How to implement job search goals and find work that’s right for you

job search goalsAmong your New Year’s resolutions, you might want to include setting job search goals.

If you’re just starting  out and still deciding what you want to do with your life or need some inspiration, we recommend reading What Color is Your Parachute by Richard Bolles. This book, which has been around for more than 50 years and updated annually, will help you discover yourself, determine the type of job that is best for you and explain how to go about finding it. Curious? Here’s a list and explanation of the book’s 25 key ideas.

If you don’t feel like reading an entire book, check out the Setting Your Job Search Goals Checklist at

This tool encourages you to develop a vision of your future work and the ideal company to work for. It offers a chance to focus on your skills, create a title and write a job description for your ideal job. The checklist includes options to choose the type of schedule you prefer and whether you would rather work on site or remotely and would prefer a permanent job or contract work. It also has a list of benefits and perks that include health insurance, disability coverage, a 401K matching plan, amount of paid time off and other things a company might offer its employees. Use this checklist when applying for jobs to determine if they have what you are looking for.

Once you’ve decided the type of work you want to search for, it’s time to start setting job search goals.

How to create SMART goals

Of course, getting a job is the ultimate goal, but it will take a lot of smaller steps to get there. And these should all be what’s known as SMART goals. The acronym, developed by a former executive and widely used throughout the business world, stands for:

  • Specific: The goal should be clearly defined.
  • Measurable: You should be able to measure your progress.
  • Attainable: It must be achievable.
  • Relevant: What you are trying to achieve must be appropriate for your personality and lifestyle.
  • Timely: The goal needs a completion date.

In following the smart philosophy, you should begin with smaller goals.

Types of goals you should aim for

Here are a list of goals you can achieve in the next few months:

Write the best resume or JIST card possible. You may have a resume or JIST Card that you wrote a while back and need to update, or you may be starting from scratch. A resume remains the standard way to highlight your skills and employment history. But it may not be right for every job seeker. If you have gaps in your work history, a JIST card may work better. It stands for Job Information Seeking and Training, but everyone just knows it as JIST. Rather than include a list of your former jobs, it just states your name, contact information and a summary of your experience in a paragraph on a small, maybe 3” x 5”, card.

Compose a list of companies to contact. Put together a list of companies or small businesses you think you might want to work for. The best way to do this is by searching Business Finder, an online tool created by the American Job Center. Using this tool, you can find out the names of various businesses, their addresses and what they do, the contact person and number of employees. And then you can cold call the manager of the appropriate department, or, if it’s a small company, the owner. Making direct contact with the person who might be able to hire you is far superior to submitting your resume to the black hole of the online job boards.

Improve your social media presence. If you have a LinkedIn account, make sure it’s up-to-date and includes all the experience and volunteer work that you’ve accomplished. And carefully review your social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. The majority of hiring managers use social media websites to research potential employees. So be careful what’s on yours. Inappropriate photos, posts about partying, drinking or using drugs or badmouthing a previous employer and people in general, are likely to turn off potential hiring managers. You may want to disable accounts that include any of these.

Visit potential employers. If you’re interested in retail or food service work, drop by some of your favorite shops or restaurants and talk to the manager directly. Be sure to go at a time they won’t be busy, like mid-afternoon for restaurants.

Work on developing your soft skills. Soft skills, such as communication, having a positive attitude and work ethic, teamwork and critical thinking, are highly sought after by hiring managers, and you may want to improve in these areas. Check out courses at your local community college or find books on the subject at your local library. And you might want to look into joining Toastmasters International, which will teach you to be a better communicator.

Establish opportunities for informational interviews. One of the best ways to find out more about a particular type of job you might be interested in is to conduct an informational interview. You can ask your friends for potential contacts or just call up the hiring manager or even a regular worker in the appropriate department of a company you’re interested in. Or if it’s a small business, call the owner. Tell them you’d like to do an informational interview and invite them out for coffee, since a face-to-face meeting is preferred. Video communication and telephone are also viable options and may be easier to schedule. This is a chance to get to know someone and ask them questions about what it’s like to work in their field and/or company. It might also result in a job offer either at that company or by a referral from the person you interviewed.

Create an impressive elevator pitch. Many job seekers dread the “Tell me about yourself” question. But it’s almost always asked, and you can prepare for it by putting together a 15- to 30-second “elevator speech.” While most of these are pretty standard and dull, you can make yours stand out by telling a story about why you do – or want to do – the type of work you’re applying for. Create a compelling story that will make the hiring manager remember you.

Prepare to dress for success. Most hiring managers make a decision in the first few seconds of meeting an applicant. And part of that decision is based on how you look. So make sure to look your best. No money for interview clothes, such as a new suit, dress or work attire? No worries. Jails to Jobs has a directory of nonprofits across the U.S and Canada that are dedicated to giving away professional clothing to those in need. There are currently more than 1,500 programs listed, and you can find the one nearest to you by typing in your city, state or Zip Code.

Investigate volunteer opportunities. Volunteer on a regular basis or for a one-time event. Volunteer opportunities range from working at animal shelters and tutoring refugees in English to feeding the homeless and assisting patients in a health clinic. You’ll meet new people and gain experience in an area you may be interested in. 

Expand your network. Attend events, enroll in a class at a local community college or join a Meetup group focused on one of your interests, whether it’s hiking, kayaking, video games, eating out, sports, music, photography or even looking for a job. Meetup has thousands of groups across the U.S., so check out what sorts exist in your area.

These are just a few important goals that you can accomplish. And each and every one of them will help you move closer to your major goal of getting a job.

Editor’s note: In researching this article we were reminded of one of Bill Gates’ five all-time favorite books, The Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance, available at many public libraries. He describes it as the “best guide to getting out of your own way.” Whether you ever pick-up a tennis racket or not this book is full of insightful information on what some refer to as applied mindfulness. It speaks to turning off the inner critic that forces us to be self-judgmental, and allows us to have more trust in our own decisions. It encourages us to not see results as right or wrong or good or bad. But rather look to these results to provide feedback as you work your plan towards a desired outcome. To hold goals lightly and adapt and adjust as needed are critical. And remember to focus on what you can control. Such as the time that you allocate towards working your plan, and remaining curious and making any needed adjustments along the way towards meeting your goals.

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