Goal setting is not easy. It takes time, thought, and effort to come up with worthy goals. To set a great goal is to take control of your immediate situation in life — to claim agency. It gives you direction.

The American author, poet, and historian Bill Copeland once said: “The trouble with not having a goal is you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score.”

Goals are too often conflated with aspirations or dreams. There are key differences. A goal, defined by Merriam Webster, is “the end toward which effort is directed.” Goals are tangible, objective and are usually shorter-term (although there are certainly long-term goals.) An aspiration, on the other hand, is “a strong desire to achieve something high or great.” They are intangible, subjective and are usually longer-term. Aspirations — becoming a CEO, for example, or achieving some degree of fame — are only attained after years and years of setting and completing goals.

Setting the right goals is hugely important during the hiring process. It’s a subject Ingenio CEO Rob Magee knows well. ICYMI: this week’s Ingenio webinar covered how to create a goal-oriented networking plan. It also features heavily in our Career Coaching Program: “How to Get Hired in Tech.”


Dr. Edwin Locke and Dr. Gary Latham devoted years of their lives to the study of goal setting. In 1990, they published “A Theory of Goal Setting and Task Performance.” According to Locke and Latham, there are five goal setting principles that increase your chances of successfully completing those goals. They are: clarity; challenge; commitment; feedback; and task complexity.

While Locke and Latham’s theory of goal setting is comprehensive and applicable to both individuals and organizations alike, we at Ingenio recommend using SMART goals. Too often people create wishy-washy goals they don’t end up following. How many times have you heard people begin a new year with a goal or resolution and break it within a week? SMART goals require that you define the objective. As a result, they provide clarity, focus and motivation.

SMART is an acronym for:

  1. Specific: If your goal is vague and open to interpretation, refine it.
  2. Measurable: What does the success of your goal look like? Measure it so you know when it’s accomplished.
  3. Attainable: If your goal is far-fetched, you’re setting yourself up for failure and wasting your time.
  4. Relevant: What does this achievement free you up to focus on next?
  5. Time-bound: Set a limit, otherwise you’ll lose focus and get distracted.

Give it a try yourself in relation to your own job search journey! Here are some examples of good SMART goals to emulate.

  • I will be an employed data analyst by June 1, 2021 having sent out 5 target applications every ten days. If by May 2021, I am still struggling to find job leads, I will contact a professional to help optimize my CV and prepare me for future interviews.
  • Take two days to identify a list of ten target companies you plan to apply to.
  • In the next week, reach out to the three people who currently hold the job you’re hoping to land and ask them about specific skills they think are essential to the job. Incorporate these skills into your CV.
  • Send a video introducing yourself to a hiring manager at a rate of one video per week. Start with the hiring manager who hires for the position you’ve identified as your top choice and work backwards.
  • Compile, review and submit a completed application — CV, cover letter, portfolio — for the position you’ve identified as your top choice in the next three days.
  • For the next week, take an hour before lunch every day to update your LinkedIn profile, so that your profile is deemed 100% complete by LinkedIn.
  • For two hours on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, practice answering commonly-asked interview questions.

Goal setting using the SMART goal criteria will allow you to accelerate the hiring process, prevent you from feeling the effects of job search burnout, and will keep you motivated and working toward your ultimate goal: getting hired.

If you’re interested in hearing more about how you can tackle the job search process, register for our free webinar series. March’s webinar series will be all about How to succeed in a job Interview— how to best prepare for an interview; how to control the interview; and how to sell yourself to the hiring manager.

In this week’s episode of our March webinar series, Ingenio CEO Rob Magee covered everything you need to know about the interview preparation, your agenda & audience as well as how to answer why you are the ideal candidate.

Interview prep: How to get ready for the interview

Written By Aidan O’Driscoll

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