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Use SMART Goals to Plan Your Job Search Campaign

orange SMART goals text on gray backgroundYou’ve recently launched your job search campaign and face a challenge: you’re overflowing with ideas and options to explore. To name a few, you’ve identified that you want to conduct networking interviews with other professionals, expand your skillset by taking an online course, and increase your LinkedIn activity.

Despite these intentions and your initial efforts to pursue them, you’re struggling to get specific about the type of role or company you plan to target. You’re committed to advancing your career, but you’re starting to feel frustrated about the disconnect between your intentions and lack of tangible progress.

How can you narrow the focus to get your job search campaign on track?

A simple tool might help you define and meet your goals.

What Are SMART Goals?

Almost anyone with a goal could benefit from writing SMART goals. A SMART goal is a tool that helps individuals or teams be accountable for reaching their stated intentions by ensuring that the goal is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely.

SMART goals can be particularly useful for planning and beginning a job search campaign. For instance, “Land a new job making more money than I’m making now” is not a clear goal. In fact, you may choose to set several SMART goals throughout your job search campaign.

Below are questions you can ask to set your SMART goals.


  • What exactly do I want to achieve—and why?
  • How will I achieve it?
  • Who else will be involved, if anyone, in accomplishing this goal?


  • How will I measure my progress?
  • How will I quantify my results?
  • How will I know when I’ve accomplished my goal?


  • Am I capable of achieving this goal?
  • Do I have the necessary skills, knowledge, and resources?
  • If I don’t have the necessary skills, knowledge, and resources, how can I attain them?


  • Is my goal relevant to my larger career objectives?
  • Does this goal make sense given where I am in my career/life stage, etc.?
  • How does meeting this goal advance my mid- and long-term goals?


  • By when do I need to complete this goal?
  • Is this deadline realistic?
  • How can I break the timeline down into smaller parts/milestones?

How to Use SMART Goals

While the focus of this article is on job seekers, SMART goals are relevant for professionals in all stages of their career. Below are examples of how people in different circumstances can use SMART goals:

  • Working professionals seeking a new job: to break down each step of a job search campaign into manageable pieces, which can lead to increased feelings of empowerment and decreased feelings of overwhelm.
  • Unemployed individuals needing a job immediately: to create a rigid structure that builds in accountability for meeting each milestone swiftly, which will accelerate the pace of a job search campaign.
  • College students: to help balance time between completing coursework and taking the steps necessary to secure an internship or first job.
  • Business owners: to set clear business goals that align with a larger vision and that are achievable within entrepreneurs’ busy schedules.

Because these are written goals, you can print the goal and hang it in a high-traffic area, such as on a wall near your desk or on the bathroom mirror. Doing so is a visible reminder and motivator.

Examples of SMART Goals

Example #1: I will identify my next job target within three months by having three informational interviews per week, spending two hours per week researching companies, and using LinkedIn three times per week to network and meet more people in fields that interest me. My interpersonal and organizational skills enable me to execute these steps, and I know I’ll be successful when I have a list of 20 potential companies and several related job titles that align with my skillset and education.

Example #2: I will apply for at least four jobs per week on weekends and Tuesday and Thursday evenings. To accomplish this, I will ensure I manage my time wisely so I’m not too tired to dedicate time to my job search campaign after work.

Example #3: I will improve my leadership skills within six months by enrolling in a leadership course through Coursera this month, volunteering to lead the next project at work instead of being an individual contributor, and reading at least four books on leadership.


By writing SMART goals—ones that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely—you’ll not only set yourself up for success in your job search, but you’ll also have a versatile tool that can be used for future career-related goals.

Heidi owns and operates Career Path Writing Solutions, a communications consulting firm dedicated to helping individuals and businesses communicate when it matters most. She delights in helping job seekers navigate career change and guiding business owners to present their value proposition persuasively. Heidi earned her PhD in history from Duke University and teaches professional development for various university programs and organizations. She holds certifications in resume writing, interview preparation, and empowerment coaching, and sits on the Certification Committee of the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches.

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