Amybeth Hale – Research Goddess

Strategic Mindset for Research
November 26, 2007, 1:14 am
Filed under: Research

One thing that I have found to be incredibly helpful when trying to conduct passive research is that you must be mentally in the right place to do so. Now, I’m not talking about doing meditation exercises or ‘clear the mechanism’ kind of mindsets (though doing so might help with concentration!). What I’m talking about is making sure you’re thinking in the right direction.

What does this mean? Well, what lots of new researchers just starting out will do when they receive a search request is immediately turn to a resume database such as Hot Jobs, Monster, or CareerBuilder because, after all, this is where recruiters are supposed to go to find candidates. I’m not arguing this at all. However, what happens when that search is fruitless, which often happens – especially with very specific needle-in-a-haystack searches? You need to turn to more passive resources. But which ones?

One of the most important things to do when beginning passive research is to picture the end result. The end result, in this case, is the ideal candidate for your position. Then, you must think about the steps that will lead you to this end result. These steps are the places you will need to investigate to find the people who will be considered when looking for your ideal candidate. So – how do you find these resources?

With the proper mindset.

In order to find the person for whom you are searching, you must walk in their shoes. You must think like they do. You must pretend that you work in their profession. With this mindset, you will ask yourself questions like, “If I were a [insert job function here], what associations would I belong to?” or “What hobbies might I have that related to what I do for a living?” or “What trade publications would I read?” Think about where someone in that job function would go to find others in that job function to mingle with.

For anyone who speaks multiple languages, you have probably learned either through word of mouth or from firsthand experience that the best way to master a new language is through immersion. If you live in a place that only speaks the language you want to learn, you are pretty much forced to learn it in order to function on a daily basis. The same is true when conducting research. You must immerse yourself in the profession for which you are searching and learn the ‘language’.

I look for Public Relations professionals. In order to find PR people, I have to think like a PR person. I have to put myself into the function of that which I seek.


  • What would a PR professional read? Things like O’Dwyer’s, PRWeek, Strumpette, PR NewsWire, etc.
  • What associations would a PR professional belong to? The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), the International Public Relations Association (IPRA), and International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) just to name a few.
  • What hobbies might a PR professional have that relate to their job function? Some popular interests of PR professionals include politics, new media, and writing.

In the next step, approaching research from a PR mindset, here is what I would do to start conducting my passive research:

  1. Subscribe either via email or RSS feed to as many PR publications as possible. When necessary, I will purchase a paid subscription for some of the larger publications.
  2. Find out the membership criteria for the PR associations, and join as many as I can. Sometimes, memberships will have to be purchased, but trust me in most cases it’s worth the investment!
  3. Start investigating political interest groups, blogs, wikis, podcasts, listservs, and discussion groups where PR folks might hang out in their spare time. Social networks are always a great place to start, as are Google Groups, MSN Groups, and Yahoo! Groups.

Obviously there are more steps to go through here, but this is a great place to start getting your mind going in the right direction.

So, if your company does SAP, think about what listservs your target audience reads. If you are looking for civil engineers, check out some of the local chapters of the American Society of Civil Engineers. If you need an internet marketing professional, try reading Marketing Sherpa. If you need software developers, think about what they do (write source code) and seek out places where source code might be shared.

You cannot just think like a researcher or a recruiter when you are conducting research. You must put yourself in your target’s shoes if you really want to uncover the hidden talent. It will eventually become second nature to you as you learn more and more about where your target audience likes to hang out.


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