Building Your Target List of Companies

Building Your List of Target Companies

To effectively conduct a targeted job search, it is critical that you define a list of target companies.  To take a trip, you need a destination to entire in GPS.  You also need a target for your job search so you don’t expend valuable time and energy in unproductive aspects of your search.

Consider the Universe

Think about the types of companies you would hope to work for and start making a list.  Consider the industry and the products and services.  Think about location.  Consider size.  Do some initial brainstorming to capture a broad range of possibilities.  As you start to identify trends such as industry, do additional online research to identify other options.  You may not be aware of small to mid-sized companies in your desired industries without doing some online research.  At this stage, do not limit your thinking, just capture a broad list of possibilities.

Narrow the Focus

Now review your list and based on your very limited current knowledge, rank them based on your interest level as A – top priority, B – medium priority, and C – low priority.  You are not taking anything off the list at this point just focusing a bit for next steps.  I’d recommend capturing your data in a spreadsheet so you can continue to refine it as we move through the process.  For now, list companies and interest priority.  Sort by priority so your “A” companies are at the top.

Preliminary Research

For your “A” companies, do some quick research.  This is where you need to be careful not to fall into the trap of over-researching or getting distracted by online applications.  This is a quick review to further prioritize your list.  You need to do two things for each “A” company.  Check LinkedIn or your alumni database to see if there are alumni at that company.  Just yes or no on your spreadsheet in a column for alums.  Do not start looking up individuals, seeing what jobs they hold, etc.  Just yes or no, are there alums at the company.  Second lookup is on indeed.com.  Check to see if the company has posted positions in the last 2-3 months and if any were in your field.  Do not look up the jobs or apply right now.  Yes is the posted and Yes if there are jobs in your field.

Prioritize Your List and Start Networking

Now, resort your “A” companies so that companies with alumni connections and recent, relevant postings are now at the top of your list.  This helps you focus your search on the companies most important to you with the greatest opportunity to have an impact.  You will now work your way through your target companies in priority order looking to identify relevant alumni connections.  Ask for networking meetings and conduct informational interviews.  Learn all you can about those companies and their hiring processes.  Work to build strong relationships so you can an internal advocate when an appropriate position does post.  Keep track of your networking activity and what you learn about each company.  Make progress on networking in your target companies by setting weekly goals and holding yourself accountable.

Update and Refresh

As you work the process, it is likely that some “A” companies will drop lower on your list and you can repeat the process to move “B” companies further up the list.  Continue to use the same process to prioritize your list.  To effectively manage a job search, you should have between 30 and 50 target companies that you are working.

By prioritizing and monitoring your list you are focusing your networking on your top companies instead of random activities and this has a significant impact on your success.  Build a strong target list to lead you to success in your search.

Building Trust in the Workplace

Working with MBA students this is an issue we frequently encounter.  Students want to go in and immediately make a difference.  They want meaningful work, significant high visibility projects and access to senior management from day one.   In most organizations, they have to earn the trust of their managers first.  As trust builds, so do the opportunities available.  There are various ways to build trust in the workplace:

  • Delivering Results – With each assignment, strive to what is asked and more.  Think about how you can add more value.  What are logical next steps, what additional questions does this raise, what other data would be helpful?  Meet or beat deadlines and if there is an issue let someone know in advance not at the last minute.  Managers typically don’t like surprises.  Provide accurate work in a timely manner and more projects will likely flow your way.
  • Interactions with Others – How you treat other people goes a long way in building trust.  Show respect.  Treat everyone well – administrative staff, receptionists, custodians, etc.  Be a good listener.  Empathize.  Do not act entitled, that turns people off.
  • Ask Questions – Ask questions when you don’t know, don’t assume that you know what is needed.  Ask once, take notes and don’t ask the same question again.  Knowing when to ask questions is strength not a weakness.  Demonstrate that you are constantly learning.  Be willing to show others how to do something in Excel that may be new to them or offer a tip on project tracking.  While you are still in learning mode, don’t forget that there are opportunities to share your skills and experience with others for the benefit of the team.
  • Offer Your Services – If there is a major team deadline, ask how you can help.  Sometimes they may not have time to get involved but you may be able to pitch in to make a difference.  It is important to be seen as part of the team.  If you have unique skills, offer to put them to use in the project at hand.  Maybe you can do something unique in Excel or PowerPoint that will make a difference.

Earn bigger projects and more visibility by delivering results and being a team player people want to work with you on their projects.  As you earn their respect the demand for your services will increase.

Five Skills Needed for Every Employee

Students often ask about the skills most critical for success.  While there are certainly unique factors for specific jobs and companies, I hear very consistent themes from employers on this topic.  The following five skills are critical for success in today’s job market.

