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Measuring Yourself for Success

Measuring Yourself for Success

From Career Tips, 2014 Volume 12, December

Helene gave me a FitBit for Christmas. While we can debate whether that was truly a present for me or for her, I have to admit that wearing the darn thing for a few days has affected my behavior. Not only am I more aware of how many steps I take, I'm striving to do more to meet the FitBit's target. In fact, I just returned from walking a few blocks to put today's goal within reach.

I wrote about this phenomenon relative to a job search in a past issue. I want you to think about how you could apply this to change your own results for your job search, career or life.

Now let's not confuse this with establishing New Year's resolutions. I'm not a big fan of those, as it seems like most are broken and forgotten within a week or two. One of the problems is that they generally are expressed as absolutes, and once missed, the tendency is to give up.

For example, the FitBit has set a target for me of 10,000 steps per day. If I frame that in my own mind as "I resolve to hit 10,000 steps every day in 2015", I set myself up for failure. As soon as I go a day or two without hitting my goal, I'll throw up my hands and give up.

On the other hand, if I say to myself, "Let me see how many days per week I can hit 10,000 steps", I will approach it with an entirely different philosophy. Not hitting my goal one day is no longer a failure.

Once I see how many days I hit 10,000, I can start to fine tune. If I'm only achieving my goal one day a week, then maybe I should cut the daily target in half. On the other hand, if I'm reaching it 5-7 days per week, I might be ready to raise the bar to 12,000.

This fine-tuning is critical. If a goal proves to be too much of a stretch, I will lose faith. And once I start to routinely achieve a particular goal, it is important that I up the ante in some way, or else I'll start to lose my engagement. (This goes back to last month's lead article, Manage Tension to Create Influence.)

The goal you pick doesn't have to be earth-shattering, as long as it is something that will make meaningful progress towards your goal. For example, in an active job search, I would recommend a networking target of having, on average, at least five one-on-one meetings or in-depth phone conversations per week.

You might also set a target for referrals - I'd suggest shooting for at least one new referral per one-on-one meeting or conversation. That doesn't mean that every single meeting has to lead to a referral, but that over the course of a week or a month, you would target at least as many referrals as meetings.

It may take you a few weeks to get up to either target, but once you've built some momentum, those shouldn't seem like stretch goals for anyone in a full-time search. Then once you see how you're doing, figure out how to fine-tune those targets. In addition to the numerics, you can add qualitative aspects. For instance, if you aren't finding it overly-challenging to meet with five people per week, what if you qualified it as "five people at the hiring manager level or above in my target industry"?

So here's my challenge to you:

  1. Look for some positive change you can make in your behavior related to your job search, career or personal goals.
  2. Decide on at least one thing you can do differently that will move you closer to your goals.
  3. Set a target that you can strive for.
  4. Send me an email with your target, to In return, I'll check in with you on your progress a couple of times over the next month, to help create some accountability to keep you on track.