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3 Ways to Make Your Job Search More Proactive

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When looking for a new job, many of us have a tendency to jump right to thinking about which specific positions you we’re interested in. But perhaps, this time around, it's the right moment to try something different. Here are three actionable tips for targeting your job search by developing a list of target organizations to serve as the foundation for your search.

Build your target list

Start by asking yourself this simple question: “Which organizations are doing the work that I want to be a part of?”

Build a list of approximately 10-15 organizations that are within your area of interest. Of course, you’ll want to make sure that these organizations aren’t only of interest to you, but that they also fit your other needs—geographic limitations, benefits, or religious or political affiliations—as well. For advice on how to build your list, check out the “What’s Your Target Employer List.”

Pro Tip: Think about asking family, friends, classmates, or colleagues to review your target employer list. You may end up with some good pointers, or even a warm lead.

Research and connect

After creating your target list, your goal should be to learn more about each organization and see if you can secure a conversation with at least one current employee at each.

Finding out things like team structure, organizational growth potential, and job titles can play a crucial role in assessing potential opportunities. In order to spend a fair amount of time on each name on your list, try focusing your efforts a different organization each day for a week, and give yourself a break over the weekend!

To connect with an organization, begin by examining how to secure a conversation with someone who works there. Who do you already know at the organization? What about friends of friends? Former colleagues? For email templates to help with this outreach, check out some of the networking section in the article “13 Helpful Email Templates to Use While Job Searching.”

As you try to connect with people from your list of target organizations, your goal is to get more information and advice, not to ask for a job. If you lead with an ask, people may be defensive or dismissive because they aren’t the hiring manager and the conversation feels disingenuous. Instead, focus on building a connection and learning as much as possible about the organization. The goal here is to learn, not to land a job (not yet, anyway).

Pro Tip: As part of your research, connect with organizations related to your region’s economic development such as an economic development corporation or chamber of commerce. These places have a finger on the pulse of the local job markets. This can be a great way to anticipate which employers may be hiring due to expected growth in the short or long term. Here is a link to find your local chamber of commerce and a resource to identify similar economic development organizations in your state.

Follow up and revise

Once you connect to people in your target organizations, it’s important that you stay in touch. You can do this by adding a reminder in your phone to check in with them every four to five months or send them articles relevant to what you’ve discussed thus far, or that cover topics related to their work.

An easy way to stay in touch is to simply update them on how you are doing and ask how their quarter is going. It is always nice to reach out when you aren’t asking for something. For tips on staying connected check out “7 Tips to Up Your Digital Networking Game.”

Pro Tip: Set up Google Alerts that include the names of your target organizations so that you get an email when they are in the news. This will help you stay in touch with relevant information.

While you may have a plan for your search, make sure that it’s flexible. As you research and connect with your target organizations, it is likely you will uncover more organizations you are interested in pursuing. You’ll need to revisit your plan and strategy often to revise as needed.

Not only will the tips above make your search more effective, they will also re-energize your search through conversations and connections.

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About the Author | Tom Dowd joined Muhlenberg College in February of 2016 as executive director of Career Services. He is a career development educator and career coach with more than 11 years of experience creating and delivering career programs for diverse audiences in higher education, nonprofit, and corporate environments.

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