New Year – New Targets

In my last post, I talked about updating your resume and cover letter – two of the three most critical documents for a job search. With absolutely no data to back me up, I will bet that 99% of job seekers (for professional jobs) have resumes and 75% regularly use cover letters. These documents have been used for centuries.

I will also bet that document number three, however, is only used by 25% of job seekers (or less) and I will guarantee that if you will use it you will have a distinct advantage. Document number three is a Target List.

A target list is a list of 15-25 organizations where you think you might like to work. They don’t necessarily have job openings and you don’t have to be convinced that this is your dream employer. These organizations are in the industries, locations, markets, or whatever, that interests you. Maybe they are on a best-places-to-work list. Maybe you’ve heard they have over-the-top employee benefits. For whatever reason, these are places where you might want to work.

So, I can hear you thinking, how does this list help me? Let me give you three ways:

  1. Organizations go on the list only after you have done some research. Should you get a networking opportunity or an interview with an employee from that company, you’ll be prepared with some background and questions about that organization.
  2. When you are networking and ask the question, “Do you know anyone else I might talk to?” you will get the answer, “No.” When that happens, you pull out your target list and ask, “Do you know anyone who works for any of these companies?” You will be surprised how often the answer to that question is “Yes.” That contact may not be in the area or department you are interested in, but now you have an ‘inside’ contact to network with.
  3. The target list gives you direction. Without it, your networking will take you wherever it takes you. While that may not always be bad, there are benefits to focusing your search and conserving your energy.

Now that I’ve convinced you that you need a target list, here are three tips to make that list more effective.

  1. Format the list to look like your resume and cover letter. Use your letterhead, same paper, same font, etc. With all of these documents, you are building and maintaining your brand.
  2. Resort the document often. The companies on the list need to be in some order or grouping. Maybe they are ranked by your preference. They could be sorted by industry. They could be alphabetical. But, if you are going on a networking meeting with someone who works for a manufacturer, and if there are manufacturers on your list, move those names to the top of the list.
  3. Continually update the list. After a networking meeting where someone tells you about how horrible an organization is to work for, take it off the list. Show the list to your friends and ask for other ideas to be on the list. Spend a rainy afternoon searching the net to find reasons to add or delete companies on the list. Keep it alive and in the front of your mind.

A well-developed, maintained, and deployed target list will increase you networking effectiveness significantly. I’d be willing to say (with no data and no consequences of being wrong) that using a target list will make your networking meetings twice as effective in generating new networking contacts. This list will give you a strategic advantage over your fellow job seekers who don’t have a target list. If you don’t have one, make one today.


If you want more advice on target lists, how to write a resume, how to, network or just how to find a job, check out I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable about the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another. Click here for more details.

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