Where To Look | Foundation 3 – Lesson 5

Go back to Job Search Prep Syllabus.

Looking for a Job?

The problem with looking for jobs is that they’re easy to find – too easy to find. You go to a job board. You find millions of jobs. You have no idea what to do with millions of jobs and no way to discern the good from the bad. It’s completely backwards to find job openings and then see if they’re any good.

Here are 3 reasons why scanning job boards is going to waste your time:

1. The jobs are picked over. You’re not inserting yourself into the process before the jobs get posted. You’re rummaging through the bargain bin.

2. You spend most of your time looking at jobs that you aren’t interested in because the job titles aren’t very descriptive. You might even end up looking at postings from scam companies like the ones that we mentioned a few lessons earlier. No matter how refined your search is, you can’t check a “Quality” box for your search.

3. You aren’t learning anything or developing any skills. You’re mindlessly clicking over and over again until you find something that meets criteria that you probably can’t even describe.

In case we haven’t made it painfully clear, Jason and I don’t think very highly of job boards. Today’s lesson is about taking the Always Looking Approach and making it active. Previously in your job search, your main activity has most likely been scanning job boards (and what follows after you find the jobs on job boards). You know that this approach lacks creativity, but you don’t know what else to do. Right?

Bringing Action to “Always Looking”

Since we’re trying to help you become a creative thinker, we’re not going to tell you exactly what to do, but we’re going to give you some ideas on how you can replace the time that you spend scanning job boards with something more productive.

The first step may sound familiar: Forget your job search.

“Job search” means that you’re looking for a job. That’s not what you should be looking for. You’re looking for companies, problems, and stories. This isn’t a temporary thing. This mindset should stick with you for life. If you are constantly curious, you’ll always be aware of what options are out there.

So how do you find companies with compelling stories and exciting problems?

You look for them!



Duh, that’s what we talked about the in the last lesson. But what can you do to replace your daily routine of scanning the job boards?

Here are some ideas of where to look:


Magazines are one of the best sources for information, whether it be on niche or mainstream topics. Since magazines articles are more about breadth than depth, they give you the ability to learn about a lot of things in a short amount of time. That’s exactly what we’re looking for here. You can even read trashy rags like US Weekly if you must, but you’re better off making slightly more productive choices with your magazine reading like the ones that I wrote about here.


Blogs are the new magazines. Need I say more?


Newspapers are even broader than magazines, but they also seem to offer more distractions. Reading stories about layoffs isn’t going to be productive to your mindset and browsing the Classifieds for jobs is nearly pointless. Being up to date on current events is good for a wide variety of reasons, so make reading a newspaper (online or in print) part of your daily job search routine. Just make sure that you stay focused on the task at hand – finding companies with compelling stories and exciting problems.


Yes, I’m serious. You can actively job search by watching tv (you can also do it passively). If you get distracted easily, you should probably just skip this one, but if you can control yourself, 30 minutes of channel surfing might be more valuable than 6 hours on Monster.com. You can find more ideas on using tv for your job search here.

Things Around the House

Take a scavenger hunt around your house. Look at your clothes, athletic equipment, and entertainment system. Go into your closet, fridge, and even under the kitchen sink. Check out the garage and the backyard. What catches your interest? What do you want to know more about?


One of the best things that you can do for your job search is to get out of the house. Head downtown and start paying attention. Look at stores, billboards, and trucks. Talk to people and watch people. There are a million things to observe, and everyone who is job searching can benefit from a day out of the house.


The next lesson is called “Who Can Help.” We’re going to cover these things there.

Job Boards

Wait, what? Didn’t I just rail against job boards for wasting your time? Yes, I did. So why can they be great resources for idea generation? Because they’re a giant list of company names and descriptions. Since you’re a recovering job board user, this may put you at risk for a relapse, but if you can get over an old bad habit, then you can certainly put these job boards to a productive use. The key is to ignore the jobs that are posted and only look at the companies that are posting the jobs. This will work ok with general job boards like Monster and CareerBuilder, but you’ll find it most productive on niche boards like TechCrunch’s Job Board and the American Institute of Architects’ Job Board.


To sum this lesson up, it’s all about active idea generation. The good thing about scanning job boards is that it makes you feel like you’re doing something. The bad thing is that it’s a big waste of time. If we can take that positive energy and desire for activity and direct it towards something more productive. Hopefully we’ve provides some alternative options that you’re willing to try, but I realize that convincing you to replace looking for jobs with looking for companies is a tough sell.

