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6.1 What Do You Research?

Learning Objectives

  1. Learn the different types of information you need to know for your job search.
  2. Understand what you are looking for and how this information can be applied to your search.

Information about the Job Helps You Understand What You Will Do Now and in the Future

Job
  • Responsibilities
  • Day-to-day activity
  • Reporting structure
  • Growth prospects
  • Compensation and lifestyle backgrounds required

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:

  • Is the demand for this job growing or shrinking?
  • If you are targeting a specific industry, is this job critical to this industry? For example, if you want to work in accounting for media organizations, all media organizations need accountants. But accounting is not critical to operating a media organization, so it can be done in-house or outsourced to external firms.
  • What does this job typically pay? What are the components of the compensation?
  • Is compensation growing or shrinking? How else is it changing?
  • What is the lifestyle of people who do these jobs—long hours, volatile hours, lots of travel?
  • What are the education backgrounds of people who hold these jobs? Do they all have similar degrees or certifications?
  • What are the past experiences of people who hold these jobs? Do they all have internships in this field? Do they all have a certain number of years of experience, management or leadership experience, or other specific experience?

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.

Information about the Organization Helps You Understand if You Want a Job There and if You Can Contribute to That Company

Organization
  • Financials
  • Staff
  • Locations and structure
  • Culture
  • Strengths and weaknesses
  • Growth prospects
  • Upcoming challenges

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.

  • Is the organization healthy financially? Financials of an organization include revenuesThe amount of money a for-profit company collects. The revenues of a lemonade stand are equal to the amount of money it collects from selling lemonade., operating costsThe amount of money required for the organization to run, or operate., profitabilityThe measure of a company’s revenues minus its expenses. A company is profitable when revenues exceed expenses, and unprofitable if expenses exceed revenues., and reservesCash or other liquid assets that the organization can access if it needs money..
  • How many people work there? Is this a small or big organization compared to its peers?
  • How many offices does it have? Does it have a well-defined headquarters? Is it a small part of a much larger organization? Does it have international offices?
  • What are the people like? Is it a team-oriented culture, or do people work very independently? Is it a competitive or nurturing culture? Are people very ambitious and driven or laid back?
  • What is management like? Do bosses micromanage or allow a lot of autonomy? Is it a flexible or structured workplace?
  • What are the values of the organization?
  • Is the organization highly regarded? Is it known for innovation, progressive work policies, cutting-edge research, best in class?
  • What are the organization’s strengths compared to its peers? Weaknesses?
  • Is the organization growing or shrinking? How does this compare with its peers?
  • What challenges is the organization facing either internally or within its industry?

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:

  • Is this organization of the size that you want?
  • Does it have offices in the geography you want? Is there an opportunity to work internationally if that is a priority for you?
  • Do the culture, management, and mission fit your values?
  • Is the brand name and history of the organization what you want?
  • Are the challenges and opportunities facing the organization aligned with what you want to work on?

You can refine your marketing in step 2 to match what this organization requires:

  • Highlight experience in similarly sized or structured organizations, or identify other experiences or skills that translate.
  • Give examples of working with similar people, management, and environments.
  • Show the specific skills and achievements that will enable you to contribute to the challenges and opportunities facing the organization.

The more you know about the organization, the more specifically you can show you belong there.

Information about the Industry Helps You Understand the Job and the Organization

Industry
  • Top organizations
  • Market characteristics
  • Growth prospects
  • Upcoming challenges
  • Trends

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:

  • Who are the top players?
  • Are there few, but very large top players? Are there many smaller players?
  • Is the industry new or very established?
  • Is the industry growing or shrinking?
  • Is the industry experiencing many changes? Are new competitors or new technologies changing the way business is done? Are there more or fewer customers? What is happening to prices?

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.

Key Takeaways

  • Job seekers need to research information about specific jobs, specific organizations, and the overall industry.
  • The information you gather enables you to confirm your targets from step 1 and tailor your marketing from step 2 to match the jobs, organizations, and industries you want.

Exercises

  1. Review the questions that apply to each job, organization, or industry in your areas of interest. How much do you already know about your areas of interest?
  2. Have you discovered areas of interest you were unaware of or did not consider, yet now want to research in depth? Where might you need to focus your research—understanding the job more, finding more organizations or deeper knowledge about individual organizations, or learning about the industry as a whole?
  3. How will you incorporate research into your job search going forward?