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Be a Project Manager to Find a Better Job, Faster

Use Project Management Techniques to Find a Better Job, Faster ...
           An Overview of the Process for Finding the Job You Really Want
Ever been a project manager?  Or, have you ever managed a project or a program from inception to fruition? If you answer Yes, then you’ll find that a job search is nothing more, and nothing less, than a project to be managed.  That’s it!  

If you’ve been working hard at your search for a while but are mystified about how to gain traction, or if you have been putting off beginning a search for a new job because you didn’t know where to start, beginning to think in terms of your search as a project to be managed may help.

As with any project, whether large scale, such as building a bridge or designing a new IT system, . . . or small scale, like cleaning out a closet or moving a piece of equipment from one office to another, being successful requires starting off on the right foot.  A successful job search is no exception.  It will take:
Planning and organization
Acquiring information and knowledge
Learning new skills
Developing and learning to use project tools
Performing the work
Monitoring and tracking progress
Engaging your support team
Building your support team, or network
Course-correcting when you get off course 

Understanding the process and adopting the tried-and-true steps of project management, as applied to your job search, will help make it a whole lot easier and a whole lot less frustrating and intimidating.  Starting off your job search project on the right foot will help you achieve success more quickly.  And, you’ll find yourself less stymied by the challenges and obstacles that will inevitably cross your path, and be better able to navigate your way through them, if you know:

  • What to expect 
  • What to do and what NOT to do 
  • What’s a good use of your time and what’s not, and 
  • Just as importantly how to ‘think’ about your search 

Step 1.  Project Initiation:  Initiate your Job Search Project
Anticipating and understanding what lies ahead of you is a key first step.  How you initiate your project is key to success.  Take a little time up front to learn about what lies ahead.  So, DON’T just jump in and start sending out resumes helter-skelter!  Investing time up-front to familiarize yourself with the process and the steps outlined in this article, and thinking through your goal, will save you time in the long-run, so DON’T SKIP THIS STEP!
  • Learn about what it will take for you to be successful, including the traits and skills of those job searchers who found success (6 Traits of Successful Job Seekers). 
  • Learn what it will require from you and other people in the way of managing your project and day-to-day actions. 
  • Learn about what to expect as you navigate the ups-and-downs of your search so that these highs, lows, and emotions don’t get in the way of making progress (Navigating the Ups-and-Downs of Job Loss . . .and Job Search). 
  • Learn how to view and what to do in negotiating your new job offer when the offer comes along and managing the close-out of your job search project.
The items listed above are all topics to research via online and offline research during this phase.  Conduct online research via information and articles available at as well as the Internet in general.  But don’t neglect equally important offline person-to-person research.  Tap into your network by asking a few trusted network contacts (not your entire Rolodex) about their job seeking experiences.  You’ll learn a lot, subtly acquaint them with the fact that you are about to take the plunge, and engage their support. 

Step 2.  Project Planning:  Planning and Strategy
Just as with the Initiation Phase of a job search project, the Planning and Strategy phase is key to a successful job search.  So DON’T SKIP THIS STEP EITHER!  You’ll get further faster.

Many folks get ahead of themselves.  They begin calling anyone and everyone they know, asking for a job.  They pull out of an old resume, red-line it, insert their most recent job, and start papering the street with it.  However, this thoughtless activity can do more harm than good.  Without having thought things through, a job seeker can give out erroneous messages about the type of job they are looking for. 

You can’t un-ring a bell!  The result is they double their workload.  As they get clearer in their own minds about the type of job they want, these job seekers, with their credibility now a bit lessened, must now re-contact their network to correct the earlier erroneous message they gave out.  As they say, “You can’t un-ring a bell!  So, do yourself a favor and work through the steps below before you tell contacts in your network the type of position you are seeking.

