Where do you want to work? – 3 Ways to Find Companies

From Diary of a Layoff by Greg Quirk

When starting a job search the inevitable question comes up: “Where do you want to work?”  This could be a friend or family member asking, or even you asking yourself as you try to figure out what are the next steps to take.  This is always a difficult question to answer because there are so many companies out there that you have likely never heard of before.  Typically, we think of the “big” companies when we are asked.  For example, I would love to work for RIM (I am a huge fan of BlackBerry phones and believe they have a solid foundation to continue to build market share, especially when OS6 and new touch screen products come out).  But even though I would like to work for a big company my last two jobs were with companies that, prior to me being employed there, I had no idea existed.  Granted, once I started I was amazed by what these organizations do and am now a firm believer in reverse engineering and desktop dashboard software, but still if someone had asked me where I wanted to work neither of these would have come to mind.

One of the challenges of getting into a big company is that they are on the forefront of many other job seeker’s minds.  In Ottawa if you are unemployed and looking for a high-tech job chances are you have looked at RIM, Alcatel-Lucent, Nortel, Mitel, Zarlink, and a list of others that are the exact same as everyone else.  This increases the amount of competition you are facing for a limited number of positions.  On the other hand, there are generally fewer people applying for positions at smaller companies, and these places are the ones where you can likely make more of an impact on the organization.

So how do you find these unknown (at least to you) companies?

1) Geographic search using Google Maps.  This might sound a bit odd, but one of the first things I did was look up my postal code and the word “business” in Google Maps.  This turned up a list of companies in the general area.  Some of these I have driven past every day and recognized the names, but others were not familiar to me.  With a couple of clicks I am able to get to the company’s website and see what they do and if they have a career section with current openings.  You can further refine the search by using specific keywords instead of business.  For example, I could put “high technology” instead to remove restaurants and hair salons.  Once you get through your area of the city you can scroll around to find other companies that are nearby.  Why spend your day commuting when there are places within a short drive that are looking to hire?

2) Job boards.  Yes, this is typically the first place that a person goes when starting a job search but there is a lot more potential than just sifting through the positions.  I personally find job boards to be a bit daunting.  First, chances are that the company will get so many submissions that it is unlikely that I will get contacted for an interview.  Second, there are so many job boards out there that you can never be sure which one a company will use to post a position (if they even post on job boards at all).  While I do apply for jobs when there is something interesting posted, I also compile a list of companies that catch my attention.  As time goes on this list starts getting quite comprehensive and once every few weeks I go back to those companies to see if there is anything new.  Sometimes there won’t be a position listed, but when I identify a company that I believe is a good fit I take the time to research a few of the decision makers and contact them directly to see if they might be in need of my services.  Some of the best job boards I have found are aggregators – sites that compile postings from all over the web.  Simply Hired is one of the ones that I use most often.

3) LinkedIn.  By now you should have a comprehensive LinkedIn profile, but a passive approach to job searching is not going to get you hired.  There is a job application you can add to your home page view which can be filtered by job title and location.  There are also groups that you can join, many of which have job boards.  This helps you by identifying a specific area you want to work in and see what kinds of positions people are looking for.  And better yet, you might have an “in” by knowing someone who works there or be able to get an introduction by a 2nd or 3rd degree contact.  The only downside to LinkedIn (in my opinion) is that it is almost getting too large.  There are so many groups that you could join that you are not going to want to join them all, and there are companies that are not using LinkedIn (especially some of the smaller companies where they do not have the time or resources to spend on LinkedIn).

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