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Why Setting Goals is Important for an Effective First Job Search

Before starting your job search, spend some time thinking about your personal, educational and career goals. Knowing what these are is critical to identifying the best employment opportunities for yourself, allowing you to grow into the person you want to become.

If you’re a first-time job seeker, you might not have any idea what career you’d like to have in the future. That’s pretty normal, but it can make your job search harder than it needs to be. To help you we’ve put together a guide to brainstorming and setting goals for yourself, which will provide you with direction when job searching.

Our youth advisors, mentors and educators in Transition to Work and Smart, Skilled and Hired spend lots of time discussing career goals and ideas with young job seekers – something to keep in mind if you’d like one-on-one support.


How to set personal success goals

Working for personal success means being employed in a job which is meaningful to you, and provides fulfilment. When talking about ‘personal success’ we mean the achievement of outcomes which you set for yourself.

When setting personal success goals, brainstorm using the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound) method to inform your job-search strategy. For example, Kate is a 16-year-old photography enthusiast who wants a first job in retail. When looking for a job she might consider being:Setting Goals is Important for an Effective First Job Search

Specific: Be as detailed as you can. Kate might think: “I want to work at JB Hi-Fi because it seems like an environment where I can learn about cameras”, rather than “I want to work in retail”.

Measurable: Know how you will measure your goal. If Kate gets a job in JB Hi-Fi’s Home Entertainment department she will have achieved her first goal, and can measure her personal success by how much she’s able to learn about different camera models.

Attainable: Kate’s goal is attainable because it’s self-driven. She can learn as much as she wants about the products she’s selling in the Home Entertainment department.

Relevant: In the future Kate wants to enrol in a TAFE course in Photography. Her job at JB Hi-Fi will give her valuable opportunities to learn about the latest cameras, and will help her achieve her bigger future goal.

Time-bound: Kate might decide to work at JB Hi-Fi until she enrols in her TAFE course, at which point she’ll re-evaluate her feelings of fulfilment in the role.

Your teenage years are the perfect time to get a job simply because you enjoy the work (and the money, of course!) So if your goal is just to find a first job that teaches you some professional skills or lets you have a little fun after school, that’s totally fine.


Set career goals to help your job search

When you’re happy with your personal success goals it’s time to identify employment opportunities that can help realise your ambitions. Before you write your resume, or actively start searching for jobs, note the types of positions that match your personal success goals. This brainstorming will form the basis of your career goals and planning.

Ask yourself the following questions (we’ve shown how Kate would answer these questions to guide you with your own answers):

Setting goals is important for an effective first job search

Where do I want to work?

In line with your personal success goals, identify industries and career areas where you see yourself finding meaningful work. Kate might answer that she’s interested in photography and would like to work in a creative role. Start with the bigger picture and then narrow it down.

What do I want to do?

Think about what roles you’d like within a chosen industry, focusing on your long-term career goal. For example, Kate’s long-term goal is to become an events photographer. This ‘big picture’ goal will help her decide on her short-term goals, which will form the basis of her career plan.

What do I need to do or know to get there?

Decide what skills or knowledge are necessary to get you to your desired role, and how your first job can contribute to your wider career plan.

Kate, for example, is applying for a job at JB Hi-Fi, as she wants to learn as much as she can about cameras before starting her course at TAFE. She wants to stay up-to-date with industry developments and use her staff discount to purchase a camera for portfolio development. She understands what she needs to know and do to achieve her career goals.

If you have ideas about your future career, take them into consideration when job searching. Take advantage of any employment opportunities that can give you a head start in your chosen industry, offering direct experience or the chance to learn key employability skills.

Setting Goals is Important for an Effective First Job SearchEducational Goals and Youth Employment

When you’ve set your personal fulfilment goals and have a big picture understanding about your long-term career, you can structure your job search around gaining necessary learning experiences. Think about the following learning pillars when preparing your job-search strategy:

Soft Skills

If you are interested in developing soft and transferable skills then you’re probably going to be focusing your job search on casual positions. Dealing effectively with customers and handling cash in retail and hospitality environments will demonstrate your reliability, efficiency and teamwork skills to future employers.

Industry Specific Skills

Job searches focused on this pillar will mean finding a junior position within your industry, or a position that teaches you applicable skills. Kate’s knowledge of cameras will be applicable to her future TAFE course, as well as freelance photography work she might take on after she finishes high school.

Prioritising Study

Perhaps your goal is to study and gain a qualification. If this is the case focus on your timetable and decide how best to fit your work commitments around your studies. The hours, salary and intensity of work will all be points to consider about a position.

It’s okay if your goal set is focused around just one – or all – of these learning experiences, and it’s natural that educational goals reflect your personal success and career priorities. The key to deciding how important educational goals are in comparison with the other categories is understanding what skills you need to make your other goals a reality.


Find a Job That Will Help You Achieve Your Goals

As you’re reading through job ads and submitting your resume and cover letter, keep your goals front of mind. Setting goals in each of these categories will let you develop an effective job-search strategy to take you where you want to go – and open up pathways for learning, self-development and growth.

L-FRESH The LION is a Sydney hip hop artist who uses his lyrics to shine a light on racism and inequality. Here, L talks about his career, and how setting goals helped him achieve success.

Transition to Work and Smart, Skilled and Hired are two MTC youth programs that focus on goal setting, job searching and pathways to employment. If you need help planning your career and finding employment, phone us on 1300 232 663.