Identifying your target job is a crucial first step for any job seeker. This may seem obvious but it’s a critical point because giving real thought to how you determine your target role will improve your entire job search.
For finance professionals, with the possible exception of those seeking entry-level positions, the more specific the type of jobs targeted, the more successful the job search will be. Recruiters and hiring managers look for very specific skills and experience to match their open positions, so when approaching a company, recruiter, or hiring manager, market yourself in a way that demonstrates you are exactly what they are seeking.
If you conduct your search with nebulous ideas about target jobs, you risk presenting yourself in too general a way. At the same time, avoid the temptation to show off the depth and breadth of your knowledge. Instead, focus on demonstrating the specific qualities required for the target position.
Career coach Robert Hellmann shared some advice on how to think about target jobs in a Twitter chat and webinar. He suggests:
- Concentrate on role descriptions, but be specific about company characteristics. For example, is the company’s reach global, regional, or local? What is the company’s size and location?
- Be careful about focusing exclusively on job titles. These can mean different things at different organisations.
- Research the jobs you’ve identified as targets. Review postings on job boards like JobLine to see how roles are described and what skills are required. Find people on LinkedIn who hold similar positions and see what experience and expertise they have.
- Ask your network for guidance, including informational interviews. Ask your advisers whether they think a role might suit you. If you know people in the target position, ask them to spend 20 minutes sharing their insights about the job and what it takes to succeed.
- Do some reflecting. Maybe take some self-assessment tests like those available on the Career Success eBook companion site and, for CFA Institutes members and CFA Program candidates, in the CFA Career Centre. The more aligned your targets are with your values and personal career goals, the more naturally you will be able to market yourself.
Hellmann recommended an exercise to help identify and prioritise target jobs:
- Across the top row of a spreadsheet, identify all the qualities and characteristics of a job that matter to you. These can include skills you want to use or develop, salary potential, values, sense of job security, etc.
- In the next row, assign each a value of 1 or 10. One is the default, but if the quality is especially important to you, assign it a 10.
- Down the left-hand column, write out all the target jobs to which you’re giving any thought.
- For each target job, work across the spreadsheet and consider whether it meets each quality or characteristic you identified earlier. If it doesn’t, leave the cell blank. If it does, give it the value you assigned the characteristic, 1 or 10.
- Add up each row.
The rows with the highest scores are probably your best bets. Use the top two or three to help focus your self-marketing and job search efforts.