Before relying on networking, contact information, or informational interviews to learn about a business, it makes sense to do some basic research on your own. That way you are able to articulate your goals and where you want to work.
Make a list of your top 20 companies and track their Web sites, but while you are doing this, pick out a few companies to thoroughly research and target. That way when you tell people you are most interested in a brand management position at Medtronic, St. Jude, or Boston Scientific, they will remember and assist you. In addition, if you meet someone from one of your target companies, you will have the knowledge to make compelling arguments about the value you bring to that company.
To do this research, read newspapers, journals, books, databases and other physical and online resources to learn more about a target employer – its culture, values, mission, challenges, future plans, leadership, and financial standing. The employer’s assumption is that job candidates should know anything posted on a company’s Web site at minimum, and winning candidates should know considerably more.
Some high quality sources of business information include:
- Public, university (often open to alumni), and non-profit libraries. In particular, check out The James J. Hill Library, St. Paul, http://www.jjhill.org/, which opens its business databases and library resources to the public at no charge in addition to offering free and subscription-based online access, http://www.hillsearch.org.
- The Electronic Library for Minnesota, ELM, simply requires a Minnesota public library card to access a number of databases from your home PC.
- Databases with particularly good business facts include:
- Reference USA (one of my favorites)
- Business & Company Resource Center
- Standard and Poor’s NetAdvantage
- Mergent Online
- Databases with trade press and other articles:
- Business Source Premier
- Proquest Newsstand Complete
- State-specific books, such as the Minneapolis/St Paul Business Journal Book of Lists, a compilation of business information sorted by category and revenue and the Minnesota Fact Book, which describes Minnesota public, private, and non-profit organizations.
When you’re done this research, your next step is researching how to become visible within your target organizations. That’s what networking is all about. Watch for a new blog entry on networking in the near future.