This is “What Do You Research?”, section 6.1 from the book Job Searching in Six Steps (v. 1.0).
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Information about the job tells you what you will do in the immediate term. Ideally, you have a clear understanding of what you are responsible for—in what areas you can make decisions and which people, resources, or budget you need to manage. You want to have a picture of what a typical day, week, and month look like, in terms of your activities and how you spend your time.
Having a clear sense of your responsibilities and day-to-day activities enables you to see if this aligns with what you want to be doing. This helps to confirm that your targets from step 1 are correct. Information about the job also helps refine your marketing from step 2. Your cover letter can highlight how your past experience matches what this job requires, now that you know more about it.
The reporting structureWho reports into whom. For example, if an organization has two people—the owner and the assistant—the reporting structure would be that the assistant reports into the owner. As organizations get bigger, the reporting structure gets more complicated. of the job is also important because your boss, or the person to whom you will be reporting, greatly impacts your immediate job satisfaction and your future career prospects. It is very different to report to a seasoned manager than to an inexperienced one. Great managers have to start somewhere, so an inexperienced manager isn’t always a bad thing, but all things being equal, having an experienced manager implies better development for you.
You also want to look at the reporting structure overall—that is, where your job fits within the rest of the organization. In a small organization, there are fewer levels, and you may be reporting into senior management or even the head of the organization. This means you are close to the decision making and you have a higher likelihood of participating in or having a deeper understanding of the strategy of the organization, given your proximity to the highest levels. In a big organization, there may be several layers before you get to the top, so you may only see a small portion of what is happening in the organization overall. Understanding the reporting structure helps you confirm that this job matches your decision criteria established in step 1.
Growth prospects, compensation, lifestyle, and the backgrounds required of people in the job can vary from job to job and among the same job across different organizations. Growth prospects, compensation, lifestyle, and the backgrounds required of people in the job impact your immediate work and your future prospects:
Understanding the preceding will help you confirm that you are targeting the right job. It will also help you position your marketing so that you talk about your background and interests in a way that aligns with the job.
Even if you have confirmed you want a specific job, you have choices on where to do that job. You want to know the organization you select is right for you now and has staying power in case you want to establish your future career there.
Once you can answer the preceding questions, you can compare your findings to your decision criteria in step 1 to confirm that this is a target organization:
You can refine your marketing in step 2 to match what this organization requires:
The more you know about the organization, the more specifically you can show you belong there.
An accountant for a media company has a different job than an accountant for a nonprofit or a school or a toy store. Some things will be the same (e.g., working with numbers, the overall accounting standards and regulations), but there will be nuances (e.g., types of transactions, types of reports to file). The industry impacts the job responsibilities, day-to-day activity, growth prospects, compensation and lifestyle, and the backgrounds of the people in those jobs.
The industry also impacts the organizations within it. Disney ABC is a stand-alone organization within media, and it has its own financials, staff, structure, culture, strengths, and challenges. However, the media business as a whole has a financial picture, a type of person it attracts, a culture, strengths, and challenges. What is happening with media overall impacts each individual organization, and therefore, to understand Disney ABC or any stand-alone media organization, you need a grasp of what is happening in the media industry:
Understanding the industry will give you more organizations to target. It will enable you to better understand the individual organizations and the job. At a minimum, industry knowledge will help you confirm that the industry is healthy and solid for long-term career prospects. Furthermore, industry knowledge will help position you as someone who thinks more broadly than just his or her specific role and therefore can make higher-level contributions.