Your Best Job Search Information Source

For a Shorter, Smarter Job Search


Goal Setting: Part 2 of Your Personal / Professional Success Plan

By Phyllis Mufson

Eighty-six percent of people over fifty broke their New Year's resolutions last year vs. sxty-one percent of people in their twenties according to the grim statistics on resolutions from Statistic Brain.

Neither statistic is encouraging, but do they also indicate that old dogs can’t learn new tricks? That older people can’t change?


I encourage you to think instead; older people learn and change somewhat differently than younger people.

This article outlines methods adapted to help you effectively reach your personal and professional objectives this year.

First, focus on goals rather than resolutions. Resolutions rely on will power, and will power is usually more effective at the beginning of change, which is more of a marathon than a sprint. Instead: setting goals, creating an action plan, neutralizing the fear and resulting negativity that often accompany change, getting support, and setting up structures like tracking your progress will help you go the distance.

Begin with reflecting on your life and what you’ll find fulfilling by answering the questions in Part 1 of this success plan, Personal Retreat. Those activities will lead naturally into creating goals that represent what you really want.

Why Set Goals?

  • Goals give clarity to your vision. They specify the end result of what you want to achieve.
  • Goals make what you want tangible. You are declaring to yourself; this is what I want.
  • Goals help you focus your daily energy toward making your wishes and dreams reality.

A respected and effective method for setting goals and tracking your progress is the S.M.A.R.T. model. Set goals that are:

1)  Specific
2)  Measurable
3)  Attainable
4)  Relevant
5)  Time Bound

An additional tip

When setting goals: focus on what you do want rather than what you don’t want.

For example: rather than "I’m going to stop spending all my time applying for jobs online," get as clear as you can on what you want. Depending on what you want, this might be "I’m going to spend four days a week updating my skills, developing my personal brand online, and networking; and one day applying for jobs."

Creating Your Action Plan

Start your step-by-step action plan by identifying as many steps toward your goal as you can and then put them in time order.

For example if your goal involves becoming effective at job search networking your list might look something like:

  • Compile a data base of everyone you know
  • Identify what keeps you from networking.
  • Write your 90-second elevator speech.
  • Schedule two information interviews every week.
  • Join a professional association
  • Attend at least one networking event every week.
  • Keep your network updated on your progress.

Next, adding more and more small steps the closer you get to present time is key.

Based on past research scientists assumed that people learn more slowly as they age. Recent research finds, however, that the gap closes significantly when older people break up tasks into smaller bits, and work incrementally, step-by-step.

For example, can you compile a data base of everyone you know right now? If not, what do you need to do first? Choose a database? What do you need to know or do to choose a database? And so on, until the steps are specific and small enough that you can take action without resistance.

Then, schedule the steps in your calendar. When you are feeling resistant - which you will - taking the smallest action toward your goal will build your confidence.

Neutralizing negativity:

When you begin working toward your goals motivation and will power tends to be highest. You think thoughts like, ‘I’ve started! I can do this’ and brush aside fears and negative thoughts. But as time goes on and you’re tired, or bored, when you’re stressed or dealing with rejection, it becomes harder to stay motivated. That’s when the 3 S’s: self-understanding, support, and structure come in to help you stay the course.


Write a list of all of the ways reaching your goal will benefit you (and the people you care about). Include concrete results, "I’ll be able to pay off the mortgage" and also how you’ll feel. Post the list where you can see it frequently, and also make the list portable for on-the-go doses of motivation. You could write the list on 3X5 cards or input it into an online daily reminder.

Whether or not it is true that change becomes harder as you get older, you’ve certainly lived longer and had more opportunity to try and fail and grow scar tissue.

Experience can become a stumbling block if it means looking back and dwelling on what didn’t work in the past.

Trying something new, or a new approach to something you’ve been unsuccessful at in the past, means opening yourself up and experiencing vulnerability. One method to help you prepare is to answer the following questions:

  • What is your history with this goal? Did you go to a networking event and freeze when you were asked to stand up and introduce yourself? Did you try networking many times without getting leads or introductions?
  • What do you tell yourself to explain this experience? “Networking doesn’t work for me.” “This is futile.”
  • What will you tell yourself instead? “Up to now networking hasn’t worked for me.” “I can learn how to get better results networking.”
  • What actions will you take in the future to change those results? Taking a workshop about job search networking? Reading networking tips? Practicing introducing yourself in front of a mirror or with a friend?

More small steps!

This article focused on how to lay the ground for success. These are all actions you can do on your own to clarify your goals, develop an action plan and motivate yourself to move into action.


In Part 3, you’ll learn how to embed yourself in a network of structure and support. Making yourself accountable to other people and structuring support into your days will multiply your chances of reaching your goals.

Your Personal Professional Success Plan:

About the author...

Phyllis Mufson is a career / business consultant and a certified life coach with over 25 years of experience. She has helped hundreds of clients successfully navigate career transitions. You can learn more about Phyllis and her practice at PhyllisMufson and follow Phyllis on Twitter @PhyllisMufson and Google+.


Guide to Job Search for Boomers & Those Over 50:

Over 50 / Boomer Job Search Concerns:


Figuring Out What's Next for Over 50 / Boomers:

Developing Your Personal Success Plan for Over 50 / Boomers:

Making Your Best Impression for Over 50 / Boomers:

Over 50 / Boomer Career Pioneers:

Over 50 / Boomer Career Change:

Additional Resources:

Find Jobs in all states
Jobs across the state - not available elsewhere on the Web. Only here.

Over 50? Want work?
Real employers who value your experience are looking for you here.