To determine how to get to the next step in your career, you need an idea of where you are going. I often advise job seekers to build and prioritize a target list of companies where you want to work. This should in no way be limited to companies that you know personally or those you drive by each day. Where do you turn to help build your target list?
Linked In – Review your connections on Linked In to see where people you admire and respect are working. Look in your Linked In groups as well to see where fellow alumni or previous co-workers are now working. Make note of the companies that interest you. A first step in your research will be talking to your connections about their experiences at those companies.
Lists –Fortune and other magazines prepare multiple lists of the course of the year on leading companies by revenue, number of employees, work-life balance, etc. These may trigger your thinking but unless you are prepared to relocate other parts of the country or the world, these lists may be more frustration than assistance. Consider more local lists. Boston Business Journal includes lists in each weekly edition with an annual Book of Lists. Find the local lists for the area where you hope to work. You can look by industry, by size, etc. to identify companies of interest to you. Look online as well. Databases such as Hoovers allow to search with a radius of major cities by industry, size, etc. Keep an open mind. Many of the fastest growing companies are small to mid-sized firms that you may not be aware of today.
Competitors – As you start identifying companies of interest, do a little research and consider their competitors. They are in the same industry and may be a good fit for you as well.
Professional Associations – If you are clearly focused on a particular industry or business function, identify relevant professional associations. Attend meetings and see where other members work. Listen to how they talk about their work and the companies they work for to see if there is something of interest to you.
Social Networking – Do not overlook families and friends. They may work at interesting companies or may know people at companies in which you have interest. At social events, ask about what someone does for work and for what company. You can always set up a networking meeting later, but start to build a web of connections.
As you start building you list, review it on a regular basis to keep it fresh. You will learn more about companies as you network and some companies will move on or off your list. You then want to prioritize your list to help focus your networking. Consider companies that interest and excite you the most. Do you have contacts at those companies or someone who can introduce you to contacts at those companies? Has the company posted positions in your area of interest in the last few months? When you use this prioritized list to guide your networking, you are building valuable insider connections in the companies where you hope to work.