Career Coaching, Job Search, Networking

How SMART are your 2021 goals?

If you didn’t meet your 2020 goals, it might be because of COVID, or it might be because your goal-setting approach needs some refinement.

“Get a job—or get a new and better job—is a poor goal because it is vague and not necessarily within one’s control due to many factors, such as the job market, the pandemic, the number of candidates, etc. So, it’s more of a desired, over-arching objective,” says von Liebtag. “SMART goals can help to clarify what is important and what resources, knowledge, and skills you may need to grow and achieve your goals.”

Here are some questions he encourages you to ask yourself about each goal (career-related or not).

Specific: What exactly do I want to do, and for what type of company? Why do I want to do this, and why now?

Measurable: How will I know when I’ve succeeded? What metrics can I use to objectively determine this?

Achievable: Do I have the skills and resources to work toward this goal? (If not, back up and set a SMART goal related to building that foundation.)

Relevant: Is this goal worthwhile? Will it make a difference in my life? Am I excited about it?

Time-Bound: What is my deadline for accomplishing this goal? When will I begin working toward it?

TIP: Break down bigger goals into smaller goals, until you’ve got mini-goals to tackle each day or week. This not only helps you stay on track, but it’s highly motivating to hit each of these goals and realize you’re actually making progress.


Overarching objective: Get a job (or a new/better job).

Big-picture SMART goal: Accept a job offer as [job title options] that is [in X city/remote/partially remote] for a firm that focuses on [qualities, culture, objectives, etc.] by [date].

Bite-size SMART goals that can lead to achieving this:

  • This week, I’ll reach out to at least 10 new networking connections, and follow up with at least 10 existing connections to maintain my relationships on LinkedIn.
  • Within the next 2 weeks, I’ll get my resume critiqued, so I’m prepared for applications.
  • This month, I’ll spend at least an hour researching popular interview questions in my field, then devote another hour to practicing digital interviewing using my smartphone, computer, or preferred video chat platform, while recording my own mock interview responses.
  • By the end of the month, I’ll identify 3 areas for professional development and/or continuing education that will help me stay current in my field. By the end of next month, I will start learning more about at least 1 of these areas through LinkedIn Learning or sign up for a continuing education course.
  • I’ll exercise for 20 minutes a day, 4 days a week, and meditate for 15 minutes a day, 3 days a week, to stay balanced and focused during the job search.

“Individually, these are SMART goals,” says von Liebtag. “Collectively, these goals provide the actionable, controllable items necessary to enhance one’s prospects for success in achieving their overall objective–landing a job.”

Rutgers Alumni Resources to Support Your Goals

As a Rutgers graduate, you have access to a robust set of resources to turn career aspirations into realities. Here are links to a few:

Student-Alumni Career Connect: Network with and learn from alumni mentors in your desired field.

CareerShift: Create résumés, cover letters, and personal branding materials. Bonus: You can save to and print from the site.

InterviewStream: Practice implementing your personal brand and demonstrating your value proposition with simulated mock interviews and Q&As. Visit the New BrunswickCamden, and Newark career center websites or contact your specific center for access.