For one reason or another, you're itching to quit your job. Maybe you've maxed out your growth at your current company, you want to explore a totally new field, you're feeling stifled by a new supervisor, or you're ready to start your own business. The call for independence can be a pretty strong one, and it can cause you to hit send on your resignation email--just a little too early.So, don't do it. At least not yet.Unless you've accepted a job offer, you've got a lot of networking to do in order to make this next career leap successful. And it can take time: My business partner and I took more than two years to fully strengthen our networks before we left full-time jobs to launch our editorial marketing company, Masthead Media.Even if you're feeling satisfied and confident in your current role (at least, for now!), you should always keep widening your circle and cultivating relationships with colleagues and contacts. Take these six steps to ensure you're in the best possible position to make your next move--no matter where it might take you.Hit the Networking Events CircuitWhether you're ready to leave your job or completely happy at the moment, networking events can only help you--especially if you spend most of your workday chained to your desk. Put faces to names (or email addresses) for your virtual contacts, and increase your personal visibility in your industry, which is filled with potential employers and clients. While growing your network, these events also give you the opportunity to hone the "elevator pitch" you will use in job interviews or new business meetings.Grab LunchIt's time to stop eating salads at your desk! Start using your lunch breaks to network and strengthen professional connections with some all important face time. Here, you can dig for a little intel on who's hiring and share some of your future plans with trusted contacts. The one bit of lunch networking you want to avoid, though, is anything that could be construed as poaching clients. News of those poor business practice lunch breaks gets around fast!Circulate VirtuallyLet's be clear: posting an impulsive status update that even hints at the idea of, "Bored at my desk! [Yawn Emoii] ISO New Job!" is not a good move (even if you think your boss can't see your page). However, the months leading up to leaving your job are a good time to do a little maintenance on your LinkedIn page, add new connections, and reconnect virtually with professional contacts with whom you may have lost touch.Tap Into the Many Degrees of SeparationI don't care if you graduated at the top of your class at Networking University: There is no way that you've already met every professional contact that you need to know. Start requesting introductions from your existing contacts to grow your network. Schedule face time with as many new contacts as possible over lunch, drinks, or networking events.Meet With a HeadhunterThe right time to meet with a recruiter is before you actually need a job. Why? As a job seeker, you are not the recruiter's client: the companies that are hiring--and footing the recruiter's fee--are. Therefore, you may have to wait a while for a recruiter to connect you with an employer. Get in the mix early, and remember that the impression you make on your recruiter can be just as crucial as the impression you make on your interviewer.Establish a New Relationship With Your (Former) BossWhen you eventually leave your job, say anything but goodbye to your former colleagues and boss. This is the time to establish yourself as a potential new vendor, client, or general contact. Go beyond the old adage, "don't burn bridges" to actually build and strengthen new ones. Make sure to personally pass your new contact information along to your colleagues and your boss, and to be gracious on your way out.To prepare for the possibility that your exit doesn't go as smoothly as you would like, make sure to back up all of your contacts before submitting your resignation. Rebuilding your database is not how you want to kick off your new gig!
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