This issue’s topic: HOW TO JUMPSTART A STALLED CAREER: Develop a Project Mentality
A surefire way to invigorate your career, job search, or volunteer work is to treat each activity you do as a project. Anything – from mundane, routine tasks to a complex, once-in-a-career assignments – when treated as a project, can jump-start a stalled career or translate taken-for-granted activities into marketable skills.
Projects force you to think of your work in units. Projects have beginnings, purposes, goals, and results. By treating your work as projects, you can describe outcomes and determine effectiveness. You can tell how you or your team made or saved money, influenced customer satisfaction, reduced errors, and met deadlines and budgets. Knowing the impact of your work and understanding how you add value to individual or team projects increases your satisfaction and opportunities for advancement.
What’s Your Project Mentality?
To determine your project mentality, answer yes or no to each statement below:
- I treat at least 50% of my work as projects.
- I can describe one new project I’ve worked on in the last six months.
- I know how I add value to a team project.
- I am known by colleagues and friends for specific projects or skills.
- I can name three things I’ve learned that move me toward projects or prospects.
- I have turned a small, routine task into a noteworthy project in the last year.
- I seek opportunities to work on projects with my colleagues.
To score, add up the yeses:
7=Project Maniac – Wow!; 5-6=Project-focused; 3-4=Project-minded; 1-2=Just getting in gear; 0=Wake up! Opportunities are whizzing by.
Keep track of your tasks. Name and list your “projects.” For each, list its: 1) Purpose or goals; 2) Outcome or how it made a difference, 3) Your role in it, 4) Feedback from others, 5) What you learned, and 6) The key people you worked with. Then save and assemble samples of your work in a portfolio for use at review time or for job interviews.
Carl sold supplemental Medicare insurance for older adults. His company expanded into small-town areas southeast of St. Louis. They had no plan for developing new territory. Carl scouted the town by car after visiting the Chamber of Commerce, studied at the yellow pages, and developed a strategy for identifying potential customers. He documented his strategy, tracked his results, fine-tuned his approach, and wrote a summary of his work, graphing the outcomes of his efforts in number of policies sold and sales revenues. His colleagues and supervisor were so impressed that they asked him to teach this method to the sales team for other areas.
Linda, an operations manager who felt underemployed and underpaid in her job, tried twice unsuccessfully to get a promotion. On the advice of her career consultant, she began treating some of her routine tasks as projects. Instead of just rotely submitting her monthly activity reports, she changed the format to include an executive summary that highlighted results in the form her boss respected: time and money saved, areas of greatest activity, and prospective new clients. This format caught the attention of her boss, and six months later Linda was promoted.
Carolyn, mother of two, had been out of the paid workforce for seven years. