Follow steps to your goal

OK, the New Year has officially started. It's time to take stock, decide what you want to happen this year and get moving.
Is this the year you learn a foreign language? Get in shape? Finally get on the Internet?
Whatever your goals, big or small, you'll reach them the same way: Name the goal, break the process into small steps, schedule the steps and take action.
You can read inspirational authors or watch motivational tapes; you can recite affirmations in the mirror; you can join an accountability circle. But reaching your goals will come down to the same four steps and this one basic question: When will you start?
What about the goals that seem out of your control? What about finding a job in a lousy economy? Funny you should ask -- some poor fellow asked me for advice about a job search in a bad economy the other day, and I almost bit his head off.
"Bad economy?" I replied. "What does a bad economy have to do with it?"
And then I went on to tell him that most people conduct the same poor job searches in a good economy as in a bad one; they just get lucky quicker when there are more jobs open.
I even questioned the assumption the question was based on -- just how bad is this economy anyway? I've read so many conflicting measures and reports I don't know what numbers to trust anymore.
Is this a case of a career counselor gone crabby? Or does the state of the economy really matter to one's job search?
Certainly if you work in an industry that has toppled in the past year, you may be forced to change careers. And if you were planning to work in government, a look at the budget crisis should make you reconsider.
But are those adjustments to one's career plans limited to a bad economy? After all, it was the astonishing pace of computer technology that put keypunch operators out of work.
I once interviewed a union steward representing camera operators in New York television studios. The studios were switching to electronically operated equipment, resulting in lost jobs for the camera crews.
"Aren't you upset with this change?" I asked the steward. "No," he said, "because all that equipment keeps breaking down and now all our technicians are getting jobs."
To tell you the truth, I'm not smart enough to understand how the economy affects job opportunities, and I fear most of the people doing commentary these days aren't either.
What I really worry about is the impact of all the dour proclamations on the psyches of job seekers.
On the other hand, there's no denying that things are a mess right now. Regardless of your interpretation of the state of the economy, employers watch the same newscasts you do, and they're worried, too.
So what can you do about job search in the midst of such unease?
First, if you are looking for work, stop listening to the statistics about unemployment. In fact, feel free to stop reading the economic news at all.
Remember the goal-setting formula above? Name the goal, break the process into small steps, schedule the steps and take action. So, name the job you are going for, set a search schedule, and get started.
Don't quit
What if you don't get a job? Keep trying, but change the pattern. Evaluate the goal and decide: Am I qualified for this? Do the employers know I'm out here? Am I reaching employers who don't advertise their openings?
At some point, maybe immediately, you will need to take a temporary or part-time job to stay afloat. Just do it.
Bad economy? It doesn't really matter. You can't fix it all by yourself, so concentrate on getting a job. Just one job will make all the difference in the world, at least in your household.
Once you've got the job, go back to that list of New Year's resolutions.
XAmy Lindgren, the owner of a career-consulting firm in St. Paul, Minn., can be reached at

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