The Job Hunt: Resolve to make SMART career goals

Theresa Mickelwait, assistant director of UK's Stuckert Career Center
Theresa Mickelwait, assistant director of UK's Stuckert Career Center

Made any New Year's resolutions yet?

You might be considering career goals such as finding a new or better job, getting a promotion or making your job more enjoyable.

It's common knowledge that most people don't keep New Year's resolutions. Less than half will have successfully maintained their goals after six months, according to research by psychology professor John C. Norcross of the University of Scranton. But consider this: The research found resolvers are 10 times more successful in achieving their goals than those who don't make resolutions.

So what's the trick to making your career resolution stick? Here are some goal-setting tips to help you be successful in keeping your resolution and making the most of your career in 2012.

First, be honest with yourself. Take time to reflect on your goals and determine whether you truly are committed. What is your motivation? Psychological research suggests goals set on intrinsic rewards such as personal satisfaction and increased self-confidence are more effective motivators than extrinsic rewards such as money, approval from others or status.

In setting goals, the field of executive coaching commonly uses the acronym SMART, which stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. Consider each one:

Specific: The specifics of your goals should be articulated by identifying who, what, when, where and why. Rather than having a general goal of "finding a better job," identify the parameters and requirements you are looking for in a new job.

Measurable: You should be able to translate your goals into measurable factors. For example, rather than "increasing your professional network," say "I will add two new contacts to my network every week" or "improve my job performance score by 10 percent."

Attainable: Many resolutions don't pan out because they were never realistic. Lower your standards if needed and set smaller goals. Once you've achieved your goal, you can always set another one. This is better than deflating your motivation by setting daunting goals. You can set a series of goals for yourself as needed or break larger overall goals into smaller, more manageable steps.

Relevant: If you accomplish this goal, how will your life be better? Write a paragraph about what your new life will look like after you achieve your goal. If this doesn't invoke excitement and enthusiasm then you probably will not follow through.

Time-bound: Give yourself a deadline with a date and time. When do you want to accomplish this goal? What is a realistic time frame? You are more likely to keep to a task if you schedule time to do it and keep working at it regularly.

Finally, you need to set yourself up for success by controlling your environment. It not only works for weight loss or cutting unhealthy habits, it applies to career goals.

Do you have a supportive social network? Tell someone you trust and who you think will support you with your new goal, and ask for support. Ask for the person's honest advice and refine your goal until you are absolutely convinced you can achieve it.

Find others with like-minded goals for support as well. If your goal is to have a more positive attitude about your job, surround yourself with the positive people in your office, not the ones feasting on sour grapes or gossiping at the water fountain.

If your goal is to find a job, join a job club. A job club is a group of individuals who meet to discuss and share information about job searching and career enhancement.

There are several non-profit organizations and services that host job clubs in Kentucky. You can find more information at and or join the Yahoo group Northernkentuckyjobs. One of the largest job clubs in the area, Job Search Focus Group, is in Cincinnati. Learn more at

While it's better to set resolutions for yourself than not have any goals, you want to be SMART in your goal setting. A New Year's resolution thought up on a whim will not become reality, but a well thought-out goal has a much better chance of producing positive results.