Let’s face it. Making a career move in today’s tech job market can be uncertain.

By “uncertain,” I don’t mean lack of jobs. I mean, well, uncertain. Career moves are happening every 3 to 4 years. Even if you beat those odds, change is very much a part of the market, especially in tech fields.

Today’s world of work penalizes you for things you often can’t control… for being too “old,” too female (or even too male), too experienced, too qualified, too “technical,” too expensive. It might not reward you for this cert or that title. And many companies struggle with their talent retention efforts, to put it lightly. And all of that can be demotivating!

I sum it up this way: The job market is a “zoo” filled with corporate “goo” (aka hiring practices that are a hot, sticky mess!)

But here’s the good news:

Just because the market is uncertain, you don’t have to be!

I’ve spoken about the concept of “corporate entrepreneurship” several times before, and it is our contribution to the latest book by Brian Tracy, featuring our own Stephen Van Vreede, called Uncommon (download a copy of the chapter “The Rise of the Corporate Entrepreneur“). It’s an important topic because whether you have 5 years left or 25, you have a career worth protecting.

(Now, don’t tell me your career isn’t that important. Of course it is. You do need to eat, and so do your kids and your dog. I get that you don’t want your career to be “everything” but that doesn’t mean it isn’t important. If you need to earn a living, it’s important.)

No Matter Which Type of Career Move You Want to Make…External Search, Internal Promotion, or Contract Opportunity… (or even if you plan to “stay put” for awhile), in today’s world of work, we all need to take a page out of the Entrepreneur’s Playbook.

And that begins with pipelines.

Entrepreneurs quickly learn the importance of building channels of opportunity that go beyond just “networking” and acquiring more credentials. These pipelines, when set up properly and maintained, provide a continuous flow of engagement and discussion that keep entrepreneurs nimble with the marketplace and “ever ready” to make a move.

Sounds exhausting? Believe me, it is more exhausting to have to start each career move from scratch, building up networks and creating materials, all from a desperate position (like 95% of professionals do).

Here are some “pipelines” every “corporate entrepreneur” should establish:

  • Recruiter connections: You should properly match yourself with at least 1 or 2 recruiters who place professionals in your field, area of focus, and with your salary requirements, and you should be in regular contact with them EVEN (or ESPECIALLY) when you aren’t looking. You need to do periodic check-ins to see what is up, what they are seeing in the market, etc. (This only has to take a few minutes every quarter, and you can set up regular reminders to do this). Recruiters can be frustrating, but you should have one in your back pocket! And it is better, much better, when you are currently employed to talk with them.
  • Profiled employer connections. Most professionals have some idea of the type of company that is ideal for them. But I rarely meet one who is working toward building connections at companies that fit this profile. Occasionally, someone will have 1 or 2 people they happen to have met or know, but until they are in desperate job search mode, most professionals will not be proactive in building these relationships. And to think LinkedIn makes it so much easier! (The key to making this approach work is understanding tact and the information interview process. Don’t go into it without that!)
  • Small, engaged group job hunting network. Many people tell me they network; very few tell me they do so productively. Here’s why: Their network is too social; their network is too large and unfocused. Yes, too large. Within your network should be a subnetwork. These are a few people who have specific goals that you pledge to help one another support. You then make regular introductions, forward potential opportunities, and recommend/refer. Some meet online or in person every couple of months or more depending on need. The point is that they stay engaged and concerned about each other’s goals even after they land a new role. Group job hunting is perhaps one of the most effective job search methods; it is certainly one of the most underused. But just like entrepreneurs build strategic partnerships, so too should corporate professionals.

Those are just a few pipelines you can build. There are several others. The point is to create diverse areas where opportunity could arise.

Back in the day, you put a basic resume together, worked a few connections or answered a few job ads, and felt pretty certain the right opportunity would come along. Then if you worked hard and didn’t burn too many bridges, you most likely had a pretty secure career path ahead of you perhaps even with the same company.

Today, it can be a rude and expensive awakening to find out that what used to work is now not as effective or that a career move can take so much longer to get up and running.

Trust me. I see it everyday with technical leaders who come to me worn out from working for the wrong employer, from corporate acquisition/merger chaos, from start-up drama, from Fortune 500 messiness, and from general market uncertainty. And they are overwhelmed by the hiring process to take the steps they need to.

All it takes is a little bit of planning, regular strategy check-ins, and periodic updating now.

It’s not as hard as you might think. And it is much better than the alternative!

To help you get a better feel for where you currently stand in preparing for tomorrow’s career move, I’ve developed a simple self-assessment survey you can take that is quick to do (2 minutes tops), free, and helps get you thinking about where you are and where you need to be:

Career Move Preparation Self-Assessment