Job Hunting the SMART Way

Many people are familiar with the SMART goal-setting method as a way to develop effective goals in order to achieve success. However, the SMART method isn’t just for setting goals, it can also be used to create a purposeful and effective job search.

S.M.A.R.T. stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Here’s what you need to know for each letter of the acronym when applying it to your job search:

Specific: This is essential. Goals you set must be clear and concise to be attainable, and this is also true for your job search. For example, “I want to get in shape” or “I want to find a job in communications” are both ambiguous, and you won’t get what you want if it’s not clear. A SMART job seeker has a focused target. For example, “I would like a position in corporate communications managing social media and branding.” You can still pursue other opportunities as they arise, but a specific job search will provide direction and promote action.

Measurable: Measurable actions allow you to plan and chart your progression, which means you can celebrate small achievements and reevaluate your methods. You will want to have a clearly defined action plan, which includes daily, weekly and monthly goals. To be successful, you’ll need to track your efforts, record your progress, and assess as well as update your plan on a regular basis.

Achievable: Seek out resources, both internal and external, that will help you achieve your goal. Develop the skills, attitudes, and abilities that will be needed in both your job search and your potential position. Be open to previously overlooked opportunities or tools that may help you with your search or to expand your skills.

You should explore how you can develop and expand your network, what professional groups, clubs, or activities might result in leads and connections, any certifications or additional trainings that will enhance your employability, and how you can continue to build experience and skills. Also, don’t overlook your support system as an important resource. It’s important to take care of yourself and to develop a personal and social support system to lean on.  

Realistic: A realistic goal must represent an objective that you are both willing and able to work toward. During your job search, your aspirations and expectations must align to the realities of the marketplace. To achieve this, you must do your research, understand your field, job market, and potential position requirements. You should be realistic in accessing your skills, but don’t underestimate what you have to offer. You should also evaluate what you are willing to do or sacrifice (time, effort, relocation, salary, etc.) in order to be successful.

Timely: In order for your goal to be timely, you must set specific, time-bound action goals and then take deliberate, consistent effort to meet them. You should chart your activities and progress, and then reevaluate and adjust your plan as you go. The benefit of time-bound tasks is that they can prompt you to take action and keep moving forward, even when it seems like you are not making any headway. Without this part of the SMART formula, you may find it’s easy for everyday tasks, procrastination, and discouragement to slow or halt your progress.

A SMART approach to job searching can lead to a clear, purposeful job search. You’ll have realistic expectations, which will prompt you to seek out resources and support, maximize your efforts, and stick to your action plan. All of these steps will help you increase your overall job search proficiency.

To learn more about applying the SMART method to your job search, view my recent SMART Strategies for Job Search Success webinar. For additional guidance on your career journey, visit CareerQuest.

Ann Martin is a career advising specialist at University of Maryland University College where she has worked for more than five years. She holds a master’s in mental health counseling from Bowie State University.  As a mid-life career changer, she feels uniquely qualified to assist adult students in transforming their lives and finding their place in the workforce.