June 24, 2013

Think Like a Project Manager to Land your Next Job – Part 3

Monitor your progress

Use your chart to see if you are on target by monitoring your progress. As you work on a task, mark it complete or use a percentage to show how much you have accomplished. If you track the actual begin date and the actual end date, you’ll have a clear picture of how well you estimated the time needed for each task and know if you need to adjust the dates for successor tasks.

By looking at your project plan, you will see how much you have accomplished and how much you still have to work on. This is your status. Are you on track or have you slipped?

Be flexible

A good project manager knows that things don’t always go as planned. Be flexible! You may be running behind schedule, or maybe even ahead of schedule. It may be necessary to reschedule tasks by adjusting the begin date and end date of uncompleted tasks.

There are a lot of unknowns in a job search! How many interviews will you have? How many offers will you receive? If you are unhappy with how you are progressing, you may decide to broaden your scope to include a different type of position or another geographic location.

Any changes to the initial scope changes your plan and requires change management. Go back into your plan and see if you need to add any additional tasks, such as rewriting your resume, joining a different networking group, or going on additional interviews. How do the changes affect your timeline? Continue to add new tasks to your project plan as needed.

Learn from the process

When you finally land your dream job, take a few minutes to update your project plan and close your project. Take some time to record lessons learned. Which tasks went well? Which tasks can you improve upon?

Next time you find yourself back in job market, you will have a plan that you can dust off and put into action. 

Remember, every person is unique, so each person’s project plan will look different.

-Annette Lange
Project Manager
Communications Committee

June 17, 2013

Think Like a Project Manager to Land your Next Job – Part 2

Chart the details

Once you have completed your project outline (see Part 1), you’ll want to create an easy way to assess your progress - make a chart. You can use Microsoft Excel, the table feature in Microsoft Word, or any other software application which allows you to create a chart to stay on track and ultimately reach your goal - landing a new job. Some commonly used project management column headings are: Task Number, Task Name, Percent Completed, Begin Date, End Date, Actual Begin Date, Actual End Date, Predecessor Task, Successor Task, Resource and Notes. 

To download a simple spreadsheet, click here and select Sample Chart from the Documents list.

Copy the task list from your outline under the Task Name column. (It is not necessary to keep the outline numbers you started with, but you should keep the indents for readability.)

By the numbers

Some tasks, such as proofreading, will be used many times during your project. Assigning a Task Number to each task creates an easy way to navigate your chart, allowing you to refer back by number rather than name.

Whatever numbering scheme you use, be sure to disable the auto number feature if you are using Microsoft Word or Excel. If you need to insert a new task or reorder the tasks in your project plan, these programs won’t adjust the numbers; you’ll have to do that manually. Microsoft Project automatically adjusts the task numbers when you alter the plan. 

Next, estimate how much time each of the lowest level tasks will take. Base your estimate on your previous experience doing the same or a similar task. If the task is new to you, make a best guess on how long it task should take. 

Try to think of time in hours or even days. How many hours a day you will spend on your job search? If you are not working, you might have 7 or 8 hours per weekday to devote to your search. If you are currently employed, then 2 to 3 hours per weekday may be all that you can devote to the project. Include Saturdays and Sundays if you are going to work on your project on weekends.

Build in contingency time

Consider how much uncertainty is involved as you set your target goals. If your resume is up to date and in a format you are happy with, you’ll have a fairly good idea of how much time you’ll need to customize it for each application. 

But if you are considering major changes, or are starting from scratch, you may not know how much time you’ll need to decide on the content and format. You will need to add some contingency time to each task’s estimate; project managers typically consider 10 to 15 percent of the original estimate provides a good cushion.

When you have the time estimates, you can fill in the Begin and End Date columns on your chart. If you include Actual Begin and End Dates, they will be filled in when your plan is completed and you start working on the tasks. 

Determine your critical path

Since it’s impossible to do all of the tasks on your list at the same time, you’ll have to determine which, if any, need to be completed before you start another task. The steps that must be done in a particular order comprise the critical path that is made up of predecessor tasks and successor tasks. 

For example, before you start writing your résumé, you’ll need to gather information about your past employers and recall significant accomplishments. These are predecessor tasks. After you have written your résumé, you will review and proofread – successor tasks.

Time to get out your calendar

Start penciling in the tasks you have identified within the number of hours you planned to work that day. Remember to schedule some breaks for yourself!

