Headhunters or recruiters are a valuable resource when looking for a job.  But it's how you use them that makes the difference in your results.

The average person between 25 and 35 today will probably have 8 jobs over their lifetime. Presuming they retire at age 70, that means they'll spend about 5 years per job, give or take a year.

Now remind yourself how long you've been in the same role...is it time to look around?

And - even if you don't think that this the right time according to your planning needs - bear in mind that this economy may take that decision out of your hands.

Here's a good rule to observe: Leaving your fate in the hands of others is just dumb.  Kind of like, "managing by crossed fingers". 

- Companies don't look after you, they look after themselves. Plus, in today's environment, they're often more under duress than they may appear.  Loans or business agreements often outweigh how well they appear to be doing outwardly.

- Bosses are frequently too busy themselves to look after you, your growth, or even your employment.

And let's not forget that there are a lot of individuals who can work "at a distance". Folks in faraway places would be more than happy to take your job, and often for less money.

So get proactive.  

Here's a checklist of the steps to take - at least once a year:

1. Keep your resume current. If you aren't sure about how it should look, go to PongoResume. I recommend it be no more than 2 pages long.

Treat it like the headlines on a newspaper - all you want to do is catch the eye of the reader and get a foot in the door. If anyone's interested, they'll reach out to you and you can provide a more detailed paper.

2. Find a few headhunters / recruiters to work with. Try to get a relationship with at least 2. They can be national in outlook or local - one of each is smart because different employer HR Departments have different approaches, so this will cast a wider net.

In most cases, headhunters are paid by the employer company and not the job seeker. If the one you connect with asks for you to pay for their service, be cautious. Ask if they get paid by employers for filling their needs and if so how much they get paid. The best headhunters don't charge or charge only a token amount to job seekers.

3. Cozy up to your new "career partner". Most of the good ones are really busy but you should help them to understand that you're different.

Ideally they smell gold when they talk to you because they can see how really good you'd be for any company that takes you on. Many people don't like having to "sell" themselves; but the time you spend helping your headhunter to see that you're great; the better an outcome you'll experience.

4. When you are interviewing, ask the headhunter for her / his advice.

Then take it.

It's not to your benefit to get into a debate with the headhunter about why you have a better idea about how to proceed in the interview - they probably know the client.

Use the 40/60 rule - Let the other person talk 60% of the time. A common mistake of job interviewees is that they talk too much as they strive to show how great they are. It's a turn off.  It may cause the interviewer to question your listening skills.

5. At the end of the interview, ask how the interviewer sees you as a candidate in this search. I find that most will tell you honestly what they think.

Thank them for their feedback. If appropriate, ask if you can call them to follow-up on the progress. Don't accept the old, "leave it with me - I'll get back to you" stuff.  (That just causes you sleeplessness and acid reflux...)

6. The next week - call the headhunter and ask what they've heard. Accept what they tell you and don't be defensive. (S)he is your career partner and has no reason to give you bad advice.

- Then write the interviewer and thank them for seeing you. (You did get her business card / information, right?)

- Tell them a couple of reasons why you know you'd be a great fit for the job and company. Ask if you can call to follow-up on the progress of the search.

And finally - Always keep your headhunter up to date and copy him or her on your communications with the job prospect.

                                                       Here's to your future....