Job Search Strategy: Setting Goals and a Process to Reach Them

     An essential element of the career search is to have a clear objective and strategy that leads you to it. In the following paragraphs I mention a few steps about goal setting that can help you along these lines if you're starting the year in an active or passive search of new opportunities at work.
     Although I'm writing this article a couple of months after the year started -when we typically make resolutions and set goals-, I write it with the benefit of having tested these strategies for over a month in my goals as a freelance writer.

1. Define a specific goal:

     Every aspect of a successful search, starting with the resume and ending with your signature on a contract, depend on clarity about what you're after. What kind of work do you want, what's the job title and company? What activities would you perform and at what pace? What skills do you have and need to develop for that role? What should be your compensation? In how much time would you like to GE that new job (important if you're in a passive search)? Having a clear goal is no guarantee that you'll get here but it gives you a destiny to go after, which will help you focus and prioritize your efforts.

2. Integrate an action plan:

     Once you have a clear objective (which you should include in your resume or CV), identify the recruiting activities you need to do: update your resume, write cover letters, do practice interviews, research companies, establish contacts, send out applications, etc. Even if you can't plan some activities (e.g., the date for a particular interview), you can program over time most of your efforts according to the hours you can commit to each day.

3. Create a routine.

     One of the main obstacles to recant our goals is not being able to develop habits. It's important for you to know when during the day will you work on your professional search and to ensure that it happens. Does this moment, when you can concentrate better, happen when you wake up, during lunchtime, or at night? When you miss this commitment, take notes of what made you fail so you can act differently the next time. This routine should consider daily, weekly and monthly efforts. Not having or following a routine is the main cause of task procrastination within your search.

4. Execute your plan and follow-up:

     This step may seem obvious, but make sure you have mechanisms to assess whether you're fulfilling your recruiting plan. This should include what's planned and what's derived from your progress. Did you hit your daily, weekly and monthly goals? Is there anything you need to change in your plan? Did you send your resume to all the contacts that you should (including a personalized cover letter)? Did you provide the adequate follow-up to your interview?

5. Don't despair, don't give up:

     As in any worthwhile effort in life, a job search can be complex. It's highly likely that something can go wrong. You should have several options within your goal. Keep sending out your resume, practice your interviews and always keep in mind your objective.
     The definition of your objective is a critical step in your job search. Make sure you dedicate to it enough time and that you set up a good process around it.
Here's to your success!
Hugo M. Breton was a Ross School of Business career counselor at the University of Michigan and has recruited during more than 10 years for top companies in consulting and financial services. He shares his job search advice and provides services through