Are you looking for work? What is your current situation? Were you one of the thousands laid off over the last year and currently out of work? Or are you stuck in a rut thinking about a career change? Whatever your current situation is, setting SMART goals for a job search will help you find a new position.

Setting goals is more than having aspirations. Statements like “I will find a new job” or “I will start my own business” are not enough. Setting goals means creating a written plan that includes reasonable and measurable long-term and short-term objectives. It means setting SMART goals.

Many coaches use the SMART acronym to explain goal setting. Each one uses a slightly different set of criteria. In this case, S.M.A.R.T. refers to goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Bound.

Specific: Goals need to be something specific. Most of us have a ‘big picture’ idea of what we want to achieve. We say, for example, “I will find a new job” or “I want to change careers.” That’s not detailed enough. Saying, “I will redo my resume this month,” is more precise. Now you have something specific to achieve.

Measurable: Goals need to be measurable. For example, when you’re out of work, it’s essential to expand your network. But, “making new contacts” is an ambiguous statement. A more straightforward objective is “I will attend four networking events each month and connect with one person at each.” Or “I will update my LinkedIn profile and add one new contact each week.” Those are simple, concrete goals that you can measure at the end of the week.

Achievable: Goals need to be reasonable and achievable. At one point or another, most of us have been unemployed. Looking for a job, particularly in this economy, isn’t easy. One of the biggest problems, aside from finding a job, is keeping your morale up. Setting achievable short-term goals that move you toward your long-term goal of finding a job will help you from becoming discouraged.

Setting a goal of finding a new job in one month, for example, might not be reasonable. However, applying to at least three companies each week is doable. Don’t set yourself up for failure by setting goals that are out of reach.

Realistic: Goals need to be realistic. As someone who’s changed careers several times, I know it can be done. Within reason. While we can have a lot, we probably can’t have it all at the same time. It’s essential to evaluate yourself honestly. Do you have the ability and commitment to make your dream come true? What if moving into a new career means going back to school? Can you work full-time and juggle classes in the evening? Be honest.

Time-Bound: Goals need to have a time frame. Having a set amount of time will give your goals structure. If you’re out of work, your savings may dictate your time frame. You may only be able to be unemployed for six months. However, many of us want to change careers or start their own business. Some people spend a lot of time talking about what they want to do – someday. There is no sense of urgency without an end date, no reason to take any action today. Having a specific time frame gives you the impetus to get started. It also helps you monitor your progress.

Setting Your S.M.A.R.T. Goals

Setting goals is more than deciding what you want to do. That’s only the first step, like picking a destination on a map. To be more successful, you need to map out how you will reach your goal and figure out how long it will take you to get there. Unfortunately, there’s no Google Map for this.

Now you have the fundamentals of successful goal setting. Keep the SMART acronym in mind to help you remember the basics. The next step is customizing this process to fit your needs.

Start by determining your end goal or the “big picture” goal. Is it finding a new job? Changing careers? Once you’ve decided, you’re ready to create your plan. Start with your long-term objectives. These are things you want to accomplish by the end of the year. Next, establish short-term goals. These include monthly, weekly, and even daily targets that will move you toward your long-term objectives.

Be careful not to push yourself too hard or too fast. While successful people know you have to stretch your talents to grow, they also know it’s important to set reasonable goals. Always be your own best friend. Never set yourself up for failure.

The first step to success is knowing where you want to go. The second step is having a plan to get there. Your long-term goal is your destination. Your short-term goals are your road map. Stick to your plan, and you’ll be well on your way.

Curated from an article in Career Intelligence

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