Set Smaller Tasks to Help Reach Bigger Job Search Goals

When you’re conducting a job search using social media, obviously your ultimate goal is to land a job. But the reality is that you aren’t going to achieve that ultimate goal without setting smaller, intermediate tasks to help get you there one at a time.

Just think about it for a moment. You can’t have “get a job” on your to-do list without feeling some anxiety. But if you chunk that larger goal down into smaller and smaller steps until you can’t go any smaller, you’ll reduce your anxiety level and feel a sense of accomplishment as you complete each smaller item. Writing “Update LinkedIn picture” just doesn’t feel that hard. And it’s not!

How exactly do you break down the massive goal of getting a job into smaller tasks? Simply ask yourself, “What do I need to do that?” Ask yourself that same question each time you write down a new task. For example, you may come up with something like this:

Get a job. What do I need to do that? Write a good résumé. What do I need to do that? Buy a résumé writing book…

Buying a résumé writing book is a lot less scary than writing an entire résumé from scratch, and focusing on the smaller tasks first helps keep you from getting overwhelmed with the big-picture goals.

The best way to track progress and get feedback about your goals is to use a scorecard. A scorecard is a spreadsheet that lists each step you take in order to achieve an outcome. A scorecard allows you to track your plan and record what actually happened.

Milestone Task Measurable Definition Time Frame/
Measurement
Actual
Get a new job. Receive a written offer from a target company at the salary you want. 6 months
Have a good interview with a hiring manager. Interview with a hiring manager who’s actively seeking to fill a position you want. 1 per week
Apply to jobs online. Apply to jobs that you have a chance of qualifying for. 5 per week
Attend networking groups with like-minded people. Meet 10 new people per week and attend at least 3 events per week. Weekly
Update your résumé. Have your résumé reviewed and approved by a professional résumé writer. Within a week
Hire professional résumé writer. Find a résumé writer with recommendations who fits your budget. Tomorrow
Build a personal brand. Look consistent in all aspects of your job search. 1 month
Come up with a value statement based on your strengths. Recite it to people who seem interested in what you do. 1 day
Polish up your LinkedIn profile. Complete your profile so that it’s attractive and consistent with your résumé. 1 week 8 days
Write an article expressing your views on a professional topic. Receive comments and feedback from your network. 1 day 2 hours
Maintain your skills and industry knowledge. Volunteer in a role that requires your core skills. 4 hours per week
Sign up for a continuing-education class for a skill you need. Add this skill to your résumé. 1 month 1 month

Here’s how to build your very own scorecard to keep track of your job-searching progress:

  1. Create a blank version, using word-processing or spreadsheet software or even just a blank piece of paper.

  2. Write out your desired outcome, the measurable definition, and its time frame in the top row of the table.

    A good example of a desired outcome is “get a job in three months.” The measurable definition should explain what accomplishing this goal looks like in very tangible terms. For this example, that may be “receiving a written offer from a target company,” because a written offer is tangible.

  3. On another piece of paper, write down everything you think you have to do in order to achieve that outcome.

    Don’t check yourself at this point; just get your ideas out on paper. Keep asking yourself, “What do I need in order to do that?” as you go down the list.

  4. Group related tasks and identify goals that require more than one task to accomplish.

    Goals that require more than one task are called milestones and are put in the far-left column. Smaller tasks that can be finished without intermediary steps are put in the second-to-left column under Task.

  5. Group individual tasks under their related milestones.

    As an example, notice how the “Build a personal brand” milestone requires several intermediary steps. The smaller and more specific you can make the task for each milestone, the better.

  6. Fill in the Actual column as you complete each step with how long it took you to complete.

    By recording the actual time it took to complete a task, you’re doing more than just checking items off of your to-do list. You’re actually comparing the reality of a task with what you expected. From this comparison, you can gauge your level of commitment as well as the accuracy of your expectations.

Running a job search can be one of the most stressful things you ever do. Why not make it a habit to celebrate at least one accomplishment per week? When you pass a milestone, walk out from a good job interview, or finish a difficult task (like ranking in Google for your name), celebrate that success. These small celebrations can help you stay motivated for the duration of your search.

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