Most job-seekers mistakenly spend too much time online looking at job postings and sending in résumés. In many cases, these attempts lead nowhere. These same postings might be better utilized to provide insight into who is hiring and for what positions.
In addition to job boards and resources like Monster.com, LinkedIn and CareerBuilder, recent grads, especially those with some work experience under their belts (like most non-traditionals), should also take a close look at the actual websites of companies they like. Be sure to read every page and check every link on those corporate websites to learn more about the companies themselves, their leaders, competitive positions and their corporate cultures.
Get to know the Company
Reviewing potential openings that a company posts may give you a clue to its overall requirements for hiring, but the corporate website and the social media it maintains, like Facebook Fan Pages or an actual online community, can provide more valuable clues about the potential opportunities available. There are other online resources that can help expand your list of employment possibilities. Online databases can help locate companies that meet your criteria. They can also automatically generate lists that contain any number of "hidden companies" you may not find on your own. One of the best resources I’ve found is Hoover's, a business information site that contains free (and paid) research on companies.
Online research is certainly a great place to start a job search, but implementing a multichannel approach that targets and markets you is even better, especially if you want to find opportunities at companies that may be lesser known in the marketplace. Experts at New York’s Best Fit Forward, recommend you spend less than 40 percent of job search time online. The face-to-face meeting or interview is still the most important part of the process, so continue to work on those interpersonal skills. While the fastest growing demographic of users on Facebook and Twitter may be over 30, old-fashioned [face-to-face] networking still beats an online job board as one of the quickest ways to get hired.
Seek out local leads
Stepping away from the computer and conducting some face-to-face research through networking is also critical in cultivating a target company list. An ExecuNet report recently found that combining referrals with research and face-to-face meetings builds the strongest foundation. That translates into finding the right job for you.
Read community newspapers and follow the websites of local organizations, even the ones you're not planning to apply to. This will help you identify local companies and understand the specific challenges they may be facing. If you can come up with potential solutions to someone's problem, you’ve got a real shot at being hired. Learn all you can about a company’s history, business performance, product offerings, organizational structure, personality and challenges before you approach. Another great way to identify local companies is by attending meetings and events in town – join a charitable committee, the Chamber of Commerce, volunteer for a cause. Don’t ignore local 'lifestyle' groups. Sometimes, the best information can be found at a child’s soccer game, in a church group or at a local gathering.
Start your list early
If you’ll be looking for work in the next couple of years, start building that target company list now to gain a stronger focus on your particular job search. Remember, you're not alone. Many recent grads don't know how to identify "backyard" opportunities. Find out what is happening today within any company you have an interest in. Get to know the lay of the land. Think about what you bring to the table for any company you want to work for. Don’t be surprised if your past efforts don’t translate to instant worth; most companies are seeking someone who can prove their worth today.
Many people are unsure about how to approach a job search in the current economic environment. Begin with strategy then move on to tactics. A critical component of any marketing plan is identifying the target audience. Gaining a clearer understanding of who we are and where we want to go must come before we can decide how we want to get there.