In the business world you hear a lot about targets, and it rarely has anything to do with Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games (unless you’re part of the studio who produces the movies). And it has nothing to do with an assassin’s prospective victim, either. When most of us hear the word “target” in the workplace, we’re hearing it as a substitute for “goal,” as when we’re looking to make certain sales numbers.
All of these usages of “target” have something in common, though: if Katniss wants to have meat on the table, she’d better shoot something. If an assassin wants his hit money, he’d better aim carefully. And if a company wants to meet its sales targets, it will probably require some actual selling to get it done.
So here’s my career-counseling corollary: getting a first/next/better job requires action on your part. You’ll need to take where you’re standing now, with your list of job requirements that will help you find a job that’s satisfying (see my recent post on 8 Tips for Finding a Job That Fits Your Values for help in figuring out what type of job will make you happiest). Next, you’ll need to identify your target. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be ready to aim and fire.
But, wait! Where do you find your target? How do you go from knowing what type of job will make you happiest to finding actual employers who might be a good fit for your values and skills?
Here are some pointers for zeroing in on your “prey” / future employer:
- Look locally. Are there any employers nearby who are in your desired industry? Google, LinkedIn’s Company search function, and your local Chamber of Commerce can all be good sources for this info.
- Dream big. To your list, add companies that you secretly (or very publicly) admire. What services do you use, products do you buy, or things do you covet? Add those companies to your list. What have you got to lose?
- Ask around. If you want to know where the best fishing or hunting is, you ask someone who knows. It’s the same principle here: reach out to your friends, family, neighbors, and other likely sources. Grill them on what they think of their employers, and what they’ve heard about other employers. If you run across an exciting company, go one step further and ask your contact if they’ll introduce you to someone who works there. (See my post on Informational Interviewing for tips)
- Consider your competition. What do you hear about competing companies in your field? If it’s good (and you don’t have a non-compete agreement), your competitors may well appreciate your industry knowledge and experience.
- Build bridges. Sometimes, the gap between where we’d ultimately like to end up working and where we are now is a bit too far to cross in one step. For example, a new graduate is unlikely to be hired as CEO at a large retailer or manufacturer. Your best bet is to find a “bridge job,” or a stepping stone, that will give you experience in a position, industry, or company and allow you to make a future move toward your ultimate goal later.
- Use your alumni status.Many college and university career centers have special resources to assist job-hunting alumni, including job listings where alumni status might give you an “in.”
- Leverage lists. Dig up any “Best Places to Work” list you can find, and dig into them to see if there are any potential matches between your job requirements and listed companies.
- Explore Organizations. Are you a member of a professional association that hires people with your expertise? For example, a hotelier could add a hospitality association to their target list instead of solely looking to get hired by Marriott or Hilton.
- Be brave. If something feels a little scary, it’s an opportunity for growth. Open yourself up to the idea of working internationally. Not for you? Would you move cross-country? Across the state? I challenge you to find something out of your comfort zone, and try it. For you, using social media to identify potential employers may feel a bit risky. If so, use Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn to follow companies or brands you’re interested in. Or start conversations with other people about their jobs. Take a risk!
All of these methods can turn up good leads to help you in your job search. This is a critical step between defining the types of jobs that you might love and landing the right job at the right employer. After all, “The odds of hitting your target go up dramatically when you aim at it.” (Mal Pancoast)
For more information about targeting potential employers, feel free to contact me. Or if you’re in the Madison area, I invite you to join me at a presentation on Tuesday, October 21st by career counselor and author Elisabeth Sanders-Park on “5 Steps to a Shorter Job Search,” including advice on targeting employers. Click here for more information or to register: https://professiondirectionelisabeth.eventbrite.com.