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Using SMART Goals in Your Job Search

A successful job search is a strategic plan that often includes SMART (Specific, Measurable, Action oriented, Results focused, Time bound) goals which have been used in corporate America for a long time as a way to qualify and quantify the value of a project or program. This same approach can be useful in the job search for someone who is out of work as well. Seeking a new position can take a while (typically 6-9 months) and the journey is fraught with highs and lows, successes and failures. There are many times when a person can get very discouraged. After all, the one true measure of success is finding a good job.

But, that is where the beauty of SMART goals comes in. It gives you something else to look at to determine progress and see the positive movement you are making in your job search. It allows you to celebrate small successes along the way to your big success and the ultimate goal of the whole process… a positive step on your career ladder.

SMART Goals and Your Job Search

Specific: At this point, the first thought is “I’m looking for a job”. Okay, that’s true, but there certainly is more to it than that. You need to look at all aspects of your situation and take things one at a time. It starts with deciding what career direction you want to take and it likely will include updating your resume and LinkedIn profile and ensuring consistent message/branding with both. You will also want to identify target markets and/or companies and develop a list of key contacts to (re) connect with.

Measureable: Sure, your long-term goal is to get a great job, but that could be months down the road. Set smaller, short term goals for yourself. Consider daily and weekly goals. For example, set a date to complete your resume. How many live contacts will you make? How many new networking connections did you have? How many interviews? These can all be done for a particular day, week or month and you should probably have some goals for each time frame.

Achievable: Now, looking for a job is hard enough without placing unrealistic expectations on yourself. The fact is that, in today’s market, the average job search takes 6-9 months before a candidate finds success. So, when you’re setting your goals, give yourself a fighting chance. Don’t make them too easy, but stretch yourself appropriately… and be willing to adjust your goals as the reality of the job search takes shape.

Relevant: Once again, this is an opportunity to celebrate successes and to keep you motivated and focused on the big prize. The results you’re looking for here could be around the number of connections you made that day, week or month. How many new contacts did you make? How many interviews did you schedule or did you have… and include phone screens as well.

Time Framed: This may be the most important expectation to manage. Nobody can say for sure how long a job search can take and that’s why breaking up the process into attainable and measurable goals is so helpful. Put a time frame on all the goals and objectives you set for yourself. Try to have short-term and medium term goals, but don’t forget the big one. You might have daily and weekly goals, but make sure you put a reasonable time frame out there for you to successfully complete your search because every goal is more attainable when it is put down in writing.

So, even if you’re out of work, there is no reason to forget about the valuable tools you might have used in your last job. Good planning is the foundation of a successful job search and SMART goals can work wonders for your plan and your psyche.

Ken Sher is a Career and Life Coach who focuses on the whole person when helping them with professional or personal issues they are trying to manage. If you would like to reach out to Ken, please call him at (215) 262-0528 or visit his web site at

Ken Sher

Ken Sher is an Career Coach and Executive Coach who focuses on the whole person when helping them with professional or personal issues they are trying to manage. Ken's areas of expertise include job search, career management and leadership development. If you would like to reach out to Ken, please call him at (215) 262-0528 or visit his web site at