The 90-Day Career Diet: Set Your Targets

Match the knowledge of who you are with a plan for where you want to go, says Korn Ferry CEO Gary Burnison. Second in the series.

Gary Burnison is CEO of Korn Ferry and author of Lose the Resume, Land the Job. For more information, see

This article is the second of a series.

You haven’t had a raise in two years—nor a promotion. Most telling, nobody has said “thank you” for the work you’ve done. All of this adds up to a negative “Career Momentum Index” (CMI). Just like you need new nutrition and exercise habits to improve your BMI, you must work to optimize your CMI.

The sad reality is most people don’t know how. All of those new year’s resolutions to “find a new job” and the Post-Its they stick all over the house will be fruitless. Why? Because they default to sending out resumes blindly and clicking to apply for any and all job openings—oblivious to the fact that 98% of resumes submitted online go nowhere.

If you don’t want to be like most people who abandon their resolutions by the second week of February, you need to take control. But you have to do it within the content of a “career nomad” strategy—taking control as you go from one opportunity to the next, whether inside or outside the company.

That’s the purpose of this 90-day “career diet,” which started last week with Step One: taking a good look in the mirror to learn about yourself — identifying your strengths and blind spots and knowing what motivates you. Now, you’re ready to take the next step: matching the knowledge of who you are with a plan for where you want to go.

Your Homework: Targeting Questions

To target your next opportunity, you need to start with the basics. But believe me, these aren’t just “check the box” questions. You need to do some real research.

What are your skills and competencies? Your skills and behaviors are a significant part of what you bring to your next position—whether inside or outside your current employer. What has made you successful thus far? Do you have strong financial acumen? Are you naturally creative? Can you motivate others? How do you drive results?

What roles and responsibilities fit you best? Your search is like a spiral. If you’re looking to do the same job for a similar company—maybe with a little more responsibility or a bigger team—it’s just one turn on the spiral. If you want to make a bigger leap, perhaps changing industries, that will take your further out on the spiral. Whatever your plan, you need to translate your experiences and accomplishments to the roles you’re seeking.

Where do you want to live and work? Don’t tell a prospective employer that you can go anywhere unless that’s really the truth. The company isn’t going to move—you are. Have a geographic region in mind—do you need to be in or near a specific city? That two-hour commute each way will get old, really fast. Be honest with yourself.

What companies interest you? Your wish list starts with companies you admire for their purpose and mission—places where you could really see yourself working. Average job tenure is about four years and a lot less for young professionals. You need to think in short-term increments. 

Your Stretch Assignment: The Deeper Dive

The next step is taking a deeper dive into your targeted companies—although, quite frankly, most people won’t because it takes time and effort. Do yourself a favor and don’t shortchange your research.

Check out the "people" landscape: Go on LinkedIn and check out people at your target company. Are you connected to any of them? How long have they been there? Who do they report to? Does it appear to be a small or large department? Where did they come from—what are their qualifications? Does their profile indicate they’ve been promoted along the way? You won’t get a complete org chart by any means, but you’ll get good view of the landscape within the company, department, and around the specific role(s) that interests you.

Do the due diligence: Read the latest news stories about the company. Check out their social media. Read the annual report. Listen to the latest earnings call recording. Here are some things to consider:

What’s the health of the company? Is it growing, stagnant, shrinking? What’s the industry like?

What’s the company’s reputation? You’re looking for an employer that’s known for its brands, products/services, and the way it does business. Look at websites dedicated to company reputations. What are current and former employees saying? Is the company known for treating employees well? What are the compensation and benefits like? Has the employer been recognized on any lists as a “best place” to work or is it known for corporate social responsibility?

What’s the culture? Talk to people who currently work at the company or were there recently. It’s all about finding where you can do your best work, make an impact, and prove your value fast.

How’s the fit? Is it a yoga pants and hoodies kind of place, or is it more buttoned down? Consider that most people are hired for what they know but fired for who they are. Make sure who you are fits where you want to go.

Sharpening Your Focus On The Target

As you target companies, think about what’s most important to you. Be honest with yourself about your desires and your limitations. The clearer you are about what you need, the better you’ll target your next advancement opportunity.

Follow the steps in the 90-Day Career Diet

Step 1: Learn About Yourself

Step 2: Set Your Targets

Step 3: Nurture Your Network

Step 4: Refresh Your Resume

Step 5: Prep for the Interview 

Step 6: The Face to Face

Step 7: On to the Next One

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