What I learned about job hunting

Project Management Job HuntingA few weeks ago, I was invited as a panel member on “how to find opportunities in a challenging economic environment.” As part of my preparation, I listed all of my 22 previous jobs since high school, where I found those opportunities and whether I searched for those jobs or if the jobs found me.

Overall, 27% came from ads, 64% from referrals and 9% from co-op placement. It was interesting that 50% of the time, I was actively searching for jobs, and for the other half, the opportunities found me. Take note that for the last seven years, 100% of projects that I worked on came through referrals.

Lessons learned: devote 1/3 of your job search on networking and referrals, tell your friends about your expertise and availability, and recognize that most of the jobs are not posted anywhere!

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Three E’s For Dealing With Difficult People

Rules for RenegadesChristine Comaford-Lynch’s book Rules for Renegades (p. 174) talked about how to deal with difficult people. I found her advice useful so I decided to share it here.

Equalize: Place yourself on par with the person in your mind. You both were drooling babies; you both will grow old and die; you both are made of the same stuff.

Exchange: Perhaps the person is suffering in some aspect of life. Maybe this is why the individual is so difficult to deal with. Remeber a time when you were struggling and ‘exchange’ your suffering for his or hers.

Embrace: Accept people exactly as they are. When you are annoyed by people’s behaviours, know that you cannot possibly change them. So, embrace or accept them just as they are. Later on, you can decide to interact with them or not.

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US $12 Trillion Reasons Why The World Needs You to Teach Project Management

Project Management TrainingThis week, I was interviewed for an article for PMITeach.org. During the interview, the need for more organizations and professionals to offer project management courses became so obvious.

Consider the following facts: roughly US $12 trillion will be spent on projects each year (1/5 of the world’s gross domestic product) with average projected new jobs of 1.2 million yearly for the next decade. At 30% attrition rate, try to imagine the need to train and retrain these project management professionals.

If you are planning to start or strengthen your project management training business, there are plenty of resources out there that can help you. You can start with PMI’s standards and PMITeach.org.

Interestingly enough, good project managers may not necessarily translate into excellent teachers. For want-to-be teachers, until we can bridge that gap, there will always be a shortfall.

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Teenagers? Teach Them Project Management!

PMI Educational FoundationThe Project Management Institute Educational Foundation (PMI EF) aims “to enrich lives through knowledge of and education in Project Management Life Skills.”

As a scholarship recipient, PMI EF paid for a portion of my doctoral studies. PMI EF contributes greatly to our society. I particularly like the Project Management Skills for Life course.

If you have teenagers or if you work with youth on various projects (e.g., church groups, community groups, Scouts), this free course is an excellent way to expose them to the project management profession. Youth can download the handbook and instructors can use the PowerPoint slides to teach the materials.

Most children aim to be doctors, lawyers, firefighters and police officers when they grow up. I am hoping that someday, we will start hearing children who would like to be project managers when they grow up!

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Traceability Matrix: Letter vs. Spirit of the Law

Project Management Audit - Traceability MatrixAfter posting my blog about project scope creep, Joshua Milane asked if I am a proponent of traceability matrices. I replied YES.

He immediately sent me his preferred approach. It is a good article particularly for practitioners who occasionally prefer the spirit vs. the letter of various methodologies, processes and standards.

As long as the job gets done, is it really necessary to have physical vs. conceptual traceability matrices? In my projects, I have never seen the former per se but I know that we can:

– trace the origins of requirements
– map the design against the requirements
– vet the solution against the design
– pinpoint where a change came from
– identify who signed off on the changes

We use unique IDs for requirements, test cases, defects and change requests to link various artefacts. Do we need more?

Seven Steps to Prevent Project Scope Creep

Project Scope ManagementPrevent undocumented and/or unapproved changes by strictly adhering to fundamental scope management and change request (CR) processes.

Unless there is an approved CR, do not allow changes on signed-off documents.

From Requirements to Solution

  1. Requirements Document (RD): gather requirements; conduct walkthroughs; prepare the final version; get signoffs
  2. Traceability: trace the proposed design (PD) against the RD (items not mentioned in the RD should not be in the PD); get signoffs
  3. Acceptance Checklist (AC): create based on RD and PD; get signoffs before starting solution development
  4. Actual Solution (product, service or result): accept only if it meets RD, PD and AC parameters

Change Request Process

  1. Establish a change control board (CCB)
  2. Submit all CRs to the CCB for “approval to estimate”
  3. CCB to approve, defer or reject the CR based on the estimated impacts

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Really Stupid Job Interview Mistakes

Job Interview MistakesIf you have been following my blog, you know that I primarily write about project management. However, I witnessed a situation today which compelled me to write about a different topic.

While waiting at the reception desk for my meeting, a gentleman approached the receptionist and mentioned that he has an interview with “Jeff”. Unfortunately, he can’t remember Jeff’s last name. I’m wondering how he expects the receptionist to find Jeff in a large financial organization. He added, “The interview is for an IT position.”

Although he looks decent, he had an earring, he was not wearing a tie, he did not polish his shoes and he was carrying a backpack. Even if he was able to connect with Jeff, do you think he’ll get a job offer? The receptionist politely told him, “I am sorry, I can’t help you.”

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Belonging, Believing and Becoming: Applying Religious Concepts to Project Team Building

Project Team BuildingAlthough some people may not believe in religions, we can definitely apply what Fr. Ed Murphy learned from a Jewish Cantor. Similar to religions, project team building requires three components: belonging, believing and becoming.

Popular motivational theories consider a sense of belonging as a key motivational factor. Team members need to feel that they are part of the project in order for them get a sense of “personal ownership, responsibility and commitment.”

Team members will believe in a project only if they feel that they are part of it. It cannot be forced upon someone. It can only grow through communication, collaboration and conflict resolution.

Becoming can be fostered by experiencing a sense of a belonging and believing in the project objectives. You will know that you have a well-built team when they start preaching the project benefits to others.

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Delivering Projects as Promised: Stick to the Baseline or Manage Through Change Requests?

Project Baseline and Change RequestsThe preliminary project scope statement outlines the project and product objectives, and high-level scope, schedule and budget. Requirements collections help refine various parameters which often serve as the initial project baseline.

Given that several unknowns will materialize as you progress deeper into the project, what is the best way to deal with these unknowns? Despite your best project management plan, you may not have a choice but to issue change requests to address the changing project dynamics.

Is it better to do everything in your power to stick to the initial baseline or succumb to the need to issue change requests? With the former, you will look good by keeping your promise but may end up delivering an inadequate product. With the latter, you run the risk of losing your credibility by not delivering as promised.

What should you do?

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The Ask: A Management Tool to Expedite Tasks

Project Manager's AskFrom various engagements, consultants get to see the best practices of top organizations worldwide. A good tool or technique usually becomes part of the consultant’s repertoire of best practices.

In the last few months, I have learned the concept of “the ask”. In a project, you need to have a clear understanding of the “project sponsor’s ask”. What is it that s/he is asking you to deliver?

When delegating tasks to team members, be explicit on what you are “asking” them to do. Do you want them to review the documents and provide feedback, or do you want them to edit and finalize the documents?

Instead of simply forwarding an e-mail with an FYI tell them what to do with it—“no action is needed” or “add a calendar reminder”.

A clear “ask” can expedite the completion of tasks.

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