by Brent M. Jones
Recently I was discussing a job listing with an associate who was trying to match his skills to a job posting and was feeling a little confused by the terminology. He had worked in the software industry for several years and said that his overall skill set strongly aligned with his past firm’s focus on client connections ensuring data was dealt with in a timely way. His job title was “Project Manager” and he felt it was a problem for him to use that title in finding like jobs.
It seems like the business vernacular tied to this job title would have common threads, but they just didn’t connect to what he had done. One posting job posting said the position would “utilize established project and program methodology to develop project plans for assigned projects”. Other listings said that the positions would “ensure adherence to quality standards, reviews project deliverables, and partner with managers to evaluate, strategize and evaluate creative project process.”
Even if I had understood what my associate had done in his prior work, aligning his past employer’s client connections job descriptions to the job posting just left us confused. I looked at the job search platform, Indeed, on the internet and typed in “Project Manager”. The site told me that they had 36,000 + jobs with that title. Managers in software development, engineering, landscaping, aerospace, patient assistance, construction and many more had open positions with this title.
As my associate and I lamented about the confusion, he showed me a book he had bought hoping to find better answers on where he should look to find the best job options for himself. The book was “Bare Bones Project Management, What you can’t not do, by Bob Lewis” so I decided to read it and even post it on my book review site if it offered some useful answers.
It was clear from the book that the term Project Manager was very generic. It has no industry certification and was a process the was tied differently to the skills needed for various jobs. Searching for this job was going to have to be tied to skills. The book did offer some helpful items.
Lewis tells us in his book that the word project is intended to mean a “collection of tasks, involving multiple individuals, organized to deliver well-defined products within a defined period of time.” He refers to what these results are as “deliverables” and what starts falling into place is the unique vernacular or “project parlance” that is part of being a Project Manager. The words that are of commonly used in project management are important if this function is to have stand-alone credibility in the organization. It just might be that the unique vernacular is why the job title seems to be creditable.
Stakeholders are those very important people in the organization that have an interest in the project and who the Project Manager will likely depend on for success. The projects metrics plan will be is very important and is about knowing what measurements will be used to determine a project’s success. You will likely be tasked with developing and using plans for communication, culture change, training and employee involvement.
The book has 7 chapters: Sponsorship and Governance, Understand the Project, Project Staffing- Defining “We”, Planning the Work, The Launch, Managing the Project and Declaring Victory.
In the first chapter the question “What’s the Point” of a project is answered telling us: “The point of any business project is to deliver business improvement of some kind - a different, better way of doing things” This is summed up saying “Business can improve in just three ways- they can increase revenue, reduce cost, or mitigate risk. Everything else is technique.
Lewis said that anyone who has volunteered, asked, or been hired to lead a project as a Project Manager, despite having no training or experience in the discipline can benefit from the book. He points out that most businesses have lots of great ideas, even more than they have executives who are willing to commit to the value of what may become a project. A project deserves a sponsor and stakeholders before it is assigned a project manager. A project can succeed without a sponsor, but the odds are much less than when it has a sponsor who has the authority to authorize more time and resources and who can declare success.
Good projects will come to an end. Of equal importance is what will you do when it is done.
By Brent M. Jones
Sometimes when you look at a job listing, the skills required have industry specific labels on them, or they are grouped under an acronym that is industry specific. Everyone is expected to know what is meant, but if you are considering applying from another related industry it may not be clear enough to you.
The first step is to accurately inventory your own job skills and clearly know what you have. Jobs happen when the employer sees a good match of skills to needs. It may take some work to understand how to label and define your own skills: networking can help you uncover what you don’t know.
It isn’t uncommon for a potential employer to create ambiguities in what they ask for. They may call something a Project Management position but when the skills set is analyzed it can be clear they really want a Project Coordinator.
Sometimes a company will understate the importance of what they want asking for a Project Manager but really needing a Manager over the areas they are staffing.
Perhaps the job seeker in his current job has been performing as a Project Manager in every way but has been paid at the Project Coordinator level with that title in the current job. In this case making a change especially needs to be based on selling job skills rather than titles. A complete and accurate understanding of the job skills ask for in the job listing is very important in this case.
It is very important to be able to get feedback from more than the HR department on potential jobs. Learning in advance about how skills are described will be critical if your changing industries and you don’t want to walk into an interview not having learned that. Understanding why Goals and Initiatives are chosen, and sometimes even listed on the company web site, will help you see where your skills really fit, enable you to show your strengths and communicate more effectively.
Goals, initiatives, and mission statements seem to always make the organization Web Site. In cases where a set of specific job skills is closely tied to those areas it means someone in the organization has some passion for them and if you can identify them they likely will be willing to talk.
One web site recently observed showed several company initiatives tied to an overall company goal and even listed committees assigned to the initiatives. In this example the initiative of “patient care” was listed and it caught the attention of a project manager from the aerospace industry. A call was made to the initiative committee chairman to discuss what project management of patient care consisted of? It was found that many items were the same, with slightly different labels and some of the processes were the same, with only a different acronym used to describe it.
