Looking for a job can be a very stressful experience – mainly because it seems like everything is out of your hands and that you’re depending on a small number of key people in another organisation to pick you.
However, it’s more empowering to focus on what you can do. Take back control and increase your chances of success with the SMARTER technique.
The SMARTER way of setting goals is one of my favourite systems (see here and here) to make quick progress on important projects and make sure I stay on track. It never fails to bring amazing results!
Make your goal…
Let’s start by making your goal “Specific”
If you are looking for a job, you might list the following subgoal:
“Define as closely as possible what my new job title will be, and what the job description will be, and write that down”
This is a specific goal, with a specific result (a job description) in mind. The goal here is not to force you to stick to that job title and description, but to make it easier to let others know what you are looking for, and to help you. “I’m looking for a job” doesn’t have quite the same appeal as “I’m looking for a position where I could play to my strengths in A, B and C domain, and perform X, Y and Z tasks”
While in college, I worked for three summer months in Edinburgh at the MS Society Scotland. I got that job through a recruitment company and if there was one thing they wanted in that initial meeting it was specific information. What type of role was I looking for? What type of a working environment did I prefer? What skills could I bring to the job? How had I demonstrated them in the past?
“Measurable” means that you will know
without a doubt when you can check a goal
off your list
What actions could you take to make that dream a reality?
- “Watch five videos on CV optimisation and rewrite my CV to reflect my latest experiences and skills”
- “Look up networking events in my area and go to four of them in the next two weeks”
- “Get in touch with three recruitment agencies to see how they could help me”
In each case, there is a number of steps to take and afterwards, you can “tick the box” to say they’re done. Each of them will bring you closer to potential opportunities and you can measure their effectiveness.
Can you feel the energy and the peace of mind that come from knowing you have given it your best, most effective effort? You can actually see the progress that you’re making. Compare this with “I will look for a job today” – you Google a couple of keywords, blast random resume sites with a five-year old CV, look at the well-worn paper again and hope for the best. You’re putting time into the process but possibly not getting much out of it: this is a sure recipe for frustration.
By making your goal measurable, you tell your brain to stop stressing over it once it’s checked off. Looking for a job has to fit into your day: it has to be broken down into clearly defined action steps that you can slot into your schedule. A vague, non-quantifiable goal will have you spinning your wheels and second-guessing yourself 24 hours a day. It certainly isn’t the best frame of mind when trying to put your best foot forward and convince people to hire you.
“Attainable” and “Realistic” lead you to
double-check that you can do all that you set out
to do, and it can be slotted into your day
For example, if there are only two networking events in the vicinity in the next two weeks, you will have to take it into your stride and change strategy. Will you be happy to go to two events only? Will you extend your search a few more weeks? Will you decide to attend a weekend conference that is further afield? Will you avail of online networking opportunities?
It’s your call, but make sure that you don’t set yourself up to fail, just because you failed to take reality into account.
Next, let’s think about “Timely” – all the letters are
important, but this one will make or break
When will you do all of the above? It’s nice to define Specific, Measurable goals that you can actually achieve, but if they remain a perfect-sounding plan on a piece of paper, you will be no closer to getting that job interview! For each objective, put the preparation, travel, execution and follow up time into your diary.
You might also strike up an accountability partnership with somebody who will make sure you don’t procrastinate on your to-do items: this could be a family member who is caring, yet firm and checks in with you now and again to make sure that you’re staying on track.
Is this goal “Extending”?
Will you grow in any way as a result of this new job search? Will you be increasing your wages, exercising new skills, taking on a new challenge, meeting new people and doing new things? It’s important to recognise that your comfort zone may be pushed out when you’re moving into new territory. And if you’re not in your comfort zone, you might feel uncomfortable at first. Embrace the feeling and give yourself credit for your efforts.
Finally, it’s crucial to factor in some “Rewarding”
Searching for a job often involves rejection and a dent in your confidence. You need to keep your motivation high and consistent throughout the process. It’s vital to treat yourself to acknowledge the work that you have done. You might take a relaxing evening off after a day of intensive job searching; or go for a coffee in your favourite coffee shop after a good meeting with a recruitment company; or take a walk in the park to break up several hours in front of a laptop. These mini-treats don’t require a lot of money and they are paramount to make sure you continuously reinvigorate yourself.
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