Project Management Institute

The job hunt as a project


when it comes to finding employment, project managers have the upper hand.


Searching for a job can be a daunting task, especially in today's market, with competition still high and opportunities scarce. Project managers shouldn't let the job hunt overwhelm them, however, because they've already honed the knowledge and skills needed to take on the process. All they have to do is think of it like a project.

By using the project management approach of initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling, and closing, project managers can break the job search into manageable pieces and work toward a successful outcome.

Step One: Initiation

This phase should focus on gathering requirements. Ask yourself these three simple questions I derived from the classic job search guide. What Color Is Your Parachutei by Richard N. Bolles [Ten Speed Press, 2011]:

  1. What do you want to do?
  2. Where do you want to do it?
  3. Who has the power to hire you once you find the job you want?

The answers to these questions will help you determine what jobs for which you should apply.

The one mistake I made when I was last unemployed was not establishing solid requirements on the front end. As a result, I was never on a path to a goal but on the road to perdition.

For instance, I was never specific in my job category. I knew that I wanted a job in IT, but was I looking for telecommunications, programming, systems engineering or even training? I wanted to enter into the computer field but had no related experience. I had taught before and I understood software applications. Knowing those skills would be transferable to computer training, I started seeking entry-level jobs in that field.


Once these requirements are gathered, make a project charter that defines commitments, such as how long you will spend on planning and preparation, and how much time per day or per week you will spend on the employment search. Treat it like a job contract. Make sure you show up for “work” every day to look for a job.

Step Two: Planning

While you may not need a Gantt chart or a budget for a job search, there are other documents that are essential to the process. First, there is the résumé or CV. Is it current and accurate? Have you let someone proofread it recently? Second, do you have copies of your school transcripts and proof of any certificates you hold, especially those certificates that pertain to the job, i.e., the Project Management Professional (PMP)® credential or any IT certifications? And most importantly, do you have a good list of references who know you and your work? Think about each person's familiarity with your skills and experiences, and who can sell you as a strong candidate for the position.

Put these items together in a binder with copies of any articles you have written or presentations you have given. In my experience, the interviewers were impressed with how I marketed myself and in most cases I was offered the job.

During the planning phase, you also should consider the scope of the positions that interest you. Do you need additional training or experience? Can you gain that experience through volunteer work or other non-paid jobs? Will additional certifications help to fill the gap? Having a well-defined scope will allow you to answer questions about any gaps in your knowledge or skills.

Step Three: Execution

First of all, be sure you are moving toward the execution phase in a timely manner set by your project plan. Spending too much time on initiation and planning will only elongate the job search. As with any project, time is money—every day you spend over the planned completion will mean more money lost in the process.

Your job search should be multidimensional. Leave no stone unturned—websites, job fairs and networking opportunities. This may include meetings with the local chapter of your professional associations or volunteering to lead pro bono projects for a not-for-profit.

When these tactics do eventually lead to an interview, keep some things in mind. Most importantly, always arrive early. Have an extra copy of the binder you prepared and ask the administrative assistant to give it to the people who will interview you before you even meet. This might allow them time to get acquainted with your experience before the interview.

It also can be helpful to gain feedback from the interview, especially if you do not believe it went well. This will help you in the next interview.

Step Four: Monitor and Control

At this point, you are spending time each day on your job search, and there are probably many lessons to be learned from your efforts. That is why it's important to spend time at the end of each day to make notes about what you did, what you need to do and what adjustments you can make so your job hunt is even more effective. Consider keeping a project journal, just as you would for any other endeavor you undertake.

If it takes you longer than expected to find a job, go back to the requirements. Are they too ambitious? Are you being too specific about your dream job?

Finally, have your requirements in your head when you go to the interview.


Chris Greco, PMP, is a program manager for the U.S. Social Security Administration in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, and is a retired U.S. Air Force officer.

Step Five: Closing

You can't close until you get the job, and unfortunately in today's still somewhat uncertain market, the process can be a long one. Once you have an offer in hand, however, there are still details to be worked out, including negotiating salary and benefits. In some cases, you may have to accept a lower salary to get into the sector you want, but don't fret. Doing so does not mean you will never get promoted. In addition, other employees will see you coming in at their rate, which can help you to gain credibility within the organization and then network within that structure.

By using distinct project management concepts, you too can win the job that you so badly need and want. PM

imgRAISE YOUR VOICE No one knows project management better than you, the practitioners “in the trenches.” so PM Network launched its voices on project Management column. Every month, project managers will share ideas, experiences and opinions on everything from sustainability to talent management, and all points in between. If you're interested in contributing, please send your idea to

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI.




Related Content