This networking initial call enabled a meaningful interview to follow with some background interest in what was happening from the committee chairman who had been met with. It is always an advantage to have talked to others in the company but this approach was a natural opportunity
Networking helps understand the organization you have an interest in, but it can serve to help you see your own job skills more completely too. The best jobs are found using networking.
Your employed, so why should you start looking for a job now? If your skills are a good fit for the job you currently have, and if you, your employer, and your supervisor, all see you as a long-term good fit, then you probably don’t need to answer this question. If you do see the need for a change coming, even if it is not for a while, then there are a lot of very good reasons to start the job search now.
The majority of those looking for jobs are passive job seekers and they can take their time to do research and to reach out to their networking contacts. You need as much time as you can get to be selective, finding the best match for your job skills and strengths and learning about the jobs that aren't listed yet. ,
Potential employers, for the same reasons as you, want to find strong candidates whose experience, strengths, and skills match up with the job description and often they take their time passively looking. Good companies know that good matches result in motivated, happy, employees who help build the company so it really pays to take some time with this decision. Use this time to really look at yourself and be honest about your strengths, abilities and what you enjoy and the dividend you will gain is better job satisfaction and perhaps a better fit in the job you find.
Potential employers often see a candidate that is employed as a stronger potential employee, still valued by his past employer, not someone who was pushed out considered weaker. As unfair as this is, being in a position where you don’t have to take an offer is an advantage.
Employers will bend to reach out for someone with the best job skills, experience, and knowledge so find the best matches and be sure your resume shows skills and strengths that match those asked for on the job listing.
Unemployed candidates can easily seem too eager just in trying to sell their experience and skills even in some cases when they aren't the best match. Passion and excitement displayed for the new job can be misinterpreted as just needing a job rather than a genuine belief that a real contribution can be made.
Being actively employed puts you in regular contact with your network and information about changes in the marketplace is often more timely and easier to get.
A poor hiring decision is a costly mistake, for both the employer and employee so both sides will likely take some time to do their research.
by Brent M. Jones
Nationally unemployment is now under 4% and the On-Line Job Search firms seem to be on the screen every time you turn on your TV inviting you to find a job with their help. Is this really the new way to find a job? Has this approach changed the standard where 80% of all jobs are found through networking? Is networking now less important, or could it be more important?
Recent studies have shown the value of networking in finding a new job has actually gone up, approaching 85%. To understand why, we need to look closer at the people looking for a job and what has changed. Unemployed job seekers are a much smaller group than those still employed looking for a job.
If you add both groups, unemployed and employed, but only include active job seekers this totals only 25% of the total people looking for a job. The largest group of job seekers, outnumbering all others by 4-1, are still employed, considered passive job seekers. They are not in a big hurry just looking for a better fit. For this group networking is something they are good at, seeking job opportunities through contacts from professional networks, work associates and industry connections.
It is a myth to think that on-line job search options are taking over the process, or even the best approach, to finding a job.
Only 25% of all job openings are advertised anywhere, and that means that On-Line Job platforms are not connecting to most of the opportunities and networking is critical. Employers sometimes assume these platforms can allow them to slim-down their own HR staffs, expecting recruiters to do their work, and neglect their own efforts to network looking for the best employees,
The new middlemen to the whole job search process, on line platforms, are brokers for both sides, staffing positions they have never worked in. When a job seeker educates the recruiter about skills needed for a potential job it can turn out to benefit all of his other contacts. Why should it be necessary to teach your employment contact about the job you seek.
Job Search platforms can be misleading making you think progress is taking place. In one example, when asking someone looking for work how many companies they have contacted, the answer was surprising. The contact had made 40 contacts. The problem was that those contacts were not with employers, but job search platforms. When asked how many conversations or meetings with potential employers those contacts had led to, it turned out to be only one. How many of the 40 contacts were actually passed on to the potential employer or even discussed with the applicant?
On-Line platforms can be a help, but networking is clearly more important, more effective, and serves both the employer and potential employee best in finding the right fit.
By Brent M. Jones
You are planning a job interview and doing everything you can think of to get ready. You have done your research, learning about the company’s history and goals, and you know something about the people that likely will be in the interview.
What about the questions they will ask? Do you know what they will be, and are you ready? What about the inevitable questions that always show up in an interview: What are your greatest strengths and what are your weaknesses?
Before you are asked these two questions you should ask them to yourself, giving the most honest answer you can. Your potential employer wants to know if your strengths match the job skills and strengths of the potential job. Do they really match? If they don’t, you should reconsider, because you will do better, and be far happier, if they match.
What about your real weaknesses? Do you know what they are, and will they be a problem in the position your applying for? The potential employer will not hire you if they see that you’re not aligned with the needed requirements.
