Targeting 101: A Tale of Sweet Success

What do the game of Lacrosse and Hershey’s chocolate have in common?  Everything, it seems, for Mike Rabinovitz, MBA ‘98.  Mike recently landed a new job as Brand Manager for Hershey’s Chocolate Bars at The Hershey Company in Pennsylvania.  Mike’s successful search highlights one of the fundamental keys to successful job search:  targeting.

Most alumni believe that having great marketing materials is the key to launching a job search.  While a solid resume is fundamental, there’s another crucial element – marketing yourself to specifically identified target companies.   Many job-seekers make the mistake of not explicitly defining their targets which can lead to wasted effort and frustration.

Mike’s story and his lessons learned illustrate the importance of targeting.  First, a bit about Mike’s background:  he spent 3+ years in CPG brand management, and then a few years ago a headhunter search lead him join a sports products company.  Since he had been the captain of his Division 1 Lacrosse team in college; sports marketing was a logical and fun next career move.  Mike was successful in this marketing role, but earlier this year he found the strategic direction of his firm had shifted and he had to go.

Facing the first real job search of his career, he was fearful at the outset, but then grew excited about the potential for change.  He began searching postings on a variety of websites and applying to jobs he found interesting.  After two months and lots of online applications, his efforts hadn’t yielded a single call of interest.  Looking back, Mike realized a tough lesson.  “I was letting the Internet tell me where I should get a job” he said when he turned to Alumni Career Services (ACS) for advice.  It was clear that Mike was marketable, but he lacked direction.  He needed to avoid job postings and change his tactics.

He re-started his search, focusing first on fit.  Finding fit means a careful evaluation of goals, priorities and skills, then turning that into a simple job objective statement.  Mike asked himself “what do I want to do?  What am I qualified to do?  And where do I really want to live?”  He had begun his post-Darden career at General Mills and was still interested in food marketing.  He had added plenty of new skills by marketing sports products, and he’d discovered the importance of company culture.  He had applied to some long-shot jobs located on the west coast thinking that a “dream job” would be worth that move.  But looking objectively he realized what he and his family ultimately wanted was to relocate from the Midwest back to the mid-Atlantic region.  Setting a clear objective would now serve as the backdrop to finding good target companies.

Armed with his goal of food and/or sports marketing in the Mid-Atlantic States, Mike set out to build a list of target companies.  This step is unique to each person and involves market research using a variety of resources.  You want to find the companies that match your best fit industry, sector and geography.  You must iterate until a robust set of viable targets is identified.  Mike first used LinkedIn to figure out where industry contacts and former colleagues were working that might have relevance for him.  He used a geographic constraint of anything within a hundred mile radius of Baltimore, MD.   He sought out niche industry publications to learn more.  His initial list had only seven companies, but through his research knew each company met his specific objectives.

As he continued his research he drafted a Profile Statement to help direct his networking efforts.  His research began to incorporate personal calls to dig deeper into his knowledge about his targets. One of those calls was to a recruiter he met early in his career.  Making that call, Mike wished he’d taken more of those past recruiter calls so he’d have better connections.  If you talk to recruiters along the way, even if you’re not searching, you can develop understanding of how Executive Search works and build relationships you might one day need.

It was a personal connection that had kept this recruiter on Mike’s radar, and as it turned out, this recruiter was now sourcing jobs for Hershey’s.  At first Mike wasn’t sure Hershey’s fit his objectives so he turned to more research.  LinkedIn helped reveal that a former General Mills colleague was now at Hershey’s, and the LinkedIn Find Alumni feature showed him that a few Darden alumni held key roles there.  He was able to leverage all those contacts to learn more about the company, land an interview, and ultimately get the offer.

“It’s all about the story you can tell” he told me as we debriefed.  Focusing on a set of target companies had propelled him to do better and deeper research and compelled him to make the networking contacts he needed.  Targeting also helped him tell a convincing interview story because he was sure about his past choices and his future fit.  We wish Mike much success with his move and new job, and encourage you to reach out to ACS when looking to make your next career move.

Marty Speight MBA ‘96, Associate Director of the Armstrong Center for Alumni Career Services at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

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