Strategic planning and good preparation will set you up for a more efficient and effective job search.  It’s the step that may SEEM like it’s costing you time in the forefront, but it will SAVE you time in the long run. 
  1. Clarify your goal. Spend time up front to clarify your goal(s).  Analyzing what you want in and from this next job will help you do this.  It will also help you in developing your marketing materials, or as I call them your marketing tools.  Being goal-directed, i.e., strategic, will help you separate the wheat from the chaff.  It’ll help you make decisions about what activities are a good use of your time and what are not; which network contacts should be helpful and which won’t; and what leads should be researched and pursued and what leads are likely to be unproductive. 
  2.  Organize your job search project.  Just as you would when getting any other project underway, ensure you have the infrastructure to support your work.  Set up a work space to ensure you have a place where you can work consistently at your search.  Set up your computer to accommodate your search, as well as other communication tools such as phone, printer, fax, etc.  
  3. Develop your job search tools.  Develop your resume, your Marketing Plan (to both plan for
    Good tools will get the job done!
    and track your job search activity, along with other key marketing tools that include:  Elevator Speech, business card(s), portfolio, Linked-In profile, cover letter template, reference list, and thank you letter template.
  4. Develop your budget.  While you can’t know exactly what all your costs will entail, you can anticipate a good many of upcoming costs.  Budget for them and set some money aside in anticipation of your needs.  Assume some costs will be incurred from:
    1. Networking, ranging from “buying the coffee” when a contact agrees to meet with you to fees for attending association meetings. 
    2. Is there a professional conference(s) or convention(s) you should attend to get state-of-the-art information and meet key people in your field?
    3. Infrastructure:  Is there equipment you will need to conduct your search, such as a more reliable computer, new phone, copier, etc.
    4. Supplies:  Business cards and other printing needs; office supplies such as paper, file folders; portfolio
    5. Travel:  Include costs for local networking, interviewing, meetings, etc.  If you anticipate conducting a long distance search, anticipate costs for initial travel to a new geographic area in order to scout it out, do some networking, etc.  (Not to be confused with actual interviewing long distance when the hiring firms should pay your costs for travel and accommodations).
  5. Decide on your work schedule.  In a nutshell, this means decide to work at your search like it's a job. 
    1.  For those job seekers who are unemployed, work at your search like it’s your full-time job.  Commit 6 - 8 hours a day to search initially; you may find this time grows as you move into the implementation phase.  Realize you have the luxury to spend all your time pursuing your goal.
    2.   For those job seekers who are employed, determine the hours you can spend prior to and after your regular work day on your search.  Chipping away by scheduling, for example, one hour in the early morning and two-or three in the evening will get you further faster than saving all the work for the weekend.
    3. Note that the type of activities you are doing will change as you move from one phase to the next.  During the initiation and planning phases of your project, you will be spending more time on your own researching and developing your marketing approach.  During the later phases, more of your time will be spent marketing to and interacting with target companies and network contacts.
Step 3.  Project Implementation or Execution: Marketing, Networking, & Interviewing
Time to rock and roll!   You are ready to move into the employment marketplace.  Begin by executing your Marketing Plan, using the marketing tools you have developed. 

Marketing yourself, networking, and interviewing are the key activities of the Implementation Phase of your job search project.
  •  Marketing yourself.  In this phase of your job search project, your time and daily routine turns to identifying positions that can use your skills and applying for those positions.  Those jobs found via the Internet, newspapers, search engines, company or association websites, etc. are listed on what is termed the Open Job Market.  And a lot of jobs are advertised here.  However, this is only one part of the equation; the Hidden Market, accessed via your network, is the other. 
  • Networking. Equally, if not more important to finding a good position, is to begin to network.  Networking allows you to inform people you know: 
      •  (1) That you are on the market and 
      •  (2) What type of position you are looking for. 
    • Networking will lead you to find not only open positions that are advertised on the Open Market, but to find positions via the Hidden Job Market.  Your network will help you access the Hidden Market by helping you identify organizations that have:
      • (1) Unadvertised openings that could use your capabilities,
      • (2) A need for your skills and expertise but for which they have not yet created a formal position. Interacting early with such an organization can help you get a jump on things. 
    • The Hidden Market provides the more significant source of positions for any job seeker.  It is where some of the best jobs are located, where there is less competition since the jobs are not advertised, and leads to formal interviewing.  And, for those job seekers who are beyond entry level, this market is key, if not critical, to finding a job you really want.
  • Interviewing: Informal and Formal.  Most people think of an interview as that formal, nail-biting, nerve-wracking meeting in which a candidate for a job is “grilled” by an interviewer or interview team.  It is not! 
    • Interviewing occurs continuously throughout your job search  – whether you realize it or not.  Every networking meeting and conversation with colleagues, friends, and neighbors is, in fact, an informal or mini-interview, with its goal being to lead to what is generally thought of when contemplating interviewing:  The formal interview.
Step 4.  Project Control:  Monitoring and Measuring Your Job Search Progress
Periodically throughout your search, ask yourself this question: “How am I doing?”  It’s helpful and insightful to ask this question, regardless of whether you’re doing great (and think it’s a waste of time to stop and analyze your progress) or making no progress at all. 

Taking a moment to stop and look at your activity, and the results you are generating, is simply a part of your project management of your job search project. 

