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When it comes to goal setting there are two types of people:  people who regularly set goals and work towards achieving them. You know, the ones that make it look easy! Then there are the rest of us. The ones who don’t appear to set goals, or follow through, or verbally express our dislike for goal setting. If you fall into the second category it may be because you have a hard time identifying and setting goals or because you have a difficult time following through, either because the goal seems too overwhelming or you are finding it difficult to stay on track. But, don’t worry, there is hope! Goal setting is a skill. With the right approach, and practice, you too can become adept at setting and following through on your goals.
The technique that I am going to outline below applies not only to employment and education related goals but also to any other goals you have for your personal or professional life. Working with this technique will allow you to look at your goals a little bit differently and will help you to ensure that you can actively work towards the goals you set or revise your strategy if obstacles get in the way.
Before we get into the specifics of the technique, let’s talk a little bit about employment goals. It is important to recognize that when it comes to your job search it is common and often necessary to have more than one goal. Most of the job seekers that I work with are looking at two major employment goals:  a short term goal (typically a plan to get back to work and earn income ASAP) and a long term goal (perhaps looking at a career shift to ensure a smoother employment transition between postings). These two main goals often need to be broken down into smaller goals. Think of these smaller goals like steps in a recipe! This is where our goal-setting technique comes into play, the SMART goal setting strategy.
SMART goal setting involves looking at your goals (whether they are smaller goals or your main short term/long term employment goals) and breaking them down into key components or baby steps. SMART goals must be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time Sensitive. As mentioned above we can look at the goal setting process like writing a recipe; though I prefer to think of it like planning a road trip.

  1. S - Have a specific destination in mind. A goal such as “I am going to conduct a job search” is not very specific. Be clear about what you want. Something like, “My short term goal is to look for work in retail or customer service” is much clearer.
  1. M - Make sure you can measure your progress. On a road trip you can tell how far you’ve travelled based on the number of kilometers you have driven. For your employment goal ask yourself; “How will I know when I am halfway to my goal?”. Set measurable targets for your daily / weekly goals. For example, “I am going to submit at least 2 applications this week” or “I am going to reconnect with 3 former colleagues to ask for job search advice.”
  1. A / R - If you set a goal that is not attainable or realistic then you will likely not have the motivation, or the means, to make it happen. You wouldn’t say that you were going on a road trip “around the whole world” without having a plan for how you would cross the oceans or the funds for passage on ships. Make sure you apply those principles to your job search too. Set parameters to help with this. For example; “I am going to look for work in retail or customer service between Berwick and Middleton because that is a reasonable distance for me to drive to work in the winter when I am nervous on the snowy roads.”
  1. T - Lastly, as we all know, on a road trip it can be easy to lose track of time when you find a really cool roadside attraction. Then you end up driving in unfamiliar territory in the dark regretting your choices for the day. Set timelines for your goals to prevent procrastination along the way. When deciding on your time frames I always recommend that you allow extra time in case life gets in the way or you do find a really worthwhile road side stop. It always feels better to complete a task early!

And remember, life can unexpectedly get in the way. Be patient with yourself if this happens and don’t throw your plan away. Take a good look at how you can readjust the plan in light of the new circumstances. It can also help to share your plan with a trusted friend or family member so they can help to keep you on track and problem solve when your plan needs adjustments. Lastly, don’t forget to reward yourself along the way. I wrote more about rewards last month in the September Mental Health Blog - find it here:
If you would like help developing your employment goals, or with any other aspects of your employment search, please reach out to me at or call me at 902-765-5611 to set up an appointment.

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