Add a Begin Date, End Date, and Resource to each low level task. This is called scheduling. (If you wish to see how closely you meet your target dates, add columns for Actual Begin Date and Actual End Date.) 

In most cases, you will be the resource assigned to each task. However, there may be some tasks, such as proofreading your resume, that require the assistance of another person who becomes your Resource. 

The final column – Notes – will allow you to jot down any additional information you want to remember. For example, if your proofreader, Mary is going to be out of town for a few days, you can add a reminder in this space. 

Some of your tasks, such as attending PSGMC meetings every Wednesday, will be recurring tasks. Add a line in your chart for each week you plan to attend, and include travel time in your schedule. Here your Resource might be the presenter, and the Notes a reminder to read handouts or check out the website for more information.

If you roll up the dates to each higher level, you are creating milestones or mini goals. These milestones are at the summary level.

Remember, every person is unique, so each person’s project plan will look different.

Part 3 will continue with monitoring your plan.

-Annette Lange 
Project Manager
Communications Committee

June 10, 2013

Think Like a Project Manager to Land your Next Job – Part 1

Structure your search

You need a new job, but where do you start? There is so much to do! Why not create a project plan like a project manager would do? Everyone uses basic project management skills in everyday life; a professional project manager just does this on a much larger scale. Consider finding a new job as your next project!

Don’t become overwhelmed with the process. Having a structure or plan in place will help.

First, define the scope of the project. Do you want to find a position in a company similar to your last employer where you can utilize your skills and expertise, and earn enough money to pay your bills? Do you want to get a job that pays more? Maybe it’s time to switch industries and take your career in a new direction.

Start with a basic project plan

A project manager typically uses special software such as Microsoft Project which can automatically update the project’s progress. Don’t worry if you do not have this software; you can use Microsoft Word or Excel to track your progress. However, you will need to update everything manually.

Break it down

To start your project plan, divide the big task of finding a job into smaller tasks. This is called creating the work breakdown structure (WBS). Begin with a few high level categories such as:
  I.     Preparation
  II.    Networking
  III.   Company Research
  IV.   Job Applications
  V.    Interviewing

Next, list the necessary tasks within each category. Preparation might include:
        A. Résumé
        B. Business cards
        C. CARs/PARs
        D. Marketing plan
        E. Interview outfit
        F. Office supplies
        G. Training classes

Then drill down even further. Under Résumé, you might add:
   1.  Record previous employers and dates
   2.  List significant accomplishments
   3.  Choose a format
   4.  Review
   5.  Proofread

You are creating an outline of all of the necessary steps to complete each task. Remember to indent and label each level accordingly. Create as many levels as you need to be aware of all the necessary tasks, avoid too many details or you may drive yourself crazy.

Remember, every person is unique, so each person’s project plan will look different.
-      Annette Lange
Project Manager
Communications Committee

Part 2 of the series will continue with creating a chart. 

June 5, 2013

Where has the time gone?

It’s been a year since PSGMC was founded to help job seekers get back to work.

In those 365 days, we’ve celebrated successes of our friends who have landed, shared their disappointment as promising leads fizzled, and provided encouragement and advice to help each other be successful in a job search.

Our weekly meetings have offered a variety of speakers on topics as diverse as organizing and conducting a job search, personal branding, writing a resume, nailing the interview, and keeping physically and emotionally strong during the search.

Networking exercises have created new friendships and deepened existing relationships. 

But as successful as the meetings have been, it’s only part of our mission: to provide a supportive community, training, resources, and volunteering opportunities to enable professionals to find their marketplace value and network into employment.

Like any fledgling organization, PSGMC has encountered setbacks. Funding remains a concern, affecting how we can best deliver the services we know are needed. The complexity of government forms needed to secure non-profit status seems to grow at every step.

But we have made significant progress behind the scenes.

The Training Committee is ready to test the new course curriculum as the search for permanent classroom space continues. The IT Committee has been designing systems not only to register students and deliver course materials, but to provide the administrative tools needed to run the organization. The Communications Committee has launched the PSGMC blog with this initial post.

That meetings consistently attract an average of 50-55 attendees has given us confidence that we are fulfilling a need. With your continued support and participation, we are looking forward to doing even more in the next 365 days.

- Peggy Woosnam
Communications Committee