  • Ability to Communicate – To succeed in most jobs the employee must be able to communicate effectively both orally and in writing.  You can be very smart, you can have great ideas but if you can’t communicate you risk being passed over for the next exciting project.  Professional, business communication skills are still the expectation.  Employers expect employees to write a clear, consise email or executive summary.  Grammar, punctuation and spelling do matter.
  • Work Effectively on a Team – The ability to effectively work as part of a team is critical to success in most organizations.   That means sometimes being a leader, sometimes being a good follower, monitoring the progress, meeting deadlines and working with other across the organization to achieve a common goal.  Employers want employees who can effectively work as part of a team, not as a lone contributor.
  • Ability and Willingness to Learn – The world is changing, business is changing and the pace of change continues to accelerate.  To succeed in most organizations you need to have a passion for learning and the ability to continue to grow and stretch your skills to adapt to the changing needs of the organization.  Little demand for dinosaurs these days.
  • Ability to Influence, Persuade and Negotiate  – There are few jobs you can do in a vacuum.  In most roles you need other people to do things so you can do your job.  There are steps in the process before your area of responsibility and often steps after you do your part.  Usually you do not have authority over those people.  You need to have the skill to develop mutually beneficial relationships in the organization so you can influence and persuade people to do what you need them to do in turn ensuring you are delivering what they need.  You need to be able to negotiate win-win solutions to serve the best interests of the company and the individuals involved.  There is no room for the “blame game.”
  • Ability to Analyze the Data – With increased computer skills, many employees can build spreadsheets and manipulate the data in various ways.  What elevates an employee above the crowd is the ability to analyze the data.  Don’t just total the columns, calculate an average and sort the data.  What story does the data tell?  What questions does it raise?  Are there different ways to interpret the data?  Instead of handing your boss a spreadsheet, give them a business summary and highlight the key areas for attention.  Suggest possible next steps.  Using the data to manage business decisions is a critical differentiator.  These days there are times when there is too much data and knowing what is important and relevant data is a key skill.

These skills alone may not put you on a direct track to the corner office but employees with these skills will definitely be more successful in their careers.

Unique Challenges of A Long Distance Job Search

If you are searching for your next position in another part of the country or the world, there are additional unique challenges to your search.  Anticipating these challenges in advance and being prepared to address them can increase your chances of success.

Networking Challenges – Conducting a long-distance job search does not eliminate the need for networking.  In fact, it makes networking more critical than ever.  You lose the luxury of meeting contacts in person over a cup of coffee to learn more about their careers and the companies they work for but that information is still critical for your success.  Leverage your alumni database and Linked In to identify alumni in your desired area and in companies on your target list.  Reach out to schedule telephone conversations to accomplish your networking objectives and to support your search.  You have to work at building a network to support your search in a new location.

Overcoming Objections – Hiring managers want to identify the best candidate for the job as soon as possible.  They are also often looking to minimize additional expenses in the process.  This leads many hiring managers to overlook qualified candidates who must relocate.  Hiring managers may assume that the candidates expect the company to pay their relocation.  Most companies only pay relocation for specific senior level or highly specialized positions where a national search is required to identify the appropriate talent.  If candidates are more generally available, it is highly unlikely they will pay your relocation.  You need to consider that expense in your planning process.  If you are planning to relocate anyway, be sure to make that clear in all your job search communications.  For example, “I will be moving to the San Francisco area on August 28.”  Consider in advance whether you would fly out for an interview at your own expense if necessary.

Do Your Research – Build a target list in your new area of companies you are interested in for future employment.  Prioritize your list and work to identify networking contacts within each target organization.  Proactively set up informational interviews with networking contacts, build your knowledge of your target organizations and strengthen relationships so you have resources to support you when the appropriate opportunity comes along.

Invest Your Time and Energy – As you define your job search plan, acknowledge that it will take longer to conduct a job search from a distance.  Schedule appropriate networking meetings.  Conduct as much online research as possible in advance.  Invest your time and energy in conducting a focused job search to maximize your opportunities for success.

With careful planning and focus you can succeed in your long distance job search.

Leveraging the Power of Executive Luncheons

All the data supports the fact that the best path to a successful job search is networking.  Meeting people at companies on your target list helps you learn more about the company, their products and services, their hiring process and career paths in the organization.  While most students will at least reluctantly agree that networking is important, taking the next step to make a connection and book and informational interview can be a daunting task for many.

At the D’Amore-McKim School of Business MBA Career Center, we make it easy for students to make these valuable connections.  Our full-time MBA students are currently participating in our summer series of executive luncheons.  After reviewing student target lists of companies they hope to work for after graduation, we reached out to contacts at those companies and invited them to campus for an Executive Luncheon.  Up to six students meet with our guests to learn more about the company, the industry and the guests’ personal career paths.  Students come to the session with questions prepared as well.  The result is an informal yet informative conversation over lunch.

Students leave these sessions with valuable insights into a company on their target lists and a contact within the organization.  While these sessions are conducted for networking purposes, we often see connections made that lead to full-time opportunities.  For students, the comfort of being in a small group makes it easier to talk about themselves and to ask questions of the guest.  They also do not have to do the outreach – we bring the sessions and the guests to them on campus.

Never underestimate the power of a good conversation over lunch.