January / February 2018

Ready, Set, Goals - How to Get Started on Finding a New Position

David G. Smith

I'm setting a New Year's resolution to find a new position in 2018. Any advice on how to get started?

The New Year often inspires new goals, and as with any resolution it’s important to create a plan. Let’s explore five goals that can lead you to that new position.


Define the job you want. Title, scope, and function are obvious focus areas, but others may be equally important, such as commute, relocation, travel, and flexible work arrangements. Salary or title may not be as important as health insurance, continuing education reimbursement, or vacation days. Make a list and set some priorities. What are you best at? What do you really dislike doing? The company you target can be as important as the role itself, so do your homework: Review websites, news articles, and social media to learn about the company culture, pipeline, priorities, and values.


Once you’ve set your priorities, make sure that your résumé matches them. Review the requirements for the position you’re seeking, then compare it to your résumé. Which of your skills and experiences are most relevant? Use a reverse chronological format, and divide the content into education, work history, publications, and any relevant awards or volunteer activities.

Try to define a value for your past work. Descriptions that highlight time savings, reduced errors, or other benefits help you stand out from other candidates. Avoid including nonrelevant skills and experiences, which may lead the reader to think you are better suited for another job.

Simplicity is the golden rule. Don’t use a font that’s decorative or smaller than 10 points, and avoid graphics. Few résumés need more than two pages. If yours is longer than that, it probably includes unnecessary information or is needlessly wordy.

Ask others you trust to review your résumé. Is it easy it is to navigate? Targeted and well written? How’s the overall presentation? Be sure to share a job description to provide the context necessary for accurate feedback.


Most employers use social media to look for candidates, so an online presence is crucial; invisibility can be a severe liability. LinkedIn is the most common resource, but Facebook and Twitter are also important. If you’re already on these sites, make sure your profile matches your résumé. Update your picture with one that that makes you look professional, friendly, and energetic, and use the same photo for all sites. Your profile descriptions should include the most common keywords for your field to help recruiters find you. Look at other profiles in your field to learn best practices for showcasing your skills and interests. You can also read my November-December 2017 column for more social media guidance and best practices.


Hiring managers tend to hire people they know and trust or who have been referred by others they know and trust. Sending out several applications may feel like an accomplishment, but you are likely not as competitive as if you were recommended by others—or at least had more knowledge about how the group operates. Here’s how to start networking:

  • Get involved with your local ISPE chapter and volunteer to help with an event, join a committee, or serve as a speaker. You will find yourself surrounded by volunteers who may well be hiring managers or other influencers.
  • Reconnect with former classmates and colleagues who are working for your targeted companies. This group should be the easiest to meet with and most likely to recommend you.
  • Contact your university alumni and career center to see if they work with or can connect you to your targeted companies.
  • Use social media to find lost or potential contacts.
  • Don’t overlook contacts outside the industry, such as neighbors and friends.

Try to network daily, whether meeting with a former colleague, conducting an informational interview, asking for an introduction to a decision-maker, or attending an event to grow your network. For more tips, read my July-August 2017 column on landing an informational interview.


A support system can help you remain focused on your goals, pick you up during the low spots, and celebrate victories. Choose someone you trust, and ask that they encourage you to remain accountable. Job-search support groups also provide training and presentations by industry professionals and are great places to exchange information such as openings and contacts. People that attend these groups tell me consistently that they have been key to finding new leads as well as staying positive and focused.

I’m sure that these goals will keep you on track and lead to great success in 2018.

If you have a question about career development, send it to me at david.g.smith@, and I will try to answer it in a future column.