Some years ago I saw an article from Kate Pendleton of The 5 O’clock Club, an outplacement company, which stated “if your job target is wrong— or nonexistent— everything is wrong.” This resonated with me in 1995 when I was downsized for the first time and had to figure out my next job target. The statement still resonates. Time-after-time, I’ve spoken with jobseekers who are having difficulty finding their next job. Frequently, they wanted to apply for “any job.” The result was they landed no job—or they did not get a job that suited them.
You will be one step closer to the job you want at the salary you deserve when you set a realistic job target. Elements of a job target include:
- Job title,
- Career level,
- Industry or sector, and
All four elements are important for your success. They should be addressed explicitly or implicitly in your resume’s personal brand statement and accomplishment-based summary. Additionally, all four elements of your job target should be reflected in your LinkedIn headline, contact card, and “about” section.
Job Title or Function
The job title or function answers the question “what are you?” Are you an accountant, software engineer, customer service representative, administrative assistant, etc.? Prospective employers, recruiters, and industry contacts are not going to analyze your work history and education to figure out what job function to put you in.
Many of us work in job functions that bear little connection to our college major so it won’t clue readers in to our job target. My own college major was Economics, I worked in an accounting-related job, and now work in career services. My father majored in Chemistry, and then spent his career in telecommunications. A software engineer I have worked with has a law degree and practiced bankruptcy law. So it’s up to you to focus hiring managers on your job target.
The next element of your job target is your career level. Are you seeking work as an intern, entry level staff member, experienced individual contributor (sometimes called a journeyman), senior level, supervisor, or executive?
No one will figure out what level you want to work at, but they will analyze your background to decide whether you are qualified for that level. For example, a jobseeker I once worked with wanted to apply for a job at the United Nations that required ten years of specialized experience in a certain field. She just finished graduate school in the field. Her experience prior to graduate school was as a customer service rep at a bank.
As career management coaches, we don’t tell jobseekers whether or not they are qualified. Instead, we ask questions that help jobseekers find their own answers. For example, I asked the jobseeker to match her credentials to the job announcement before engaging me to collaborate on a resume. She saw this job target would not work for her.
Industry or Sector
It’s important to address the industry or sector you want to work in. A hospital accountant for example, deals with a different maze of rules and regulations than, say, a real-estate accountant. You’ll have to demonstrate, at a minimum, that you are flexible enough to learn and then implement a different set of rules if you are coming from a different industry.
The heading on your resume might read “Senior Healthcare Accountant,” or “Senior Real-estate Accountant” rather than “Senor Accountant” to clarify the expertise you deliver for the reader.
Consider the location where you want to work even when you are targeting remote work. The best approach is for your resume and LinkedIn profile to reflect the location where you want to work, rather than where you are now. Otherwise you may be eliminated from consideration, or you may not be found in searches, when the employer wants you to be in a certain geographic area. An employer may not want to pay relocation costs. Employers may limit their search to jobseekers in their geographic area when filling remote rolls for a variety of legal and economic reasons.
While you probably won’t include your location in your brand heading, it will be implied by the location in your resume header and LinkedIn contact card.
What if You Lack a Job Target?
Economic realities usually dictate that we find employment regardless of our qualifications and goals. That means you may need a “day job” while you determine and then find your “dream job.” Ironically, it may be more difficult to devise a resume in this case because you’ll have to demonstrate transferrable skills for the day job.
For example, when I worked with a teacher that wanted to find customer service jobs, I emphasized her role in serving parents and administrators, and responding to their questions. Every job has an aspect of customer service, even if you serve coworkers. The bottom line is that you will need to identify a target job even if you have not yet found your ultimate career goal.