January 17, 2012
The dangers of stalking a single organization
If only I had a buck for every time I had a person tell me, "I'd kill to work for the Gates Foundation" or "I'd give my left arm to get hired at REI" or "My dream is to work for [fill in the blank with Amazon, Microsoft, Starbucks, Nordstrom, Tableau Software or more recently, Paul Allen's new space-travel venture, Stratolaunch]."
While the attraction to some of these companies is understandable, given their reputation, I'd advise job hunters as a general rule to avoid obsessing over a single place of employment. It's usually far more effective to diversify one's search efforts to include multiple organizations around town.
There are three reasons why I'd advise this. First, as much as I don't want to be the bearer of bad news, the odds are stacked against you when pursuing these kinds of "celebrity" organizations.
For starters, you're far from alone if you dream at working at one of the high-visibility companies listed above. They all have thousands of groupies and get pounded with hundreds of unsolicited resumes each day, versus smaller firms that may be equally stellar places to work but are under the radar.
So while I'd certainly advocate that you do everything in your power to get one of your top target companies to invite you in for an interview, be careful not to put all of your emotional eggs in one basket. Be optimistic, but manage your expectations accordingly.
Second, and far less talked about, the day-to-day reality of working at some of these places may not match the idealistic picture most people carry around in their heads. While I don't want to get into naming names, I know people who work at many of the companies above who tell me that their employment experience isn't all roses and sunshine.
In some cases, the fierce competition to get into (and stay employed at) some of these companies has created a workaholic culture that most people would find ridiculously stressful. In other cases, people report that while the mission of their employer is a noble and inspiring one, their own daily work responsibilities are routine, monotonous and riddled with politics and bureaucracy. "Ultimately, it's just a job, like any other," they say, even when the company may be saving the world or inventing the latest sexy technology.
Finally, I think many job hunters tend to get fixated on a small handful of target companies simply because they lack the tools to find similar organizations in their local area. People chronically underestimate how many companies we have in Seattle, from what I've witnessed, and I'm sure the same could be said about any other major market.
For example, those who really want to break into the sports field may think the only games in town are the Seahawks, Sounders and Storm franchises. To a lesser extent, they might reach out to minor-league teams such as the Tacoma Rainiers or Everett AquaSox.
A quick search of any modern business database, however, reveals that there are more than 100 sports-related companies operating in the Seattle area alone. Granted, most of these aren't as big or prestigious as the pro franchises, but hey, they're in the sports field. And they hire people now and then.
So unless you're exclusively set on working for a household-name enterprise, it might make more sense to go after some of the smaller and lesser-known firms that your competition is ignoring. Ask a librarian to help you find these companies, if you're not already fluent in how to do so, or consult sites such as ZoomInfo or LinkedIn that offer free corporate directories.
Ultimately, it's up to you. If you want to continue concentrating your efforts entirely on a short list of two or three organizations, that's your call. In that case, though, you might as well really take a whack at it. Consider emulating enterprising souls like "Dan@Disney," who has devoted an entire blog (which you'll find here) to convincing a single company -- the Disney corporation -- to hire him!
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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