How to Use a Target List

With a target list constructed, you now have a tool that will guide your entire search. If you haven’t created a target list, or would like to revisit creating one, spend some time on How to Make a Target List.

Now, let’s explore how the target list impacts two core challenges that most people face when searching strategically.

I need ideas and leads, help me discover possibilities. 

The target list creates a single and reliable place to immediately log inspiration, ideas, and leads as they pop up in your life. You then assess your actual interest, viability, and future steps at a separate time, once you decide to do another batch of filling out the AMP and custom columns. 

I need to turn my ideas into action, help me to decide next steps. 

The target list creates a reliable set of filters that repeatedly confirms which organizations are best primed for action. If you’re like most people we work with, throughout your search you’ll probably find yourself spending time on each of these two challenges, going back and forth as needed. You also might discover that you’re more naturally skilled at one and need more support with the other. 

  • Sorting the Columns to Define Your Targets

    A target list is the primary tool that focuses your attention where the opportunities are the most probable. When you invest in your target list, you’re creating a comprehensive reference that can be used at any moment in the search to answer the question, “What should I do to make progress on my career development or job/internship search today?”

    Demonstration of how you may use your Target List (transcript)

    As you begin, focus only on the top five organizations on your list. We’ve already illustrated that employers expect depth, commitment and credibility from future hires, so create depth by limiting your scope. As you learn how many organizations you can have in your focus while also maintaining impeccable professionalism and follow-through, feel free to increase your capacity over time. However, beware of peak academic periods. While you may feel comfortable scaling up at the beginning of the semester, plan in advance to have scaled back during times when your search process defers to other priorities like midterm and finals. 

  • Adapting Your Top Five

    Did you sort your list and find that your results would be better with a minor adjustment? In the video, we quickly demonstrated a technique that will make your list more flexible:

    Add a “priority” column, mark one or two items and sort them to the top. 

    Throughout your search, there are some natural moments for reprioritizing, and we’ve listed a few below. Be adaptable and ready to take advantage of opportunities that are timely!

    • Someone shares a lead. Push that organization to the top.
    • An unexpected response to previous outreach. Push their organization to the top.
    • Pursuing a dream? Keep that organization at the top as you work even harder to make it a reality.
    • Using your judgement keep a proper blend within the top five. Promote something from rows 6-10 to the top to insert some variety or balance.
  • Resolving Items from Your Top Five

    Whether quickly or over time, you’ll exhaust yourself or possible options for doing diligent outreach with an organization. Try using a “hold” column in your target list to push inactive items to the bottom or filter them out completely.  Periodically, check-in on your hold items to decide if any should rotate back onto your list for future action or follow-up.

    If you don’t already have a natural system for managing large projects, try one of these suggestions:

    • Develop a habit of performing a weekly review to see if any of your hold items are worth reviving.
    • Before placing an item on hold, set a “tickler”. Set a scheduled date and enter a specific task as a reminder to your future self. By that time, the task itself may not be relevant anymore, but the reminder to consider whether there ARE pertinent actions to take is useful just the same.
    • Always Adding to Your List

      Keep your list conveniently located and always available. Whenever you hear about an interesting organization or innovation, stop what you’re doing, and add their name to the bottom of your target list.

      You’re in a learning mode, so expect this to happen frequently. This might happen in class, especially as you’re talking about current events or working with case examples. This might happen as you read, watch and hear the news. I often get leads just by listening to the news as I drive to and from work, or as I read the New York Times each day. When I write them down or record a voice memo in the moment, I remember to take action. When I don’t, I almost always forget an important detail that makes it irrecoverable, or I forget about it all together.

      If your day-to-day life isn’t naturally creating some leads, consider adjusting your habits so that you ARE learning about organizations or innovations that spark your curiosity. For example, you could revisit this video on how to use trend information.

      Next time you wonder what steps to take for your job or internship search, remember that filling out the target list is meant to be a quick exercise, not a practice of deep research.  If you’ve collected a new batch of ideas, take a moment to quickly review all of the recent additions on your list and include an entry for the Alumni, Motivation, Posting, and any custom columns.

      Re-sort your list and there it is: a current-state map of what actions are most strategic to take.

    • Acting On Your Top Five

      Here are a few ways to turn your target list into action and connect with the organizations in your top five.

      • Determine if there are areas where you should do some further research or gain more clarity about your alignment with your targets.
      • Use LinkedIn or the Duke Alumni Directory to identify 2-3 contacts you’d like to be introduced to, or send an introductory message. 
      • Use professional associations, LinkedIn groups and community calendars like Meetup and EventBrite to find events and activities that you can begin attending as a way to grow credibility within a professional community.