How to follow the SMART approach to job hunting

Looking for a new role or complete career change, but not yet been successful? Find out how to follow the SMART approach to job hunting.

It can be demoralising when you are looking for a new job but not getting anywhere. But just making some simple tweaks to your job hunt plan can make a big difference. To help you, Amanda Augustine, a careers expert for TopCV shared the SMART approach to landing a new role.

1) Get started – set professional goals

A professional goal can be very direct, such as “I want to find a job in a different industry” or “I want to negotiate a pay rise with my current boss.” However, there are plenty of other types of professional goals you can set that will help progress your career or improve your work-life balance. 

It’s easy to get so caught up in your day-to-day tasks that you lose sight of the bigger picture when it comes to your career. The last thing you want to do is look up one day and realise your career has become stagnant or taken an unintended direction.

After all, if you’re not actively managing your career, someone else might – and you might not like where it leads you. It’s important to create both big and small professional goals for yourself so you can be strategic about your career’s journey. 


SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. When your professional goals meet these five criteria, it’s easier to focus your efforts and improve your chances of achieving your goals. If you want to ensure your professional goals are also considered SMART goals:  

  • Do the necessary legwork in order to create a clearly defined goal. For example, “I want a new job” is too ambiguous. Instead, reflect on your career up to this point to identify your strengths and priorities,  research the job market, and speak to people in your network to get a better understanding of what type of role you’re looking for and what’s currently available in the marketplace. 
  • Create micro-goals. When you have what is known as a BHAG – a Big Hairy Audacious Goal – it’s important to break down that goal into smaller, more manageable steps, known as micro-goals. It’s often easier to create a target deadline for a micro career goal and measure your progress. 

3) Give yourself deadlines

Ideally, you want to create a timetable around your goal, including a start date to kick-off your project (much like you would at work) and a target deadline. When you give yourself a deadline, you’re creating a sense of urgency so your goal remains a priority. That said, sometimes it’s difficult to predict how long something will take you to complete, especially when not all of the elements are within your control. 

I suggest that you start by providing yourself with a target deadline, which could be a range of months, depending on the size of your goal. If you can break down your goal into smaller, more manageable milestones with their own deadlines, all the better. You might even include a time to reevaluate your target completion date based on your progress at certain points throughout the process. 

5) Set realistic goals

If your professional goal meets all five of the SMART goal criteria, you’re much more likely to succeed. Also, it’s important to recognise that you may get to the research phase of a goal and realise you need to either change the deadline or entirely modify the outcome you’re seeking. That’s alright. Give yourself permission to be flexible and to pivot your professional goal if it makes sense to do so. 

6) Get your boss/manager involved

Your manager can be a valuable partner and resource when it comes to setting and achieving certain professional goals. In fact, you may create specific goals with your boss’ assistance based on the feedback you receive during a performance review or other feedback loop within your organisation.

If you have long-term goals you’d like to achieve within your current company, share those aspirations with your manager. Then, ask your manager to provide feedback on what you can do to improve your performance, increase your knowledge, or learn a new skill that will improve your chances of achieving your long-term goal.

Some of these professional goals may even be included in your work plan and become part of the criteria for your bonus. When your manager has provided input into your goals, it will make it much easier for you to prioritise the activities that will help you achieve them. 

Amanda Augustine is a careers expert for TopCV.

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