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Can You Use Project Management to Find a Job?

There are so many high quality people in the job search process todays – after all, unemployment rates continue to increase, even though at a slower rate. Tell this “comforting” statistic to the exasperated job seeker. For example, California’s unemployment is 12.2%.

It is obvious that traditional job search methods no longer work. Instead, it is essential to stand out in the crowd (and the crowd is quite a crowd these days!). In talking with a former colleague and supply chain expert earlier today, I discovered that she has achieved significantly more success since adopting project management principles in her job search process. These principles have resulted in higher response rates, increased interviews and follow-up calls. Now, this can be a comforting result.

So, what are the keys to success in transforming your current job search process into a project management approach?

  1. First, remember, just like with project management success, relationships are the key to job search success. By the time a job shows up on one of the various job websites, it is often too late. Instead, you need to find out about the potential job through your network. There is no greater critical priority than nurturing your relationships and providing value. Do NOT expect to receive value; instead continually think of ways to provide value. This is identical to the first principle to the best project management successes I’ve seen throughout my career – start with the people. For example, in one client project, we reduced inventory levels by 40% through a combination of 70% people/ 30% process. Also, remember to expand your network – consider recruiters, Linked In contacts, equity groups, attorneys, etc. Sticking to one is no longer sufficient. You need to have a well-nurtured and expansive network. It is amazing what can be achieved when your first thought are your relationships.
  2. Develop a simple task list and timeline. Similar to a project timeline, develop a simple task list and timeline for your job search. Don’t become bogged down in complexity, software options etc. Instead, ensure you have thought through all your tasks, dependencies, and time commitments. For example, include all the database searches you perform on a daily or weekly basis, include the time required for company research and/or key contact research, include calls and meetings with your network, include follow-up calls, etc. The more you are able to clearly define the tasks, task dependencies and time requirements, the better equipped you’ll be with a plan to assist in achieving results.
  3. Prioritize: My former colleague and friend originally thought the process would take four hours a day maximum – after all, it doesn’t seem too complex or time consuming. Until the first week…….then it became apparent that it is more than a full time job – just without pay! Thus, it is essential to prioritize. In today’s world, there are 100+ applicants for a particular job. Therefore, if you are # 101 to submit, you are out of luck in many cases, as companies have to cut it off somewhere. And, if you have a potential of 10 hours of job searching per day to achieve in an eight hour day, it is critical to prioritize the jobs and activities most critical to your desired end result. Again, this is no different from project management – priorities often times are clarified through the critical path. In my experience, if you are focused on the critical path, you have achieved the 80% of the 80/20.
  4. Follow-up: Imagine if a company receives 200 resumes and applications for one job. Without follow-up, you will have submitted the application in vain. Again, similar to project management, use absolute focus on the top priorities and the critical path, and use rigorous follow-up. Also, do not rely solely on email. Multiple forms of communication are required in today’s environment.
  5. Track progress with a continuous improvement philosophy: After 100 applications, it can get quite confusing which job is which, which key contact is which, who you talked with when, etc. Therefore, it is not only essential to track progress so that you know where you are in the process and can adjust accordingly, it is also essential to track progress and take notes of conversations, email follow-up, etc. Constantly look for areas of opportunity and continually adjust and improve. Remember, to stand out in the crowd, you must be on top of your game.

It is a bit out-of-the-box; however, why create entirely new processes to succeed in the job search process? Instead, leverage existing, proven project management methods for success.

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