what criteria are really driving your job search? Is it an opportunity to grow, or to learn a new technology, or to take on new responsibility? Maybe your number one priority is working with good people in a positive organizational culture. Or is it the thought of once again commuting that has you thinking about making a move?

Not everything on your list has the same weight or value. Take a good, hard look and identify the three most important items. Then rank order them. Continually revisit your priorities as you go through your job search. After each interview, reevaluate. Are your items still in the same order? Or have they shifted as you collect new information and learn about different opportunities?

Be Patient

It’s even more important to prioritize because your job search will probably take a little longer now. With the pandemic, many companies have delayed hiring or aren’t hiring as aggressively as before. That’s okay, because as a passive job seeker, you’re well positioned to wait for the right job. Patience is key.

By being clear on what you’re trying to achieve in your job search, you won’t make a mistake and find yourself in a similar (or worse) situation. Know what is most important to you and wait for it. Continually reevaluate your list because you may realize as you move forward, that the third thing on your list really is the most important.

Emotion Vs. Logic

Most people come at the job search either too emotionally or too logically. The best approach is to use both instincts. For instance, by being too logical and only focused on your list of criteria, you may miss what your gut is telling you about the people, the company or the new environment you are considering.

Similarly, too much emotion can get you in trouble as well. The criteria you defined have to matter as well, it just has to be balanced with what your gut is telling you. Be willing to question your assumptions. Recruiters often hear job seekers say they are adamant that they don’t want “A” or “B” but when questioned, they can’t articulate why. For example, a candidate says, “I don’t want to work for a big company.” Why? Maybe they have a preconceived notion of that meaning multiple layers of management or strict protocols when in reality the company could still have an entrepreneurial spirit, but with the benefits of an established brand.

As you sort through your list, dig a little deeper and ask yourself why you do, or don’t, want a particular situation.

Stay or Go?

The question is – just how unhappy are you? Too often, rather than attempting to address the problems in their current jobs, candidates launch into a job search. Sometimes they think it will give them more leverage to improve aspects of their current role. This can be a dangerous game to play and it can backfire. Or, you could end up in a new job that you really don’t like.

Before seriously looking for a new job, see if you can make your situation better. Once again, your priority list is a good tool. What is most important to you? Could you negotiate for changes?

Let’s say your commute is dragging you down. Maybe your supervisor would be open to continuing your work-from-home arrangement, or ultimately, shifting you to being remote a few days a week. People issues? Have an honest discussion with your boss or HR is in order. They might be able to coach you on how to deal with the situation. Or, if you are feeling underpaid, have you addressed this with your manager or asked for a raise? Again, question your assumptions. There may be solutions to improve your current position.

There’s an old saying about real estate. What’s most important is “location, location and location.” To paraphrase, when looking for a new job what’s most important is “prioritize, prioritize and prioritize.” Get clarity on what you really want, reevaluate your list regularly and be willing to question your assumptions.

Photo credit: Canva

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