Goal Setting Sets You Up for Job Search Success

John Krautzel
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Searching for a new job can be as demanding and time consuming as the job itself. Looking for work carries the additional risk of either not finding the job you want or being forced to settle for something less than what you're worth. Success in a job search is defined by how quickly you can find and land the type of position you're looking for. By setting goals for your search, and then keeping an eye on your progress, you are greatly improving your chances of an early, successful finish to your job hunt.

Goals Work Best When They Are Specific

Every goal you set must be as specific as possible. Unless your target is something that can be clearly defined in a single sentence, you might be taking too broad an approach. Getting a job in the hospitality industry is a good ultimate purpose, but a specific goal needs to be narrower, such as getting a job managing the desk at a large hotel. Narrowly defining what you consider success helps you focus on specific targets, eliminate jobs you don't want from the field and zero in on just the ones you most want.

On a shorter timescale, try to set daily goals. Plan to apply to a defined number of jobs each day, and aim for one or two interviews a week. Even if those totals have to be adjusted, just having a specific aim helps keep up your spirits and motivates you to keep plugging away when you're discouraged, according to Career-Intelligence.com.

Measure Your Progress at Every Step

Measuring your progress toward goals is just as important as setting them in the first place. Keeping track of where you've applied and what type of response you got keeps you from wasting time applying to places you've already tried and helps you identify areas of opportunity you haven't tried yet. The ability to look back over the progress you've made, or just to see that you've been hitting your goals every day, is another great motivator that can keep up your morale.

Keeping a job-search diary is the easiest way to monitor your progress on the hunt. Write down your daily and weekly goals in a blank journal, and then put a check mark next to each target you met. Another way to monitor your progress is to notate a dry-erase calendar. Jot down your goals, then mark them with green or red ink to show whether you've reached your goal or not.

Win Little Victories With Achievable Targets

Setting goals you can reach is the key to making identifiable progress. Setting unrealistic goals for yourself is worse than not setting goals at all. If you're ambitiously planning to apply to dozens of companies a week, it's likely you're setting yourself up for failure when you can't meet your target. You may also be sabotaging your job search by rushing through prospects in an effort to get too much done on a short timetable.

To save yourself the frustration of unrealistic goals, try asking around among other people who have successfully found work in the field you're interested in. Ask them how many employers they applied to each week, and develop an idea of what's really possible. As you track your progress, be sure to adjust your targets accordingly. If your goal is to submit 30 applications a week, but you find that you're rarely topping 25, the best course may be to lower your quota to a more realistic figure.

Be Realistic About Your Prospects

Very few job seekers can jump straight from their first applications in a new industry into a well-paid job in senior management at the most prestigious company in town. Avoiding the pitfall of unrealistic goals is central to ultimate success in your search.

Take an honest look at what you're qualified for. If the type of work you want most is outside your current expertise, you might need more education or experience in a related field before you can realistically apply for it. Consider joining an interest group related to your industry, which keeps you current on the latest trends, according to The Wise Job Search.

Setting a Timetable Helps Guide You Toward Ultimate Success

Set a timetable for your job search, and hold yourself to it as closely as possible. This helps you keep focused on your search and serves as an early warning system if something is wrong with your approach. A timetable also gives you a clear road map forward when you're in the thick of applications and interviews.

Looking for work sometimes feels like swimming upstream. So many factors are out of your control that it seems like there's nothing you can do to speed up the process. Setting goals for yourself, from daily application targets to weekly interviews and months-long timetables, puts you in control of the search and greatly improves your chances of finally landing the job you want.

Photo Courtesy of Mary Knelser at Flickr.com


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  • Abbey Boyd
    Abbey Boyd

    Having realistic goals is the best way to keep on the right track during your job search. Ensure that you are being honest with yourself about your skills and qualifications to ensure you are applying to the right companies. Understand how much you can really accomplish in a day, week, or month. Don't expect yourself to find a job in the first couple of days. When you make your goals unrealistic, the feeling of failure may be what hurts your job search the most.

  • Shaday Stewart
    Shaday Stewart

    I like that the article reminds job seekers to be realistic. It's easy to fall into the trap of self-sabotage when you overshoot and then lose motivation because you repeatedly fail to meet your goals. There has to be a reasonable path of action between what you want and what you can reasonably achieve. If your goals fall outside that range, then you know you need to adjust your timeline to acquire more education or on-the-job experience.

  • Delaney O'Neil
    Delaney O'Neil

    I love the recommendation to set daily goals. I've always heard it said that you should treat a job search as though it's your job. So that means getting up each day, getting showered and dressed, and sitting down to accomplish your tasks. Taking the time to itemize those tasks and set out actual goals for each day helps prevent you from sitting around spinning your wheels or getting overwhelmed by how much there is to do.

  • Jane H.
    Jane H.

    I disagree with setting timetables on the job search for the exact reasons you mentioned in the preceding section on achievable targets. I have tried the timetables approach in the past and trying to speed through applications just made me feel like I wasn't giving each one sufficient attention. Since I was on a short timetable, not seeing short-term success felt like failure, when really, it was the classic problem of not being able to control what third parties do or when they do it.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @William absolutely! If rewards motivate you, then by all means reward yourself. Small rewards even - like maybe a nice dinner or going to see a movie. Nothing too expensive if you are currently not working. But rewards tend to help to motivate us to take the next step so go for it.

  • William Browning
    William Browning

    What about rewards as you reach various goals? Getting a job is the ultimate reward, but how should I celebrate getting to the interview phase, landing a new client or revamping my social media contacts? Rewards help motivate me to get things done, and I need little rewards for achieving incremental success on the way to the top.

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