Building Your Target List

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.


Job Search Advice for New Graduates

Congratulations you’ve graduated but now what are you going to do?  The clock is ticking on your students loans and mom and dad keep asking you about your job prospects.  What is a new graduate to do?  Finding a full-time job needs to be your primary focus and priority.  Resist the urge to perfect your tan or spend the summer travelling.  Finding a job can be a full-time job in itself so you need to get focused and get started.  Here are some suggestions:

Create a plan – You need to define your goals and a specific plan of how you plan to achieve them.  You can’t get there if you don’t know where you are going.  Assess your skills, strengths and interests.  Think about the type of work you enjoyed on internships, part-time jobs or even on campus.  Document your plan and measure your progress against it.  Set weekly goals and hold yourself accountable.  Reward yourself by doing something you enjoy once you’ve accomplished your goals for the week.

 Prepare your tools – If you are planning a trip, you pack your bags.  As you embark on your job search journey you also need to make sure you have the appropriate tools.  Do you have your resume up to date and ready to go?  Have someone else proof it for you just to be sure there are no typos or errors.  Practice writing customized cover letters and ask for feedback.  Consider developing a networking profile to share during networking meetings.

Think about who you could use for references and collect their current contact information.  Ask their permission to use them as references and tell them you will notify them when you share their information with a hiring manager so you can brief them on the job.  Having the right tools won’t get you a job but it can get your foot in the door so you have the opportunity to sell yourself for the job.

Develop a Target list – What companies are you most interested in working for?  What industries are of greatest interest to you?  Start your list with your current preferences and then begin your research to identify other companies or industries that are similar and need your skill sets.  With a variety of online tools you can do significant research into these companies to prepare you for networking meetings and interviews.    Your target list will help guide your job search efforts.  Do your research on which companies have opportunities in your field and who has been hiring.

 Network, network, network – This is the single most important thing you can do to be successful in your job search.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics nearly 80% of all jobs are filled through networking.  Online postings often receive hundreds of resumes in response to a single posting.  To stand out and be noticed you need an internal contact to pass your resume to the hiring manager.  Networking helps you build and identify those internal contacts.

Networking is NOT asking for a job.  It is meeting someone at the company to learn about the company, the industry, the types of roles they offer, the skills they value  etc.  Networking involves a significant amount of listening.  Start with friends and family and explore who they know at target companies.  Do your neighbors or your friends’ parents have any connections to those companies?  What about former co-workers or classmates?  Sign up for the alumni network at your school and leverage the alumni database to identify contacts.  Most people will give a fellow alum a few minutes if asked.  Sign up for Linked In and identify contacts there as well.

Ask each networking contact for at least three other contacts.  Always thank the contact and keep track so you can follow up when you see an opportunity at that company.  Challenge yourself to make at least five networking connections each week.  It does make a difference.

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare – When you are invited in for an interview be sure you thoroughly prepare.  Utilize your career services office to help you prepare for interviews.  Ask for a mock interview with feedback.  Research the company thoroughly.  Prepare questions in advance to ask your interviewers.  Demonstrate your interest and passion for the job by coming well prepared.

Always say thank you – Interviewers remember which candidates sent a hand-written thank you note.  Stand out from the crowd.  If the timeframe is quick, send an email thank you but still send a handwritten note.  It can break the tie between two finalists.

If you need to work part-time- Maybe you don’t have the luxury of dedicating yourself full time to your job search.  If you need to work part-time or on a temporary basis, be extremely selective.  Think about skills that you need to develop and focus on a job that helps you develop or refine those skills.  Look for ways to gain exposure to an industry or company of interest by taking a temporary or part-time position to gain experience and visibility.  The enhanced skills and experience will help you further your job search instead of only putting money in your pocket.  If your goal is to work in an office, try to find office experience rather than becoming a store cashier or a waiter.  Focus on transferable skills.

 Add value to your resume, volunteer – Can you volunteer a few hours a week to add value to your resume?  A non-profit may be happy to help you gain some much needed experience while they gain coverage for summer vacations etc.  Find an organization you care about and explore opportunities to help.  You can gain office, finance, marketing, sales, communications, technology or other experience while helping them address a critical need in their organizations.  Not only does this add value to your resume, it also shows the employer that you care about giving back and that you showed initiative and creativity in gaining some experience.

 Protect Your Social Media Presence – Some potential employers will check out applicants online before making an offer.  Be careful of photos or descriptions of activities you might not want an employer to know about.  Put your best foot forward on all fronts to maximize your chances of success.  Be careful with your security settings.

 So, plan your journey.  Get out from behind the computer and start networking your way to a successful job search.  Enjoy the interesting people you meet along the way and all you will learn about different companies, functions and roles.



Do I Really Need to Use Linked In?

I am often asked by job seekers if it is really worth their time and effort to use Linked In in their job search.  Bottom line:  use it only if you are serious about finding your next job!  Why is Linked In so important in your job search?

  • Building Your Professional Network – The single most important thing you can do in your job search is networking. Linked In makes it easier than ever to identify contacts in your target companies.  It is highly unlikely you will land your next position by simply applying online.  You need to build a network of supporters at your target companies so that when the perfect opportunity is posted, you have an inside connection who can pass your resume to the hiring manager.  It is challenging to stand out in the flood of online applications but most hiring managers will take a look at resumes referred from a trusted colleague.
  • The Value of Second and Third Degree Connections and Groups – In the past networking was more challenging because you had to rely primarily on people you knew personally already. With Linked In the true power comes through your second and third degree connections.  People you know also know many other people.  This greatly expands the pool for identifying contacts in your target organizations.  With group you can make connections without waiting for an introduction.  Leverage alumni groups for school and former employers as well as affinity groups for your profession.  This enables you to expand your network exponentially.
  • Informational Interviews – A critical component of your networking strategy should be informational interviews to learn more about the companies on your target list and their career paths and hiring practices. Linked In enables you to identify relevant connections for informational interviews.  Then ask each contact for additional introductions.
  • Reconnecting with Former Colleagues – You may have lost contact with former colleagues once you left the company. Find them on Linked In to see where they are now and who else they may know to assist you in your search.
  • References – It is critical to have references for your search and chances are your references may have moved to other companies since you last worked together. Linked In is a convenient way to find them and to reconnect with them.  Be sure to ask permissions to list them as a reference and verity their contact information in advance.  When you expect a company will be contacting your references, let them know in advance to expect the call and provide background on the position and why you feel you are good fit.
  • Helping Others Find You – While Linked In is extremely valuable in helping you find contacts, it is also becoming a valuable tool for recruiters to find specific skill sets and experience. Be sure you have a compelling and descriptive heading, not just your current title.  Have a complete profile so potential employers can quickly see the highlights of your experience and education.  Include a summary to focus on your key transferrable skills and your major professional accomplishments.  Make it easy for recruiters to find you.