Experts say one of the top reasons why New Year’s resolutions don’t last long is because people tend to try for too big a change right away. No pointing fingers here, but maybe this sounds familiar: Someone resolves to get more exercise and goes from never working out to signing up for a fitness bootcamp that meets at 7:00 a.m. every day—and then never make it to the class.
The most extreme New Year’s resolution you can make for your career is to find a new job, but that can seem just as daunting (although a bit less sweaty) as going from zero to 60 on a new exercise routine.
Studies suggest that you’ll have a better chance of success if you make smaller resolutions. So, in that spirit, here are some bite-sized career-related resolutions to try in 2018.
Update your resume
Resolutions are essentially goals, and one of the reasons why updating your resume is such a good one is because it embodies almost every aspect of a SMART goal: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
Updating your resume is a small yet important step to moving your job search forward. And it’s concrete: You’ll know as soon as you hit the goal, which can help keep you motivated for the next step.
The resume section of our blog has tons of tips for improving your resume and answers to frequently asked questions, such as whether to list jobs that are unrelated to the positions for which you’re applying.
Pro Tip: Ask a trusted friend or mentor to review your resume, especially for typos and other small things you may miss. Just watch out for bad advice that could come your way.
Set milestones for your job search
The one part of SMART that isn’t embodied in updating your resume—yet—is “T”: time-bound.
Setting a deadline for your resolutions is a great accountability tool. A deadline makes a goal feel more real, like an assignment instead of an aspiration.
Even better: Establish milestones you want to hit throughout your job search and assign deadlines to them. For example, you can set a milestone for applying to a certain number of jobs or doing a certain number of informational interviews by April 30. This will make it easier to assess how you’re doing as the year goes on and adjust your job-searching strategies if needed.
But beware: Unrealistic milestones can do the opposite. Setting milestones you know you can’t meet provides an easy excuse to miss each one without feeling too bad. Or you may feel so guilty about missing the milestones that you lose faith and give up altogether.
In the end, what matters is the quality of the milestone and your ability to stay on track. Try one of these tricks:
- Put the milestones on your calendar or somewhere else where you’ll see them regularly.
- Share your milestones with a friend and ask them to hold you to it. Another way to do this is to team up with a friend who is also job-searching, swap milestones, and hold each other accountable.
- Assign a reward for achieving each milestone. You know best what kind of reward would motivate you, and it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. It could be as simple as going on a hike you’ve been wanting, watching a few episodes of the latest binge-worthy show, or treating yourself to an at-home spa day, complete with a bubble bath and self-manicure.
Try new approaches to networking
A New Year calls for some new ideas. If your search has revolved around a small set of personal connections, consider expanding your network through volunteering or joining a professional association. Or 2018 could be the year your digital networking game reaches new heights.
Not completely comfortable with the idea of networking? Consider making 2018 your year to face your networking fears. If going to networking events is freaking you out, start off with a networking email or two using one of our templates.
No matter what your networking approach, remember to be authentic. That means being yourself and actually engaging with people instead of seeing them as a means to an end (i.e., a job). Strong relationships formed through authentic networking are going to be much more beneficial to your job search than dozens of weak, loose connections.
Be personally invested without taking things personally
The emotional aspects of job-searching can be just as challenging as the nitty gritty details of networking, writing cover letters, and preparing for interviews. And as a social-impact job seeker looking for work that truly speaks to you, you’re more likely to get emotionally attached to a job posting—and then emotionally devastated when it doesn’t pan out.
The trick is to find the sweet spot between being personally invested without taking things personally. This resolution is less SMART than others, but it’s still important for your emotional well-being.
What does this look like? It means applying for jobs that you feel passionate about and conveying that passion in your application materials while recognizing that just because you don’t hear back from every job doesn’t mean you’ve failed. It means genuinely listening to what the person in your informational interview has to share without taking it personally if they say there aren’t any open positions at this time.
And finally, it means being kind to yourself, even if you look back at this post in June 2018 and realize you haven’t made the kind of progress you envisioned in January. We all fall off the New Year’s resolution wagon at some point, but that doesn’t mean there’s no hope.
2018 can be the year that you find a new job—just find a way to start small and keep trying.
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As a nonprofit advocacy professional living in Washington, D.C., Deborah works with groups across the country to educate their communities and lawmakers about public policies that can help low-income residents make ends meet. She is passionate about helping people connect their interests to a cause they believe in and empowering them to take action.