Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Introduction to Research

I bet you thought that once you finished college, you wouldn't have to do sustained research ever again (unless you're going to grad school or into the research field). As much as I hate to be the one to break it to you, it's not least not yet. In order to be successful in your job search, research is going to have to become a focal point once again. There are a couple of different levels of research that I'm going to write about today. Remember, this is just an INTRO to research as there are hundreds of good sources that I don't have the space to list.

1. Research at the Industry Level

If you have narrowed your focus to a few specific industries, it is important to get a grasp on the nature of the industry as a whole before you pinpoint specific companies. This is important because once you do start looking at specific firms, you will be able to better see their role within the industry (one point for you in a potential interview!). Researching the industry will also help you to understand what people actually DO in that field. Here are a few good sources to begin this search:

The Internet Public Library -

This source is a comprehensive guide to trade associations and organizations. On the title page, it has industries broken down into 11 groupings. Once you see the field that fits your interests the best, click on it to see much more specific entries. The websites of these associations and organizations will help you to look into the big picture.

While Wet Feet can also be used to research specific companies (and other great career advice), its Career/Industry profile page is fairly unique and very powerful. Once you've chosen your industry, you will find an Overview, Trends, Job Descriptions and Tips, Major Players and More... **Highly Recommended**

Similar to Wet Feet but focusing more on specific careers. College Grad is also good for looking into specific employers.

2. Research at Employer Level

Once you have a grasp on the big picture, it's time to get more specific. After all, you are looking for a job and the Consulting industry itself is not going to hire you. The following sites will help you get started on researching companies that you are interested in or where you have interviews (and hopefully both). While the firm's own website should be your first stop, check these resources as well since they will give an outsider's perspective and show you the competitors so that you will have more potential options!

I use this site more for researching specific employers. This section of the site combines searching for entry-level employers with a company research function. It also ranks the top entry-level employers by how many entry-level hires they are projected to make.

E-mail your career services office to see if your school has an account at CareerSearch. This is an extremely powerful database that allows you to research over 4 million companies. It also helps you to compare and contrast with the competitors. **Highly Recommended**

Vault is a really great site for both industry and company research. I particularly like Vault for company research because of the lists it uses to break down companies within an industry. For example: Top Internships, Best Companies to Work For, Great for Green, etc.

Stay up to date on the financial news of your company. Recognizing and understanding recent moves by a company will help you from your cover letter to your final round interview. The right sidebar of Google Finance provides all kinds of great and current news articles.

3. Other methods of research

Career Services Office

Don't forget about your University Career Services office. I can only speak from experience, but at my school, the Career Services office is still happy, able and willing to help alumni (especially recent grads). Send an e-mail or make a phone call now while it is still the middle of summer and start a dialogue before all the students come back. These advisors are PAID to know about the career search...USE THIS RESOURCE!

Informational Interviews

This is essentially the same as networking in that you ask a contact for a meeting, purely to discuss questions you have about their company, industry, etc. This plays a huge role in research because you can ask any reasonable question and you will receive the opinion of someone actually working in the field. Ask your contact first if they mind, but don't forget to take notes!


Don't forget about the vast number of print resources that are most likely available at your local library. It may be easier to hop online but many companies, such as Vault, have an entire line of books to mirror the website (and the books came out first...).

That's all for today, don't forget to comment if any of this is helpful or you have your own methods that I haven't touched on! Tune in tomorrow to read about looking for actual job postings.

Song of the Day:

December - Collective Soul

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