As a Disney fan, I can’t help but think of a scene in Alice in Wonderland where Alice approaches a fork in the road and asks the White Rabbit which road to take. He asks Alice where she wants to go but she doesn’t know. The wise White Rabbit then replies, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will do.” This applies in your job search as well.
Many job seekers “manage” their job searches by checking job posting boards every day and applying for any job that looks interesting or appropriate. Needless to say, this does not often yield positive results. They are missing several critical steps in the process.
Create and Refine a Target List
Seriously think about where you would like to work next. Which companies are most appealing to you? What industry is your preference? Do you have a specific geographic target? If you have a specific industry and role in mind, do some research about companies in that field. Often many exciting mid-sized and smaller companies have great opportunities but the company is not on your radar screen. Build a target list of 30 – 40 companies that most interest you for the next step in your career. As you work the process and learn more about these opportunities, some companies may fall off your list and you might discover new ones to add. This should be a dynamic list that evolves as you work through your search.
Use Your Target List to Drive Your Networking
Networking is the single most important thing you can do in your job search. It is critical in finding your next opportunity. However, random networking does not yield the same results as more targeted networking. You should focus your networking on the companies you identified on your target list. Prioritize your list and start working your way down the list by utilizing Linked In and your alumni network to identify former colleagues, friends, neighbors, alumni, or even friends of friends in your target companies. You will be able to gain significant insights into your target companies from these contacts.
Unlock Valuable Information with Informational Interviews
Reach out to those connections to set up informational interviews. You are not asking for a job. You are tapping in to their experience and insights to learn about the culture of the organization, the hiring process, career paths in your chosen field, etc. Get people talking about what they like about their job and the company they work for and you can gain significant insights. Ask them who else you should be speaking with in the company or the industry. Ask them what professional associations they find most helpful.
Leverage Your Network and Knowledge for Success
The insights you gain from your information interviews will help prepare you for success when the right opportunity opens up at your target company. You may also have established trusted relationships with your connections who would share your resume with the hiring manager. This significantly increases your chances of someone actually reviewing your resume over one that simply comes through the online posting.
Heed the advice of the Wise White Rabbit and know where you want to go so you will take the appropriate road to get there.