Steps to Making a Target List for Your Job Search

Finding your dream job—or even the next stop on the way to your dream job—isn't easy. You can take a scattershot approach, applying for whatever opening you come across, or you can be more thoughtful by using a target list for your next job search.

As you follow these steps to make your target list, keep in mind why you're creating it. A target list will help you define what's important to you in a position and will give you a benchmark to measure future opportunities against.

target list job search

Keep your eyes open—even if you're not on the market

Once you've landed a position, it's tempting to settle in and take a break from networking and research. After all, it's exhausting. And while you should certainly focus first and foremost on your new position, you should always have your next opportunity in the back of your mind. Each day—whether you've been in a position six weeks or six years—you are expanding your network and interacting with new people and companies.

Take note of companies you find appealing or for which you could imagine working. What characteristics stand out to you? The values or benefits you find appealing when you're not job-hunting will be important to consider when you are.

Define your target by setting some parameters

As you develop your target list, you'll want to consider some basic parameters, including:

  • Are you open to moving? If not, there's no sense including a company located out-of-state. Better to keep things local.
  • Is your job search industry-specific, or are you interested in using your skill set in a new environment? Perhaps you've always worked in nonprofits, but your skill set—finance—could easily transfer to higher education. Are you open to that? Or would you prefer to stay in your current sector?
  • Do you have personal factors to consider? If you have young children, a company that offers in-house child care might be a huge bonus, or you might want to limit your search to within a certain radius of your child's school.

Research the best of the best

Your local business journal, city newspaper, or chamber of commerce likely runs an annual "best places to work" feature. Peruse the list to learn about different types of corporate culture and what trends you can expect in your community.

Companies become extremely competitive about inclusion in these listings, and the values they espouse in these articles are a good indicator of corporate culture. For instance, if they brag about their Silicon Valley-esque pool table and fridge stocked with beer, you can expect a casual, start-up-style environment—work hard and play hard. Sounds fun, but you might not be able to be home by six for dinner.

Network along the way

Becoming involved in a professional association for your industry has many benefits, and one of the biggest is the opportunity to interact with like-minded professionals. It's always a good feeling to talk to a peer who "gets it." Pay attention to the companies they work for and the experiences they share.

Make note of vendors and competitors—but tread with caution

The more established you are in your career, the more likely it is for your next opportunity to hunt you down rather than vice versa. It only makes sense a fantastic job offer might come from a vendor you work with or even a competitor. After all, you already know the industry—and they've probably paid attention to your work. Just tread with caution and review any non-compete or "cooling-off" agreements you might have signed when you started your current position.

Having a target list is a sign you've grown professionally, and you're in the position to be choosy about what opportunity comes next. Be proud of how far you've come!

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