You are a project manager and you excel at your job. You communicate well, are an effective leader, have the experience, and inherently know how to deliver outstanding projects. You might even speak multiple languages and have an interesting, compelling resume.
But when it comes to landing your next job, you always feel a bit lost.
I interact with many project managers who find the transition between jobs a challenge—even if they’re seasoned veterans.
The interesting aspect of this phenomenon is that projects are cyclical and by definition have a beginning, middle and an end. Our profession is cyclical in nature. So why not apply this to rule to career transitions and have a plan in place?
Similar to a project, each job search is unique and has its own story. For the sake of this article, let’s imagine that you’re looking for work and decide to do what you do best: You approach your job search like a project and begin to manage it. Here’s what that process would look like.
First, the initiation
Before writing resumes and sending them to random companies, start with some brainstorming. As with any project, start with “why.”
- Why do you need a new job?
- Would a promotion suffice?
- What kind of company do you want to work at?
- Is this the time to start your own business?
Once you decide that you want a new position with another company that’s a good culture fit, it’s time to plan.
When people ask me for tips to find a new job, I often respond with a simple question: How did you find your last job?
Online job boards and search engines are useful, but they can also be problematic. It’s easy to think that because you created a great resume and a cover letter template, you can spend all day applying to dozens of different positions online and feel like you accomplished something significant.
Instead, think about how you found your last job. Chances are it was because of someone you knew. According to Forbes, over 40% of jobs are found through networking. So think about your history, and answer yourself:
- How have you found jobs in the past?
- Can you try to replicate that process?
- How many of your friends and friends-of-friends work in companies you’d like to be a part of?
A great resource for planning your job search is the book “Manage Your Job Search” by Johanna Rothman. Johanna shares a step-by-step approach to planning a job search like a project. You can also listen to my interview with her here.
Now it’s time to get moving!
One of the best ways of finding work is through networking. So a good strategy is to meet and connect with a lot of people.
Local chapters of professional organizations are great places to meet those involved in your industry. I would recommend not only attending events but also volunteering and participating as much as possible. By getting involved in organizations that mean something to you, you’ll start developing relationships that will turn into references and tips about positions. When you volunteer, people will see what it’s like to work with you. When you participate, you become known, liked and trusted.
Do not wait until you need a new job to start networking. Networking is necessary and absolutely indispensable in the life of a project management professional.
Eventually, you applied for a position with a company, as well as a few others.
At this stage, it’s important to follow up to ensure things are moving forward. Have they seen your resume? Do they have any questions?
Don’t neglect this important step. You might be the only candidate who follows up, which will immediately put you ahead. Communicate with anyone you know who works in one of the companies you’re considering, and let them know you’ve applied for a position. Hiring decisions are often talked about internally, and it’s important to have people aware that you’re an applicant.
Let’s say you get the job. Hooray! Now it’s time to send your community a big thank you.
Let your contacts know that you found a position. Thank them. If you received multiple offers, treasure the relationships you built with these companies. Send them handwritten thank you notes, and continue to network with them at functions, conferences, etc.
Do what you can to make the people who helped you happy they did.
But no matter how complex and unique the path to finding your job might be, chances are you’ll be offered a position by a person who needs to know, like, and trust you.
So treat your job search like a project and don’t forget to do what it takes to be known, be liked and be trustworthy.