NOTE: This is a follow-up post to one I wrote recently explaining how to double your salary in the coming hiring boom. The request from readers for more information on how to find good employers inspired me to write this. I warn you, it's lengthy post, but I hope you find it helpful!

If you're a member of the 86% of the working population recently surveyed who said they're interested in finding a better job next year, then I'd like to introduce you to one activity I know that can dramatically improve the efficiency and speed of your search.

The 'Interview Bucket List' is a job seeker's ticket to success.

An 'Interview Bucket List' is a set of companies you admire and respect. Ideally, they're located in your commutable area, or in a place you desire to live. But, more importantly, the companies you choose can only be on the list if:

1.      The company's product or service is something you believe in.

2.      You can explain in detail, what experiences you've had in life that have taught you the company's product or service is worthy of your admiration or respect.

The goal is to come up with a minimum of ten companies (twenty would be better), that meet the above criteria.

Your list = problems you're care about solving.

When you create a list of companies that evoke your admiration and respect, you are connecting to their purpose. Since companies are in the business of solving a problem for their customers, then there's a good chance you are interested in solving that problem too. This is a very important part of identifying good potential employers for you. Here's why....

When the work gets challenging or boring, the passion sustains you.

Working for a company who does something you value makes the work more meaningful. You will find your job more satisfying and fun. More importantly, on the days when the work feels boring or challenging, your passion for what the company does will sustain you.

IMPORTANT: It's not about how good an employer they are.

One important thing I must remind you of is that an Interview Bucket List isn't a list of employers you heard are great to work for. We shouldn't choose companies based on their benefits and perks. If you don't feel connected to the company's mission, then those things are merely bribes. When the honeymoon period of your new job wears off, and you get used to the benefits and perks so they no longer feel special, you could end up with a job you don't really like. Especially, if what they do for customers doesn't inspire or impress you. [For example, here' a post that gives you five reasons you may not want to work for perk-packed Google.]

You may feel a little uneasy at first...

Creating your list can feel a little daunting in the beginning. We're so used to going to job boards when we think it's time to look for a new position. It's automatic. It's easy. The companies are served up to us and we sit and try to fit ourselves into their roles. But, if you step back and think about it, that's like forcing a square peg in a round hole. It's also like going to the used car lot and being told you can only buy what's on display - very limiting! Even still, the idea of creating our own customized list of ideal employers, as smart as it is, may feel a little intimidating - maybe even a bit indulgent. Nobody's ever given you free reign to choose your employer before, have they? I'm here to tell you it's the best way for you to find a good employer efficiently. Keep reading and see why...

How to get started on your list:

There are lots of ways you can start to identify companies worthy of your Interview Bucket List. The key is to be mindful and aware that every company in your vicinity is a potential employer. Don't get hung up on the fact that they can or can't use your skill sets. Companies hire all types of people. For now, just stick the ones that do something you admire and respect. Here are some ways to get the prospects flowing:

·         Drive around town and through business areas and jot down the names of companies and then go home and check them out online.

·         Reach out to your local Chamber of Commerce and get a list of their members s so you can research what they do.

·         Make a list of all your hobbies and interests and then use a keyword search on the Internet to find companies related to them that are located in your area.

·         Flip through print and digital magazines. As you find products and services that interest you, look into the companies that make them and see if similar companies are in your area.

·         Spend time on your local news sites reading the business sections. Some regions even have special business magazines that feature companies in the area.

·         Visit industry websites related to your field of interest and look for companies that are featured there to learn more about them. Then, see if you can find similar ones in your area.

Once you start training yourself to look for companies you admire and respect, you'll be amazed at how much better you'll get at building your list. It's like any new habit - a little conscious repetition and you'll find it easier in no time.

Once you've got a list, it's time to start building your network.

The list is the foundation for your networking. The goal is to identify five people at each company and find ways to connect with them. Obviously, a referral by a shared connection is your best bet. But, if you don't have a shared connection, you are going to have to step out of your comfort zone and try to connect with strangers. This is not as hard as you think. You can customize a request to connect on LinkedIn, or even use an Inmail to write a longer email asking to connect. The goal is to ask them to connect in hopes you an learn more about the company and what it might take to earn a position there. Stress to them that you aren't looking for them to help you get a job, just some insight as to what the process is like. Not everyone will connect, but this is a numbers game. All you need is one person to connect and speak with you and you'll be on your way.

The more people you connect with, the closer you get to your next job.

As you connect with people at companies on your Interview Bucket List, you may think you have nothing in common with them, but you are so wrong! Think about it, you share a passion - you both admire and respect the company the connection works for. This means you could have a meaningful conversation around the company's products or services that could help you get to know each other better. This is what networking is - a chance to exchange thoughts and ideas to build mutual trust and respect. If you approach your networking with the mindset that you are just looking to have interesting conversations with like-minded professionals, you'll find it easier to develop relationships with your connections. Better still, these conversations will lead to discussions about other companies (i.e. previous places the person has worked at, competitors, etc.), which you can then research and potentially add to your list.

Now, here's where the job search gets easier:

80% of all jobs are gotten via referral. The process works like this: A person you know, knows someone who is hiring and refers you. What you may not know is most of these types of referrals are from second level connections. It's not usually your direct friends and family that refer you to your next job. More commonly, it's a friend of a friend, or in this case, a connection of a connection, who refers you to the job. Why does this happen? People who aren't as deeply connected to us have an easier time referring a stranger to a job. It actually makes sense. If you refer a person you don't know very well but comes recommend to you by a colleague or friend, you can easily say to the hiring manager, "____ recommended her for the job. I don't know her very well, but she seems like someone worth checking out."

Based on the above, can you see how having a targeted list of people at companies you admire and respect might be the smartest way to expand your network and get referred to a company you'd like to work for?

I will admit, there is one hard part.

While the process above isn't complex, I will be fair and tell you that the one place you can feel some frustration is in the research phase of the companies. Sadly, companies just don't share enough information about themselves so job seekers can determine if they feel connected to the business. I tell my clients to study the company website, follow them on LinkedIn and Glassdoor, and do a thorough internet search to read articles on their accomplishments. But even then, it's not always enough. [In fact, I've been so bothered by this challenge for job seekers that my company decided to start a program to let employers know when job seekers want more info from them. It's FREE to job seekers - you can learn more here.]

I can tell you this: if you don't do your due diligence, you won't be able to generate the admiration and respect you need to put that company on your Interview Bucket List. You need to feel an emotional connection to the company that only comes from getting to know them on a more personal level - that can take some effort.

But, don't give up! It's that connection to what the company does that will make networking, and ultimately, interviewing with the company easier.

If the above sounds like too much work, let me just say this...

When it comes to job opportunities, we get out what we put in. If you can't be bothered to take control of your job search and focus your efforts on the kinds of companies you'd be most excited to work for, then you don't deserve to work for them. You may feel that's harsh, but it's true. You are a business-of-one. Your marketing efforts will determine the kind of clients (a/ka/ employers) you land. Which means, if you believe you deserve a good employer and a great career, then make the effort. Nobody's going to hand it to you. Otherwise, accept that you've taken the easy route and be happy with what you get. Although, if searching on job boards is your approach, you may want to watch this video series on why you are being tossed from the online application process (no matter how perfect a match you are), 8 out of 10 times.

A final reason to start your Interview Bucket List today!

There's lots of evidence to support hiring is on the rise and companies are going to start competing for talent. However, that also means more people who have been working in jobs they hate will start to look for new employers. The competition for the best jobs will heat up. The sooner you start your list, the sooner you an network your way into a job with an employer of your choosing.

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