We hear about goal setting a lot as employees. In fact, not only do we hear about it, we’re often forced to set them and then review them.

But what happens when we don’t work for an organization anymore, or even if we still do, our personal goals change? Without a plan, we may lose sight of our goals, or get caught up in what we think we’re supposed to. This is why it’s essential to create goals when looking for a new job.

Goal planning sounds easy in theory. You decide you want to do something and you go do it, right? While that’s the basic approach, it can also lead to very vague goals. One way to evaluate whether a goal is well defined is to use the SMART acronym test. A SMART goal has the following characteristics:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Timely


A specific goal is one that is clearly outlined. It’s the difference between wanting to get a new job and wanting to get a great new job in a specific industry that meets your expectations (regarding salary, location, etc.). A specific goal makes it clear whether it’s been achieved or not. This is important because you know when you reach it, and if not you can evaluate what steps you need to take. Note there may be individual goals that lead up to this larger goal, for example: write a great cover letter that leads to more interviews (in order to meet the larger goal of getting a great job).


A measurable goal is one that has a defined output that you can count. You may set a deadline. In the previous example, you may aim to create a cover letter within one week. Another example could be attending one networking event per week or reaching out to four contacts a month. This method offers milestones along the way, which allows you to see progress towards the goal.


Every goal should be attainable. Why else set it in the first place? When you create unrealistic goals, you’re setting yourself up for failure and thus a negative mindset. So for example, you can certainly attend one networking event per week. But one every night? That will likely lead to burnout, and can do more harm than good when it comes to productivity.


Good goals have a purpose – they are relevant to your current situation and status. If you’re not even considering leaving your company at this point, it’s probably not worth your time and energy to work toward goals that require the necessary effort.


A timely goal is one with a clearly defined end date. By deciding from the start what your timeline looks like and when the goal should be completed, you make it more likely that the goal will be achieved. For example, you may plan to leave your job by the end of the year, so you can start reaching out to your network contacts now.

Goal setting is not just for corporations. It’s important to take matters into your own hands when it comes to the future of your career, and using the SMART criteria is a great way to do so.

Once you’ve set your goals and are ready to start your search, be sure to download Rake to keep track of your application and simplify the process. We’ll help you with the job search, so that you can focus on those big goals of getting hired!