The start of a new year is often a time when people start thinking about looking for a new job or pursuing a new direction in their career. If you are considering a job or career change, the arrival of 2021 may provide the perfect opportunity to reflect on your past experience and think about which direction you might want to take in the future, according to job search expert Susan Doyle (8 Tips for Setting Career Goals for the New Year). Doyle suggests that you think of the new year as a time to make a fresh start and create new momentum in your job search.

If you want to find a job that matches your skills, experience and interests, setting goals is an important step in your job search process. You may feel that setting goals for 2021 is challenging and even futile in this uncertain environment of pandemic lockdown and economic disruption. However, time management coach Elizabeth Grace Saunders believes that goalsetting is actually more essential now than ever in order to maintain your productivity as well as a positive state of mind (see How to set goals for 2021 when everything feels uncertain). Saunders argues that setting goals still has great value despite the current unknowns. Goals provide a sense of focus so you aren’t drifting through your day without purpose or motivation, and when you set goals, you are more likely to achieve whatever you are striving for, including finding a new job.

There are many benefits of incorporating goalsetting as a part of your job search process. Jena Richey (How to Set Goals in Your Job Search) highlights four key components of the goalsetting process, including:

Clarity: Clarifying your vision enables you to establish goals that are consistent with your career objectives. Get a clear picture of what type of positions you are seeking and try to think about where you want to be not just in the near future but also down the road.

Motivation: Keep yourself moving forward and stay focused on finding a new and rewarding position that pays you what you are worth. Remind yourself that even when searching for a new job may not seem like fun, your efforts will pay off in the end.

Focus: Keep your goals and a daily schedule in front of you. Identify your priorities so you can spend your time wisely and on the right tasks. Cut out the things that may be wasting your time and that do not contribute to your goals. Staying focused will allow you to accomplish more, faster.

Accountability: Setting goals holds you responsible and helps you measure your progress against your goals to better understand what is working and what is not. Make sure your goals are achievable. Having manageable goals will keep you moving forward.

The Robert Half blog offers some specific suggestions (6 New Year’s Goals for the Job Seeker) to help you establish some basic job search goals, including:

Update your resume and LinkedIn profile
One mistake people frequently make is to wait to revise their resume until they find a job opportunity that interests them, which can delay them from applying for the position right away. If you want to be ready to respond quickly to job openings, have an up-to-date resume ready to go. Also, review your LinkedIn profile and make sure it reflects your most recent professional accomplishments. Many employers search for candidates on LinkedIn as part of their recruiting efforts. With a solid online profile, you’ll increase the likelihood that a recruiter will take a closer look at you. And if you don’t have a LinkedIn profile yet, see LinkedIn Job Search Checklist.

Strengthen your skillset
Developing an in-demand skill or pursuing a certificate can help you stand out as a candidate and prepare you to compete for the roles you want. Pursuing professional development shows initiative and a commitment to learning, as well as an understanding of what it takes to excel in your field. If jobs you are interested in require further education, take an online class, earn a professional certificate, or take courses at a local community college or adult education center.

Prioritize job satisfaction
Assess your job search goals and determine exactly what type of employment opportunity you seek, such as a move to a different industry or a more fulfilling role with greater responsibility. Formulate a clear idea of what you’re aiming for, so you can better focus your search for a new position.

Audit your online presence
Besides reviewing your LinkedIn profile, potential employers often will look at other channels to see if they can form a more complete picture of you as a job candidate. Consider how you present yourself on social media and online forums. Make sure all information is current and accurate and presents you in the best possible light. You may need to do some digital housecleaning.

Expand your network
Your network can play a critical role in your ability to achieve your job search goals. Since in-person networking is curtailed during the pandemic, look for virtual events hosted by professional or alumni organizations, or other groups relevant to your profession or industry. Reach out to new contacts on LinkedIn and ask trusted colleagues, mentors and friends for their recommendations. For additional ideas on networking, see Find and Make Connections Inside Your Target Companies and Networking for Job Referrals is Your Best Job Search Strategy on the Tri-Valley Career Center blog.

Commit to your goals
You need to dedicate yourself to accomplishing your goals. Small business consultant Susan Ward advises writing down your goals and developing an action plan that clearly outlines your goals and how you intend to achieve them (How to Set Goals and Achieve Them – 10 Goal Setting Tips). It’s also important to realize that accomplishing goals may take time and requires effort to transform goals into accomplishments. Setting up a daily schedule of tasks and sticking to it will demonstrate your commitment to yourself and others.

Visualize success
A common practice of high achievers is visualizing success. Sports psychologists teach elite athletes to picture themselves connecting with the fastball, kicking the field goal, sinking the putt. You can do the same with your job search goals and all the efforts that will get you there, according to career consultant Rick Christensen (GOAL SETTING FOR JOB SEARCH SUCCESS). Use positive visualization to motivate yourself to work harder.

There is no magic for success, says Christensen, just planning and persistence. He likens setting job search and career goals to consulting a map before a trip. Without a map, there’s a good chance you’ll get lost or spend a lot of time wandering around aimlessly. If a new job is your destination, your goals are the map.