In keeping with my “poll of the month” tradition, here’s the latest career-related question I threw out back in December — along with the associated results it attracted and a wee bit of analysis on the topic…

“What step would likely help most in terms of increasing your job search accountability and resolve, heading into 2011?”

The five response choices were:

1) Write your goals down on paper
2) Recruit an “accountability partner”
3) Set up specific rewards for progress
4) Establish consequences for slacking off
5) Break plan down into small action steps

To date, 24 people have cast their vote on this particular topic, and while you’ll see a small graphic of the results below you can click here to access the full set of results.

The Analysis? Honestly, on this issue, I truly don’t think there’s a “right” answer, since different people obviously will have their own personal preferences and proclivities in terms of what motivates them.  I’m tickled, in fact, that my question actually DID manage to draw at least one vote for all five of the different choices I proposed.  This, to me, underscores the notion that each individual job hunter will have to really think hard about the motivational system or approach that will most likely compel them to reach beyond their comfort zone and do the things (they often don’t want to do) to unearth quality job prospects.

I also like the wisdom contained in the very first comment this poll attracted, where a reader stated that a person might want or need to adopt several of these different strategies to get the best results.  Without question, this is a viable possibility.  You might mix together a witches’ brew of rewards, consequences, accountability agreements, daily action plans, and other techniques to make 100% sure you don’t slack off or succumb to the temptation to sit on your duff.

At the end of the day, though, I think the key point behind this poll is the importance of thinking about your motivational scheme, in advance, in order to build some “attitude reinforcement measures” directly into your job hunting game plan.  My sense is that many people don’t contemplate this issue up front, when facing the need to go out and get a new job, and their efforts consequently lose steam with each passing month to the point where they start to get highly frustrated, anxious, and unfocused.  Put together a clear plan of action to follow, however, or recruit a friend to hold your feet to the fire each week, and your odds of success become much, much greater.

If it were me in this situation?  I’d probably be torn between answer #2 and answer #5.  On one hand, I know that I don’t like to let other people down, so the idea of “reporting back” to somebody each week would be a pretty powerful step in ensuring I stay accountable to what I say I’m going to do in my job search.  Additionally, since I love to make lists and cross things off as I go, to feel a sense of progress, I’d probably break my own overall plan down into a series of daily, weekly, and monthly to-do items — and then just faithfully work my way through some small steps on this list each day so that I don’t get overwhelmed with the totality of it all.

You and I might be wired differently, however.  So again, the key is to  just look back through your most successful accomplishments and figure out what motivational methods worked for you — and allowed you to triumph in cases where you were facing a significant or complex challenge.  Perhaps it was a big messy project you decided to tackle at work or perhaps it was a pride-inducing achievement from your personal life, such as adhering to a diet or training for a marathon.  Either way, I’m sure that if you examine your successes in the rearview mirror for a few moments, some inspirational clues will turn up!

In terms of a new question for the coming month?  You’ll find my latest LinkedIn poll here, asking the question: “Which of these five common interview questions do you find most difficult to answer?”