That’s why today’s homework is to spend an hour doing one of the activities above. Keep a pen and paper handy and write down every idea that comes up and is relevant to your job search. Just keep track of them. You don’t need to worry about what you’re going to do with the ideas yet. That will come in the next Foundation on Research. If you’re comfortable with it, share the list of ideas that you generated and how you generated them in the comments.

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6 responses to “Where To Look | Foundation 3 – Lesson 5”

  1. jmwatts says:

    I’ve done a lot of this before. It’s how I found my internships. My first internship I had came from the American Association of Advertising Agencies website. I found who was in Denver, fell in love with a company’s website, then applied blindly and called the intern coordinator every couple weeks for about two months without actually talking to anyone. Three months later I received a call out of the blue offering me an interview. I was still in school for another month, but when I went home for the summer, I gave them a call. By the end of the week I had an interview and they brought me on.

    My second internship I knew should be in athletic product manufacturing. I played lacrosse and knew that an industry-changing group that made lacrosse stick shafts was in Denver. Called them, sent in a resume, within two weeks I had an offer and my first paying internship.

    Third internship was brought to my e-mail box through a professor who was on a non-profit board.

    Points being: yes, Willy is right. It works. And, try industry groups. Find the association for something you want to do and find out where the members are. If you want to be in Miami, you can find members in Miami and apply to them. It’s that easy.

  2. mdabhi says:

    I’ve been able to generate a list of companies that really excite me, however applying for those jobs is another matter as I do wonder whether I would be able to do the jobs that they have posted on thier web-sites as I don’t have some of the skills they require or experience. My point being is being practical in the real world a negative mind-set?

  3. jmwatts says:

    I don’t know what Willy or Jason would say to answer your question, but I just want to suggest that I’ve found that what a company has available position-wise on their website and what is really available are not always the same thing. They might have something else available you can find out about with a phone call or e-mail.
    I think this most directly relates to small firms, as opposed to something large like Apple that carefully implements an ATS.

  4. Willy Franzen says:

    That’s exactly right, although it can also go the other way. I’d imagine that a lot of companies are posting jobs right now even though they’re not hiring. It gives their recruiting team something to do, and they can collect resumes for when they resume hiring.

    But as Jenica said, there are more jobs than you see. Maybe they haven’t posted the job yet, maybe they’re just thinking about adding a new position, or maybe you can even convince them to create a position for you. Job postings can give you a good idea of the types of needs that companies have, but you’re better off trying to understand the company and its story, and then finding where you can fit into that story.

  5. annamonster says:

    This was a great exercise. I am totally guilty of looking at job boards, and it can be really depressing.

    I spent time thinking about potential companies while grocery shopping, cooking dinner and finishing a book, “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.” I have always loved reading about food and cooking; yet, I never considered the possibility of working in the industry.

    These are the companies I came up with: Kashi, Mellisa’s, Sigg, Jelly Belly, Ricola, Ritter Sport, King Arthur Flour, Plugra, Kleen Kanteen.

    Other companies I thought of while around the house: Marmot, Merrel, Asolo, Specialized, Lamy, Patagonia.

    Since I love reading, I might fit in with a book publisher such as: Shambhala, Penguin or Owl Books.

    Now I need to research these companies and see if I could fit in with any of their brand stories.

    Here is my example of an interception in my job searching: I am applying for a counselor position with an art camp/school in Napa, CA. They have a small staff and from talking with them on the phone and email, I learned that they are worried about their enrollment falling significantly from last year.

    So while applying for a counselor position I could share some ideas I have about how they could expand their audience and encourage repeat enrollment, and maybe give them some ideas for reaching out to the community to sponsor needy students.
    Am I on the right track, or would they consider this presumptuous?

  6. ebilly says:

    i’m not sure how relevant it would be for anyone else’s job search, but since i want to go into museum education, i’ve decided to set one day aside each week and actually go to a museum. not only for enjoyment, but for research. also, if ever asked in an interview what museums i like, i wont have to scramble to think of answer.

    i also want to practice content writing and make a mock piece of an educational program or curriculum. something i can use to demonstrate my skills and for practice.

    so the sum of my brain storm is to pretend i already have the job i want and treat my days of not working as actual work days in my future job.

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