Job Hunting Tip #3 – Narrow the Focus

The first order of business is to define the perfect job, with the word “job” encompassing the industry, company characteristics and job function.  If you already have experience in a given industry, perhaps you want to continue leveraging your skills and experience.  Or perhaps you’ve been in the same industry for so many years that you really need a change of scenery.  In any case, try to hone in on a short list of industries (perhaps 2-3) that get you the most excited and seem to have good growth potential.  Then, do some basic research to confirm your assumptions.  With the Internet as a tool, find out what the analysts and major trade associations are saying.  Who are the leaders in the industry?  Are they totally dominant or is there room for smaller companies to take a foothold?

Once you have a short list of industries, it’s time to target companies in that industry.  Assuming you already know which city you want to work in (whether it’s where you already live or some place you would like to relocate), find out which companies have their headquarters there or at least some meaningful presence.  The exception is a territory sales job, which are spread all over the place.  Using the Internet again (company’s website, trade articles, local online business journals), gather information about these companies.  Some recommended data points to gather are listed below:

  • Financial – annual revenue, revenue growth, profitability, recent fund raising activity (public or private?)
  • Number of employees
  • Recent management turnover?
  • Look at press releases announcing new executives
  • Industry niche – How does this company fit within the overall industry (their sub-segment)?
  • Value proposition – How do they position themselves versus the competition?  Does this seem compelling?
  • CEO track record – Are they a first-time CEO?  If so, it’s not necessarily a disaster but rather just something to know.  If not, how was their track record before?

If you are searching for an executive-level position, you will probably also want to do some additional research.

  • For private companies, who are the key investors?  What is their reputation and track record?
  • For private companies, how much total money has been invested?  If it seems like a lot (ie – $30M for a software company is definitely on the high side), then it’s going to take a larger acquisition to leave enough money for the common shareholders to make money upon exit.
  • Does the company already show having an executive in the position you are seeking?  The company’s website usually lists the management team.

Since you’re gathering so much information, a spreadsheet is probably the best format for capturing and analyzing it.  From this, try to determine which companies bubble up to the top as your first targets.  Similarly, try to identify the ones that could be second round or third round targets.

See the rest of my series on Job Hunting Tips here.  I also have a related series for Resume Writing and one for Interviewing.

Author: Gordon Daugherty

Over the past 15 years Gordon has seen nearly 1,000 startup pitches, advised more than 200 entrepreneurs and been involved with raising over $45M in growth and venture capital. Throughout his 28 year career in high tech, serving twice as President and three times as CMO, Gordon has both an IPO and a $200M acquisition exit under his belt. Now his emphasis is purely focused on helping startups and early stage tech companies. Through his Shockwave Innovations advisory practice and as Managing Director for Austin’s Capital Factory startup accelerator, Gordon is an active angel investor, VC and startup advisor.

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