I still remember a report I had to write in 4th grade about Polar Bears. I also remember a report I worked on in 5th grade on the state of Texas. We all have had to write numerous reports over the course of our lives. Do you remember anything about the topic you reported on?
Chances are you still remember some of facts. Why is that? Perhaps the topic was interesting. Perhaps your immersion in the subject was all it took.
When you are seeking employment, the recommendation to select 40-50 target companies is loosely based on this same idea. As you begin to compile your data from the research of these companies, the information will most likely stick. You might feel a connection or a greater interest in some of those companies. This increased interest is visible on the outside. It is one of the most attractive qualities to future employers.
It has been my experience that job seekers don't research companies completely until the interview has been scheduled. They cram to soak up all the information they can in a very short time period.
Why not start today conducting your research on the companies you would like to work for. What harm can it do? Will you learn more about your industry in doing this? Will you gain insight and begin to recognize key names of people in that industry?
Become a SME (subject matter expert) in your industry. This is bigger than your occupation. You will want to be a SME within your occupation as well but understanding the bigger picture will benefit you in the long run.
There are many good resources for conducting research and compiling data. Do you have a favorite list of questions or areas of investigation you use to research?