Do you know where you’d love to work? Here’s a powerful way to find out

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If you’re like many job seekers looking online for a position, you may be leading that search with a job function, location, or cause area. Making use of the “keyword” box might feel like you are targeting your search. However, a switch in focus can really help you find a career at an organization that suits you.

Rather than go after a particular job function or keyword, develop a Target Employer List. Quite simply, this list includes organizations you are interested in working at, based on your criteria for a good fit.

Why you should search for organizations, not just opportunities

You may know what you are looking for as far as job responsibilities go, but knowing what kind of organization you want to work for is a key to job satisfaction. Organizational culture, history, mission, community, and impact are often critical to the happiness of any full-time changemaker. Additionally, getting a clear vision of the organizations where you will thrive makes it easier to tailor your job search and networking efforts, and helps in making a good decision regarding your acceptance of a job offer.

If you are on a strict timeline for finding a job, this process can still be helpful in building your professional network and prospecting for future career moves. Avoid another frazzled job search by laying the groundwork now. You don’t have to start out with a list of 50 organizations. Start with a short list and build from there. Give it a try!

Start building your target employer list

Below are guidelines to help you identify and assess organizations. To complete these exercises, use this spreadsheet.

  1. Identify organizations you might be interested in.
  2. Use the “Key Reasons to Pursue This Organization” list to determine which to add to your list.
  3. Use the accompanying spreadsheet to keep track of contacts and interactions at your Targeted Employers.

Identify organizations

Let’s say you can’t imagine any particular organizations that you’d want to work at. Start with these questions:

  • Where have you applied recently? (Note: if you haven’t been keeping track of your applications, start now!)
  • Where do your friends and family work? What is interesting about their organizations? If you don’t know, look it up online or even better, have a chat with them! (Bonus: This also counts as “networking.”)
  • Where have you volunteered? What did you like about the organization? Would you consider working there? Why or why not?
  • Think about conferences, events, and workshops you’ve attended. What organizations had a presence?
  • Do an organization search on Idealist, which has over 104,000 profiles. Avoid the temptation to look at the job listings—that’s not the focus right now.
  • To which organizations do you donate your money? Look at them as potential places of employment. If you are willing to donate your money to them, it stands to reason that working there (or someplace like it) should also have some appeal.
  • Which organizations offer products or services that you would purchase or use (ex: museums, gift shops, theatres, fair trade sustainable garments)?
  • What brands do you purchase? Even if you have no interest in working in the for-profit sector, do a little digging. What philanthropies do they support? Which sound interesting to you and why? What nonprofits might they work with in some area of their business?
  • Keep a running list of organizations you read about in articles, hear about at networking events or workshops, have interesting people employed at them, etc. Take note of what they do that attracts you.
  • Which organizations do you follow on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Google+? Think about what catches your interest. What do they post that prompts you to share or retweet?
  • What organizations would you jump at the chance to work at?

(To expand this list, when you identify an organization you like, think of others in their field, their partners and competitors, and any related up-and-coming nonprofits.)

Whenever you come across an organization that sparks your interest, ask yourself the questions in the “key reasons” list below. Decide if you should add it to your list. Remember this is an ongoing endeavor. Your preferences and priorities may change over time and new experiences will introduce you to other organizations you might develop interest in.

After completing this step, you should have several targeted employers on your list. You’re not finished yet, though. For each organization, be sure you can identify at least three points from the “key reasons” list to help you figure out why you want to work there.

Use the “Key Reasons to Pursue this Organization” list

The list below is to help you figure out whether you want to work at the organizations you’ve identified. Remember that this will require researching the organizations and gathering information to add to your spreadsheet.

  • You like the culture and feel like you would be a good fit.
  • Its mission aligns with your ethics and cause areas of interest.
  • You have respect and interest in the work they do.
  • It meets “general” criteria such as size, location, etc.
  • You have researched key leaders of the organization and are interested in working with them (even indirectly).
  • You see opportunities for your growth (at that organization and beyond).
  • You have attended an event hosted by the organization and like what you see.
  • You volunteered at the organization and enjoyed your experience (be specific about what made it enjoyable).
  • You are familiar with their employee relations practices and they match what you need at work.
  • You can identify areas in which you can bring your expertise (even if there is not a job opening currently available).

Keep in mind that if you are hard-pressed to fill in the “why interested” box, maybe the organization doesn’t belong on your list!

Keep track of your interactions with your organization contacts and information

Once you have a robust Targeted Employer List, begin building relationships with people who work there, stay on top of the organization’s work, and regularly search for job opportunities (both online and via your networks). Don’t have any contacts? Check out our tips for building your network online or in person.

You can now reacquaint yourself with the job search button on Idealist (this time searching by organization name). When asking your network for help, share content from your spreadsheet to help them contextualize what you are looking for. See the difference that your new approach makes!

Have you created a targeted employer list? What do you think of this approach? Share your thoughts below.

 

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Photo Credit: sergign, Shutterstock

About Author

Throughout my 15+ year career in resume writing, career coaching, higher education, and working with nonprofit job seekers, I’ve used an approach that is nurturing yet practical and driven to achievement. As Audience Development and Content Manager at Idealist for our online publication, Idealist Careers, I bring relevant tips to today's social impact job seekers and career changers with sensitivity towards the challenges they face. I also am the writer of our career advice column, "Ask Victoria". Understanding the roles that a positive outlook and holistic self-care play in career success, I share with our readers time-honored methods for improving confidence and productivity. Have a question? Ask at askvictoria@idealist.org. Follow me on Twitter @_AskVictoria.

6 Comments

  1. Brianna Gibson on

    I really enjoy this article because of how helpful it is. I like the fact that it makes you think of organizations to work for, rather than finding specific job. After reading this, I can definitely identify my problem with job hunting. When the time comes for me to find a job I will definitely refer back to this. I think the step by step process and spread sheet it provides you with is a great tool. I also like this because the questions really help you narrow it down to the exact organization you should be apart of based off your own answers and opinions. I will for sure be using this set of questions in the future to help find me my dream job.

  2. I found this article to be my potential dream job breakthrough. It has provided through this article an extremely helpful approach, both with creating a target organization list of where you would enjoy working, and equally important, the key reasons “why” one would like to work there. It gives several key examples, helpful tips, and essential advice. Thank you Idealist!

  3. I really enjoyed reading this article. It does make me think of organizations that I really value. I will write the list!

  4. So pleased to read that you have found this helpful! Let us know how your job search goes after starting your targeted employer list. Good luck and best wishes to you all!

  5. Zachery A. Lara on

    I really liked this blog! It really got mere thinking of how what I want to do when I’m older and give me a better understanding of what I am interested in. It’s not only getting your dream, but being able to Build up and around your dream job to make it a job that you wake up happy to go do. In my opinion people take in consideration of organizations jobs are in and focus on specific jobs’. I will remember to use these questions to help me narrow down what specific field of sports training I want to do when I am older. I like the fact of getting to know people in your organization because in many ways that can better your organization by being comfortable with the people around you and knowing them on not only a work level, but personal level too. I didn’t realize how in depth careers really are until reading this. Thank you.

  6. This article has definitely helped re-frame my approach to the job search. I’ve begun drafting my own target list and found the results really insightful! Love that this article also provided very actionable steps. It’s not just an idea or approach, but a very helpful how-to guide as well 🙂 Thank you for all the insight!

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