When being headhunted is a bad thing

When being headhunted is a bad thing 1

I’ve got a scenario for you. 

Imagine you get a message from a recruiter saying you’re just the person they’re looking for. 

The role they’re trying to fill sounds right up your alley, and it comes with a step-up in pay that’s quite attractive. 

On the surface, this seems like a great opportunity to advance your career, right? 

Well, not necessarily. 

There’s one detail I left out with this scenario – you haven’t really thought about what’s next for your career. 

It’s an amazing feeling to be approached by a recruiter, as it’s nice to feel valued and receive external validation that you’re doing something well. 

But this initial feeling of excitement can quickly turn to confusion. 

When you’re happy in your current role, you can tend to not focus on other opportunities. After all, what’s your motivation for change if things are in a great place?

But when you’re approached out of the blue with an opportunity that sounds really good, you need to make a decision, and it usually needs to be made quickly. 

Suddenly, you’re not so sure about what to do. 

If I say ‘yes’ to this opportunity, I’m essentially saying that this is the best next step for me amidst all the other opportunities that are out there.

But I don’t know what else is out there. 

How can I possibly know enough about what’s out there in time to make this decision?

And what does this mean for my current role? 

Am I being disloyal if I consider this opportunity?

And will I be sacrificing my chances for better positions with my current company that I have a great shot at getting?

But then if I decline this opportunity, am I going to regret it?

Let’s replay this scenario, but change one key factor. 

This time, you’re thriving in your current role AND you’re keeping an active awareness of what’s next. 

In this scenario, you have a good awareness of your opportunity set and a clear understanding of what you’re working towards.

Now when you’re approached by a recruiter, you can easily and quickly assess their opportunity in the context of your opportunity set. 

Since you have an active awareness of your internal and external opportunities, you don’t feel disloyal to your current employer because this is just one potential opportunity you’re considering out of many.  

And when you give some thought and attention to this opportunity, you find that you’re able to make an assessment far more confidently. 

If you determine this opportunity isn’t for you, you feel at peace when declining it because you’re confident with what you want. 

And if this opportunity is too good to pass up, you still feel some nerves but you embrace the chance to step into the unknown. 

I’ve written this article based on my experience with career coaching and seeing these scenarios play out in real life with several clients. This is especially relevant for professionals in their 20s and 30s who are approached by a recruiter for the first time. 

If you haven’t been headhunted yet, enjoy the moment when it happens. Just be prepared for it by keeping an active awareness of where you’d like your career to go – it’ll make your decision a lot easier.  


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