Job Seekers of Montclair, Essex County, New Jersey, support, job hunting group.
Targeting your job search

Job targets are a way to focus your search on a few segments of the labor market where you are more likely to be hired to do the work you would prefer. Targeting can significantly improve your job search in three ways: helping you determine the approximate size of your job market, creating momentum by concentrating your activities, and managing the pace of your job search campaign.

A job target is a position within an industry in a particular geography. In some cases, it is helpful to specify the kind of organization you might prefer, such as the size of a company or a non-profit organization. For certain kinds of positions, noting the larger field can be useful. To summarize, a job target includes: geography, industry, position, with organization type and field as optional components. Examples of three job targets are shown below:

Target A B C
Geography: Within 1-1.5 hr commute Relocate to Colorado/California Within 45-60 commute
Industry: Financial Services Social Services/Mental Health Law
Organization Type: Large Company Nonprofit/Government Association
Field:   Social Work  
Position: Financial Analyst Therapist/Counselor Executive Director

A key benefit of targeting is that it enables you to scope out or dimension the size of the job market in your target. Although all people and searches are unique, a feasible job search generally will have at least 100-200 possible positions within it. Possible positions are the number of positions that meet your broad targeting criteria, regardless of whether they are filled or not. Let's take the example of Target A, noted previously. Say that there are over 50 financial services firms within a 1.5 hour commute of northern NJ and they have an average of at least 4 financial analysts each. Therefore, target A has over 200 possible positions. In boom economies, a person pursuing target A might be able to narrow his or her target by reducing the geography or refining the kind of organization. However, in 2003, given the high unemployment in NYC, which boasts many of these kinds of jobs, maintaining target A in its current form may be wiser.

A different situation is represented by example C, which is the case of Manny Clark. (Name has been changed to protect client confidentiality). At the time he consulted me, he was a 40 year old lawyer with an excellent track record and credentials, who had been out of work for over six months during a favorable economy. His job, people and job search skills were fine. Yet, he was barely getting any interviews. Clearly something wasn't working. His job target was to be an Executive Director of a large legal-related association within a 45-60 minute commute from his home. After doing the research I suggested to him, he discovered that very few positions existed in his target. This was a structural problem that no amount of improved legal skills, resume or interviewing enhancements would fix. He needed to expand his target. He decided to open up his geography and considered relocation. Within one month, he was offered and accepted an appealing job in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.

Targeting creates momentum in your job search because you concentrate your activities within a manageable field of people and concerns. But, if you're like many people, you may think, "Why go to all that trouble to identify job targets, especially when it narrows the range of jobs for which I'll be considered?" The reality is that it is difficult to convince a potential employer that you can make a contribution to meet his or her needs when you are trying to be all things to all people. With targeting, you can articulate your career and your accomplishments in a more coherent and persuasive manner. Targeting your job search also focuses your attention on a reasonable number of labor markets. You can keep in touch with relevant economic trends and take advantage of unexpected opportunities.

Targeting is also a valuable method for managing your job search campaign because it enables you to pace, monitor and adjust your job search. I often advise clients to choose at least two or three job targets to increase the probability of receiving job offers. You start with your Target A, the area you'd like to get job offers in. Then, you complete the job campaign phases of:

  1. Preparing
  2. Engaging in activities to generate interviews, such as networking
  3. Interviewing
  4. Negotiating

Once you move into phase II, you begin doing the preparation for Target B. That way, while calling and waiting for networking appointments for Target A, you can develop your resume for Target B. You advance into different phases for each target. If the market looks tight for Targets A and/or B, you may consider adding a Target C. With targeting you will know that, if you have been conducting a serious job search for a few months and received very few invitations for interviews, you probably need to shift to a more promising target.

Effective job search is not magic. It is a skill that can be learned, but you need practice and feedback on the progress of your search. Targeting is the perfect tool to provide you with this critical information. Without it, you may continue to search in job markets that cannot hire you; with it, your campaign can be more effective. Why not jump-start your search by figuring out your job targets today?

© 2003 by Judy Scherer, President of "Metro Career Services," Short Hills, NJ. She can be reached at or 973-912-0106.