The Importance of Targets in Your Job Search

I see a lot of new job-hunters who are unfocused about their job targets. They feel that their background allows them to do many things (e.g., I can be a project manager, marketing director, or a corporate trainer). So their whole approach to the search is to position themselves as generally as possible, in the hope that others (recruiters, network contacts, etc.) will decide for them.

This approach doesn’t work for a couple of reasons. First off, you need to make it as easy as possible for people to help you, and that means pitching yourself appropriately for a specific position. Don’t ask them to do the work to translate your varied background into specific targets– do this for them! Second, targeting is all about the benefits that accrue through focus vs. a less successful “scattershot” approach. You increase efficiency and momentum by focusing on a target, because you get to know the players and the issues specific to that target, you learn to speak the “language”, and you essentially become an insider. People want to hire insiders!

So what is a target? I define it as a combination of  1) the job description/title, and 2) the type of organization (startup vs. Fortune 500, non/for-profit, industry). If you vary either of these parameters, you’re changing the audience for your pitch enough that you’ll need to come up with a new value proposition, or use different language or keywords to position yourself correctly. You want to ensure that your pitch, cover letters, and resume speak the language of the target you are approaching.

For example, one of my clients had two job targets: Finance Director for large global financial services firms and Finance Director for well-known luxury-retail chains. Her experience was all in financial services so in writing her resume for the first target we showcased that. But for the luxury-retail target we downplayed the financial services aspect of her background and wrote her resume in a more general way that would appeal to this target.

Try to have at least two targets, so you have a backup. And prioritize so you focus on one target at a time with some overlap (focusing enables you to learn faster how to optimize the way you pitch yourself for that particular target). As you build momentum in one target you start to focus on the next. This way, if a target doesn’t work out, your job search is still moving forward because you’ve already started on the next target.

If you need help researching targets, check out the industry and occupation research link on the Resources section of my website, as well as the job descriptions listed in job boards. And then consider setting up informational meetings with people in the targets you are pursuing to further validate the target.