3.4 Importance of Multiple Targets

Learning Objectives

  1. Learn why you need more than one target.
  2. Learn how to expand your targets without diluting your focus or efforts.

Up to this point, we have been talking about one job search target that maps to a specific industry, function, and geography and recognizes the personal decision criteria that are meaningful to you. It is important to be specific in your job search, so you know how to position yourself, what to research, and how to network and interview effectively. However, a specific target does not mean just one target. You can and should have multiple targets, each one being very specific, as you proceed with your search.

Advantage of Multiple Targets

You need multiple targets to do the following:

  • Ensure that the total market of positions you are going for is large enough to sustain your search
  • Give you flexibility if the hiring in any one target is slow, declining, or volatile
  • Allow you to have alternative options if your search in one target stalls

You want a large job market in your target. This doesn’t mean a large number of openings, but rather a large number of people working in that job. The Five O’Clock Club, a national career-coaching firm that has analyzed statistics on thousands of job seekers over twenty-five years, recommends two hundred active jobs as a sign that the market is large enough.See point 6 at http://www.fiveoclockclub.com/2011/02/how-to-debunk-the-no-ones-hiring-myth-the-five-oclock-club-offers-12- proven-methods-to-help-you-land-yes-a-job This does not mean two hundred job openings are posted and confirmed as needing to be filled. These are are two hundred jobs, where some of these jobs will be filled and others will be vacant. The idea is that with a total of two hundred jobs or more, there will always be enough vacancies to support a search.

Remember the art museum example in the first section? If your search target is fund-raising in art museums in Minneapolis, you want to see how many art museums there are and check whether they are big enough to need a fund-raiser at your level. You don’t need to identify two hundred art museums because some might need several fund-raisers (e.g., one for individual gifts, one for corporate gifts, one for grants, etc.). But you want to make sure there are two hundred positions. It is unlikely that any city will have two hundred art museum fund-raiser jobs, so this target is too narrow. You might keep Minneapolis and fund-raising constant but want to add art galleries, artist support agencies, and art schools to your target definition. Arts as an industry is too broad; art museum is too narrow. You want to be in-between. If the number of visual arts organizations still isn’t high enough to support a search, you might broaden to performing arts, or you might add a different area altogether, say education. Now you can target fund-raising jobs in art museums and education organizations. (Remember that education needs to be broken down, as the arts were. Are you targeting schools themselves, government agencies or nonprofits that work with schools, or after-school programs?)

Another advantage of multiple targets is that it helps with timing if any one target is on a downturn with hiring. If you are a student looking for a full-time job after graduation, different companies recruit on different calendars. Banking and consulting firms recruit at the beginning of the academic year, but most other industries recruit in the spring or close to graduation. You might decide to focus on banks or consulting firms when they are active but add additional companies of interest later on.

Finally, having multiple targets broadens your options, thereby keeping momentum in your search and giving you more leads to pursue. Let’s say that your ideal target function is fund-raising, but your experience and skills to date have been more in public relations. You might keep arts as a focus (specifying subcategories to narrow your search enough but not too much), and you might look at PR jobs, as well as fund-raising. This way, you can focus your research and networking on one industry, but you are not shut out if fund-raising is too much of a stretch right now.

Add Alternatives to One but Not All Three Elements

As you now know, a good way to expand your job targets is to change just one of the three elements. In one example, we expanded the industry target of the arts, keeping geography and function constant. In another example, we kept the industry target narrow and the geography constant, but we expanded the functions from fund-raising to fund-raising and PR to target within the industry and geography target.

You will know what works for you because you should expand based on your interests in different industries, functions, and geographies and how these possibilities match your personal decision criteria. The more elements you add, the more combinations you must pursue and the more diluted your search efforts may become. If we added education as an industry choice and added PR as a function choice, we now have four combinations:

  1. Minneapolis + arts + PR
  2. Minneapolis + education + PR
  3. Minneapolis + arts + fund-raising
  4. Minneapolis + education + fund-raising

This adds to the research you need to do, the networking meetings and interviews you need to attend, and the complexity of your marketing.

If you add another geography to the mix, say Chicago, now you have eight combinations:

  1. Minneapolis + arts + PR
  2. Minneapolis + education + PR
  3. Minneapolis + arts + fund-raising
  4. Minneapolis + education + fund-raising
  5. Chicago + arts + PR
  6. Chicago + education + PR
  7. Chicago + arts + fund-raising
  8. Chicago + education + fund-raising

At some point, the benefit of having more companies and organizations to target is lost by the complexity of having to cover too many disparate targets.

A special consideration before adding geographies or broadening your geography target is that there is a financial cost and physical time for travel that you must factor into your search efforts. It is far easier to contain your search to one geography and expand to multiple industries and functions.

Key Takeaways

  • Yes, targets need to be specific as you define each one, but you do not need to have only one target overall.
  • There are significant advantages to having multiple targets, including increasing the size of your overall job market, increasing your flexibility to react to slowdowns in any one job market, and increasing your options should one target prove elusive.
  • It is best to change just one element—either industry or function or geography—but not all three, to prevent search efforts from getting too confusing and diluted.
  • Expanding geography targets is more difficult than expanding industry or function because of the financial and time requirements for travel.


  1. How might you expand the target you currently have? Make a list of industry, function, and geography interests. Rank your top combinations. Are you changing too many elements and possibly diluting your search? Or are your targets still too narrow?
  2. If you are having trouble deciding how to expand your search, look at industries and functions related to the one you have selected. Look at the core skills you are using in the function you want and think about what other roles within the same industry might use those skills. Look at the industry you’ve selected and see if there are organizations from the different sectors (private, nonprofit, government) that you can add. Or see if the companies you want collaborate with other companies—these partners might be added to your target list.