Identifying your own shortcomings requires some real personal honesty, but even that can be a trap. People sometimes are tempted to just congratulate themselves for their honesty and move on. When asked about their weaknesses they just repeat their assessment, expecting to be congratulated for their honesty. Truth is better served by considering the context that these questions are presented. If your weak areas have no relevance to the job they may not belong in the interview. If your weakness is a potential roadblock in meeting the needed job skill requirements, then some focus and thought will be needed before the interview. In those cases, present the weak area with your successful steps in overcoming it. For example, if you miss appointments and don’t do well with short term memory, then your devotion to a daily planner should come with that admission.
Always, of course, be 100% honest with yourself and consider your findings in those goals you seek. Remember in a job interview they are looking at how you fit, and answers only need to be focused to that end.
The need to make a job change can be an opportunity connect yourself with your real strengths.
by Brent M. Jones
Often in job interviews the question is asked, “What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?” This can signal and enlightened HR Department, that is aware of the changes in thinking over the last decade, knowing how best to develop people by building on their strengths, rather than trying to make their weaknesses the area of focus.
Laying out your weakness can be risky. Improving under-performance comes naturally to those in leadership and coaching positions. “Spare the rod and spoil the child” is not focused at getting people to concentrate on what motivates them and gives them satisfaction in their work.
Leaders and coaches can measure changes in weakness, but they can not always see the drop-in energy and motivation that comes with it as the focus reinforces in the employee’s mind that their weaknesses really do define who they are. An improvement in weak area can lead to hating their work.
Before changing employment, or applying for a job, it will help if you can match your strengths to those needed for the job. Know yourself well enough to know what your good at. The first step in finding a new job is usually said to be networking, but before you begin working on networking you need to know what your good at, and that will tell you where to network, and what job to seek. Your better off finding a job you love than assuming you can make yourself fit in. Sometimes it is the potential employee who sets themselves up to have to work on weaknesses.
What is it that you like about your job now? What part of the day is the most satisfying? Your job description might tell you that measuring and timely reporting are your main objective, but you may find that during your average day your most satisfaction comes from conflict resolution. This suggests you start networking in areas where you can find a job that will have conflict resolution as your prime goal.
When your search brings you to the interview, lay out your strengths so that they match those needed for the job. Even if the new employer doesn’t totally understand the power of employees spending their time on the areas they have strengths, if you are well matched with what you have as strengths with, you will be much more effective and happy
With correct policies and procedures along with a mission statement, most problems just don’t happen. Do we believe that? To start with, how do we get a mission statement that has anything to do with the polices and procedures? Looking at the problems the Human Resource Department deal with regularly might be a good start.
The way people understand the policies and procedures clearly present conflicts to some people with their understanding of the goals and objectives of the business.
If the mission statement has no direct relationship to policies and procedures, then it can be even harder to work out conflicts where people believe they understand the goals. Management and employees might be looking at the same rules and procedures but may believe in very different objectives and results.
Consider an employee being disciplined for excess French fry waste who justifies it with an interpretation of the company’s goals, that the company wants the customer to "enjoy their food". The employee knows that fries are enjoyed hot, not cold, and disposes of the cold fries, increasing the waste, rather than serving them. If the mission statement reflects the goal to have the customer enjoy their food, then it should override the policy on waste and shift the focus to why the fries are getting cold?
Mission statements, however, often go way beyond things that relate to the function of the business where the employees put their efforts. Coca Cola’s mission statement is: “To refresh the world…To inspire moments of optimism and happiness…To create value and make a difference.” Hyatt’s mission statement is: “To provide authentic hospitality by making a difference in the lives of the people we touch every day.” Nike’s mission statement is:” “Bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world. * If you have a body, you are an athlete.” John Doe’s Burgers & Fries Restaurants hypothetical mission statement could be: “To have their customers enjoy their food and always get hot fries.”
Do any of these mission statements help the employee make daily job decisions? John Doe’s Burgers & Fries mission statement does. Who wrote these mission statements? Was it the business owners, the management, the H.R Department, the advertising department or agency, that wrote it?
Maybe the message is that when you have problems brought to your attention listen and don’t kill the messenger.
It is interesting that his longevity in the industry is seen as a negative, not as a positive by himself and some in the industry. His vast experience should be viewed (by himself and others) as “added wisdom” gained by trial and error. Burnout doesn't have to be a foregone conclusion for men and women who have lasted in a particular job or industry, but admittedly it often is.
The dictionary definition of burnout is “the end of the powered stage in a rocket’s flight when the propellant has been used up.” With people, a lot of energy perusing various goals is used up- and when people are burned out they feel somewhat used up and complacent. You can hear the burnout in someone saying, “We tried that once before and it didn’t work so it won’t work now.”
The foodservice industry, like many industries, is dynamic: customer preferences change. That should present challenges to all of us, “forcing us to rethink what we “always knew”. My advice to my friend in this industry is this, "you need to become a student of your industry. Think of new approaches or new ways to use old products and concepts. This will provide you renewed energy. As a veteran you shouldn’t worry about making a mistake. You of all people should know that a failure or setback really becomes an opportunity.
When any of us start worrying about burnout, we should stop thinking about the past and look to the future. As business analysist Peter Ducker has said, "The best way to predict the future is to create it."