This analysis is a GOOD use of your time.  Don’t be put off or intimidated by the concept.  It’s neither a highly complex task nor highly technical part of the process.  Just assess your output and review what’s coming back by asking and answering some fairly simple questions: 
  • Assess your output: Add up the numbers.   
    • How many letters (e-mail, paper, notes) have you sent over what period of time?
    • How many calls have you made to get networking appointments or to contact target employers?  Over what period of time?
    • How many networking events have you attended?  Over what period of time? 
  • Tally the response to your output.  
    •  How many responses have you received to your letters?  
    • How many people called you back? 
    •  How many new contacts did you make at networking events?  How many of these did you contact, or follow-up, via e-mail, a call, letter, or meeting? 
  • Review the quality of the responses.  
    •  Identify those that were substantive and “moved the action of your job search forward.”
    • What did you do differently in those interactions that may have been different from others that went nowhere?  
    • Based on your tally and review, what types of activities do you need to do more of and engage in more fully?  What activities appear less effective?  Why? 
 What’s working?  What’s not?  Scheduling time for regular, periodic monitoring of your job search activity and results will alert you to successes, failures, and trends.  It’ll tell you what you’re doing well, what you’re not, and what areas are targets for change.

For instance, if your analysis shows that poor organization is costing you time, productivity, and quality, get organized.  Or, if you find you’re failing to follow-up with new contacts from networking events, schedule time to do so following each networking event.  If you are contacting only a couple target companies per week, research, identify, and target more companies.  If you discover you are sending out too few letters, set a daily or weekly goal and don’t stop until you’ve met your goal. 

Scheduling time for the simple analysis of Step 4 will help you redirect any non-productive behaviors and actions, and steer you toward actions that will help you achieve your goal more quickly.  Schedule this step periodically throughout the duration of you search.

Step 5.  Project Closure:  Negotiation and Landing
Project Closure . . . This is what it’s all about!  Getting job offers is what you’ve been working toward.
  • Negotiation:  Note we said offers. . .  plural.  Your goal, and my goal for you, is to generate multiple job offers so that THE CHOICE IS YOURS!  Structuring your activity and aspiring to receive multiple offers sets you up to have a choice so that you can both:
    • (1) Select the best job for you, as well as
    • (2) Negotiate your offer so that the opportunity you select allows you to function at your best for yourself and for your new employers. 
  • Closure:  Done?  Not yet.  The sentiment “it takes a village” is just as true for job search as any other project.  You did not achieve your goal alone.  A lot of folks helped along the way.  As part of your project closeout: 
    • Say thanks:  Take the time to offer your sincere thanks to everyone along the way who helped you achieve your goal.  Differentiate the great contributors to your success from those who helped a little along the way and express your appreciation accordingly.  For some, a sincere thank you note, noting how they helped you, along with some particulars about the job you will be doing, will suffice.  For others who made a more significant impact on your search, a small gift, lunch, or dinner may be appropriate.  Thank everyone! 
    • Lessons Learned:  Also take some time to identify lessons learned.  Ask:  “What do I know now that I didn’t know then?”  The fact is that most employees will have many
      jobs before their career ends.  The new knowledge you have gained about how to look for a job, and how to market yourself, can be useful to future career transitions you will make.  Many job seekers hope that they will never have to search for a new job again.  It’s a false hope for most.  So mine this valuable knowledge now, so that should the need arise, you will be prepared.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
In summary, a job search is nothing more, and nothing less, than a project to be managed.   Yes, there are some differences from typical projects you may have managed in the past, which are:

 First, you can’t predict how long your search will take.
– a major difference from a typical project in which you are assigned a specified length of time to complete the project.  In a job search, too many factors exist beyond your own planning and determination, and these affect the length of your search.  Factors range from the amount of demand there is for the type of work you do, and the depth of experience companies are seeking and willing to pay, to the state of the employment market and the economy itself.  Whether the type of work you do is fairly common and there is a large demand for it, or rare with a small demand, will affect the length of your search, despite how hard you work.

Second, you can’t predict where you’ll end up.  
Factors such as those just described above will affect what the position you end up with will look like.  Another factor is you . . . yourself.  As you work at your search, and learn about the job types you can perform and responsibilities you can fill, your own specs may change.  And, for many job seekers who learn about new types of rolls and positions they can fill, and who change their focus, it turns out to be a better fit and ultimately more satisfying.

Following the logical steps of project management will keep you organized, focused, and on track.  It will help you anticipate obstacles and challenges, so you are not derailed by them when they occur.  And ultimately, this logical approach will lead you to be a successful job seeker.


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