If you live in a small or medium-sized city, the kind of extensive research described in this chapter may not be all that relevant. You probably know a lot about the major employers, and the smaller ones are not going to be part of any of the national databases found on the Web or in libraries. Where does that leave you?
The best basic research you can do is to get the names of small employers, study their websites and see if they list jobs. Should the management team be listed, take a look and see if you recognize any names. In a small town they may be members of your church or have children at your school. Even if you don’t know them, try to call or email them. Chances are they probably have a little more time to chat with a job seeker than their larger corporate counterparts.
You can also employ something as simple as your local phone book (in print or online versions). Look at the companies in your profession, or a profession you seek to join, and take down their names, addresses and phone numbers. If your community’s phone number provider has an online directory, use that because companies listed sometimes have a link directly to their website — if they have one.
Another research source is the website of your local newspaper and the closest regional daily newspaper. At those sites you can usually do searches of companies and see what stories have been written about them. Even smaller firms, if they are growing or offer intriguing products and services, may have had articles written about them.
Since many small dailies and weeklies don’t have extensive archives on the Web, you will have to go to your local library to search for copies or, alternatively, call the newspaper itself. Many of them file stories by subject matter and are willing to share those with local residents as long as they don’t take them from the premises.
Minnesota has two fine resources for job seekers, noted earlier, in MinnesotaWorks.net and ISEEK.org. You can look for positions through a ZIP code search and let the search engine know how many miles you are willing to commute. Depending on where you live you may have to extend the search out to find the kind of job you desire.
Finally, the best research for job seekers in smaller communities comes in networking with friends, family, neighbors and other acquaintances. Great research, especially on smaller employers, just isn’t available. That’s where cold-calling—dealt with in the chapter on How People find Work — and networking will be exceptionally important to your research. In the yin and yang of job hunting, smaller markets have the same advantage and disadvantage: a limited number of employers that you will have to research and contact, yet a smaller number of available jobs.