What is targeted job searching?
It's going after what you really want, rather than settling for what may happen to cross your path. Instead of choosing from the small number of companies that might happen to have job vacancies at the moment, you're choosing from all possible companies and developing a strategy to build relationships with them.
Scouring the internet for job postings, applying for everything that might be a possible fit, and competing against hundreds of other candidates rarely leads to a dream job. It may get you employed, but it likely won't result in the job of all jobs.
(To be clear, I'm not suggesting that you don't apply for advertised positions. I'm also not saying that you shouldn't post your resume on job boards and hope the calls come in. I'm just saying don't only do that.)
A well-rounded job search could employ all strategies, including maximizing your LinkedIn profile, posting your resume on job boards, applying for advertised job postings, and proactively targeting the companies you'd dearly love to work for. It just depends on how desperate you are. If you're currently unemployed, you might want to do all of these. If you're employed but looking for something better, perhaps only take a targeted approach.
So what does a targeted job search look like? Let's break it down:
1. Who do you want to work for?
The first question in any job search is....what do you want to do?
What type of position are you looking for? What companies have those positions? What merchandise categories do you prefer? What companies do you admire and respect? What companies operate in your area?
Drive around. Check out local shopping malls and power centers. Secret shop a few stores that you've considered. Figure out what you like and don't like, what you're good at and what you're not good at.
Make a list of companies you'd love to work for, and don't worry about whether they're hiring right now or not. Dream big.
2. What do you know about these companies?
Now that you know who you'd like to work for, you need to learn as much as you can about them. Start with their website, read their "About Us" page, their "Careers" page, their "In the News" page, and anything else you see. Learn about their products, their mission statement, and their key executives.
Read and follow their LinkedIn company page. Check them out on Google News to see what they've been up to lately. Check out employee reviews on Glass Door and Indeed. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter. Get in their circle.
3. What position do you want?
Now that you know a lot more about these preferred companies than you did a few days ago, figure out where you fit in based on your past experience and job levels. Sales volume is key here - recruiters use sales volume (as well as staff size, store size, etc.) as a measurement of what you're capable of. That's why you don't see a store manager from Claire's joining Costco as a store manager. Same position, but vastly different store size, staff size, and sales volume.
So take a realistic assessment of what you've done recently in terms of job level (department manager, assistant manager, co-manager, store manager, district manager, regional manager, etc.), traffic/volume, staff size, etc., and figure out where you would fit in with these potential companies.
4. Who do you know?
In order to develop relationships, you need to identify potential contacts. LinkedIn is perfect for this.
Plug the name of your targeted employer into the search box at the top and find their company page. On the top right you will see all your first-degree connections who work there, and just below there you will see a link that will take you to a listing of all their employees on LinkedIn.
Scroll through the lists and identify people you'd like to contact or connect with, preferably at a job level directly above what you're targeting. So if you're looking for a store manager position, try to find the district manager in your area. If you're looking for a DM position, try to find a regional director. And so on.
Click on the profile of anyone who interests you, and if you're not already connected, click on the "More" box and then "Follow."
5. What do you say?
If you're already a first-degree connection, send the person a message to get the ball rolling. Here's an example:
We have been connected here on LinkedIn for some time, and I wanted to reach out to discuss potential employment opportunities with Target. I have spent the last few weeks conducting a comprehensive analysis of the retail market in order to determine which companies I'd love to work for, and Target is the one name that kept coming up over and over.
I have been a long-time customer and I greatly admire the direction the company has taken in recent years. My research has shown the company consistently excels in every area, including both the customer experience and the employee experience, and I would welcome the opportunity to contribute to your success.
My background includes more than 10 years' experience in high-volume retail leadership as a store manager with Best Buy and Dick's Sporting Goods. I have managed 4 different stores over the last 10 years (2 with each company) and as you'll see on my profile, I have achieved tremendous results in each location. My stores have won several awards for outstanding performance, including "Store of the Year" (out of 95 locations) and "Team of the Year" (out of 18 locations) in the last 3 years.
Is there a good time for us to connect and discuss potential opportunities?
If you're not a first-degree connection, you can send a similar message in a connection request - just modify where needed.
The key is to establish and develop a relationship, not simply ask for a job. If you message someone and just blurt out "Do you have any openings?" the answer may be "No" and that will be that (or you may not hear anything at all). There's very little chance the relationship will grow from there. If something comes up down the road, it's unlikely your brief message will prompt the person to think of you, especially since they don't know much about you.
Instead, follow the first rule of job searching - get them interested in you first. That way, when a position does become available (which might be next week for all you know), they'll immediately think of you.
Networking isn't often about securing something right away - more often, it's about developing relationships that produce results a bit further down the road. But that's okay. After all, targeted job searching is about going after what you REALLY want, not just getting any old job. It takes time and patience, but the rewards will be well worth it.
Best of luck!