By Linda Van Valkenburgh, MS, CCMC, CJSS, CSMCS, CELDC

There’s nothing like a new year to make time refresh your career planning. How can you make 2016 a successful job search year?

Set Goals

Setting achievable goals in one of the most important parts of job search planning.  I like to use S.M.A.R.T. goal planning for my business which is easily applied to job search.  Think in terms of Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely goals!

Have a clear ultimate goal of where you want to end up, whether that is an industry, a company, or a location.  If you only have a vague idea now, think about what is most important to you.

What are your interests? What do you do well? Where do you want to live?  Is having the flexibility to spend time with your family important or do you want a career you can dedicate your time to? Break up your ultimate goal into smaller, attainable goals. Set a number of applications to send in each month or quarter.  Complete a community college course.  Go to a networking event where you can further your career opportunities. Accomplishing goals makes job searching achievable and less daunting!

Consider using some new tools.  I like to hold all of my goals for networking, social media, editorial calendars, sales objectives, etc.   What about using ASANA to collaborate with an accountability group?

Better Yourself

One of your goals that can help your job search can be to expand on a skill, a strength, or even a weakness. Pick something that will make you a more attractive candidate in the field that you want to work. You don’t just have to focus on tangible skills. Soft skills are just as critical. Taking a class (or a Harvard Business School weekend) shows your dedication to your field and shows that you are willing to spend time outside normal working hours to make yourself better. Get this on to your resume!  Oh, and while we are talking about resumes:

Remember that the “you” reflected on your resume is ever changing and adapting.

Ensure your resume is up to date not just in hard copies but also on the search websites that you may have profiles posted.  You should be able to get your resume to a person standing in front of you almost immediately. Have a PDF saved on your smartphone and if you carry a briefcase or purse, try to keep a hard copy there.

Stay Positive

Searching for that new position can be hard.

One of the most difficult parts of searching is waiting. Waiting for your application to be reviewed, waiting for an interview, waiting to be called back.  Having planned, personal activities to take your mind off the waiting is one of the best ways to get through the process. Plan your workout, a movie with a friend, date night with your spouse, a beloved craft to do with your hands, etc. – all of this can make a difference in our frame of mind and attitude.

Do Your Research

Target the specific companies you want to work for and do your homework. Ensure you’re as prepared for an interview as possible by knowing the company history as well as the industry the company specializes in.

Networking is also a great way to gain more knowledge about the company you want to work for.  Check LinkedIn, reach out to your contacts in the industry or alumni networks, and let close friends know your plans.


Break your goal into smaller, attainable goals like bettering yourself and doing research on your potential future employers.  You will feel more accomplished and see positive gains.

Let’s get to work!

– Linda

If you have questions about your executive career search, please contact me at 203-323-9977 or [email protected]