Do a Google search on “the importance of networking in a job search,” and you will get 38 million results. Yep, that’s right: 38 plus six zeros! This topic is so popular and important there are boatloads–no, millions of boatloads–of articles and information to address it.
However, I say networking to find a job is a waste of time.
Why? Because if you aren’t taking the time to establish some goals, then you’re probably not investing your time in the right places and are likely losing a bunch of time doing useless activities that aren’t getting you a job.
Study after study proves a direct correlation between goal setting and success, and the same applies to setting goals for your job search. Results from these studies vary, but most state that goal setters achieve anywhere from 60% to 80% more productivity. Productivity in the case of a job hunt means more access to job opportunities and a greater chance of getting hired. Goal setting is an important process for identifying what you want to accomplish and what it will take to get you there. (Click here to tweet this idea.)
There are lots of benefits for incorporating goal setting as a part of your job search process. Here are the four biggies, with some pointers to fully maximize them:
Clarifying your vision enables you to establish goals that are consistent with your vision. What are your career aspirations? You need to be clear about this.
Many times when I’m talking to a job seeker and I ask them what type of job they’re looking for, they’re usually way too broad. For example, “I’m an accountant, but I can do research and report writing and bookkeeping and accounts payable and wash your car.”
Some tips to keep in mind to help you be clear in your goal setting include:
- Be able to describe the specific type of job you want. The fear of potentially missing an opportunity can compel you to want to share every job you can possibly do, but that makes it difficult for someone to know how to help you.
- Create of list of some target companies you want to work for. This helps those you network with to think through their rolodex of contacts and identify people who may have connections in these companies.
This is your driving force and what propels you forward. You want a paycheck, right? Job searching is no fun task, so some quick tips to keep you motivated:
- Develop a support network. Reach out to your friends and family for support during this difficult time. Join a job search group where there are others who are dedicated to your success. Don’t seclude yourself.
- Give yourself breaks. It’s easy to get caught up in the frustrations of being out of work, but you will be much more productive if you give yourself some time to recharge. You will feel more energized when you pick up the ball again.
- Find fun and creative places to work. There is Wi-Fi just about everywhere these days, so pick your favorite haunt–whether it’s Starbucks, Panera or wherever–and work on your job search there.
This helps you to not lose sight of your goals. Identifying your priorities enables you to spend your time wisely and in the right places. You can track your efforts and stop wasting time on tasks that don’t contribute to your goals.
These days with technology overload, you can get distracted by so many things, from updating your Facebook profile to texting your best friend. Being focused allows you to accomplish more, faster.
Some quick focusing tips include:
- Organize your workspace so that as you’re job searching, you can concentrate on the task at hand.
- Put your technology devices away for a set period of time. Don’t stop there–also close your email and your social media accounts so you eliminate as many distractions as possible.
- Create a to-do list with estimated times to complete each item to keep you on track. If you concentrate on getting something done in a certain amount of time, you’re less likely to get off track. Set a timer and challenge yourself.
Setting goals holds you responsible to yourself for producing the best results. You can measure your progress against your goals and better understand what’s working and what isn’t.
Here are some ways to hold yourself accountable for your job search actions:
- Find an accountability partner to share progress reports. You’re much more likely to accomplish more when you know you have to “report” in to someone.
- Make sure your goals are achievable. Be realistic, because it’s impossible to be accountable to unattainable goals.
- Do something every day. Don’t slack off, because it’s hard to regain momentum.
- Eat chocolate to reward yourself. Well, this works for me, but you have to find your own reward system for when you produce results. Allow yourself to do something fun!
Now, It’s Time to Get Started
Begin by having a little pow wow with yourself, and answer the following questions.
- What is your goal? This should be specific, reasonable and attainable. Obviously, you want a job, but your goal should state the type of job you’re looking for. Research online to explore your salary potential and the demand for your skills to help you better understand how to position yourself for these opportunities.
- Why is this type of job ideal for you? Do you have education in this area? Work experience? Use resources like Monster.com to explore job requirements and line up your skillsets to these expectations. This will help you to create your personal marketing message.
- What are your challenges and/or obstacles in reaching your goal? The only way to knock down an obstacle is to know what it is.
- How can you remove these obstacles? If you feel you have an impossible challenge to overcome, it’s time to call in your mentor or a member of your support group for help.
- Who will help you reach your goal? Now that you have some research to understand your job opportunities, think about anyone you know who can provide referrals, advice and support.
- What steps do you need to take to reach your goal? Make a list–it’s as simple as that. I suggest using Excel or another online tool to maintain your list for easy updates. You can also sort these forms by activity and date to keep you organized.
- Pick one step right away, and do it!
Finally, what would any good article be without some closing advice? Use these tips wisely to optimize your goal setting efforts for maximum results.
- Make a timeline to specify what you want to happen and when you want it to happen.
- Visualize yourself accomplishing your goals.
- Brainstorm ways you can achieve your goals.
- Learn from others through your network or through research. Don’t reinvent the wheel.
- Periodically evaluate your goals and progress. Understand what’s working and what isn’t. Make any necessary adjustments.
- Stay motivated and inspired.
- Get a mentor to offer you support, advice and encouragement.
Sheryl Johnson is passionate about helping people in career transitions and job searches market themselves through strategic networking techniques and recently launched an online Network PRo Toolkit. She has over 20 years’ business experience in many industries, teaches marketing at the collegiate level and speaks regularly at various conferences and meetings. Sheryl is the co-founder of The Inn Group, a unique networking club servicing greater Pittsburgh.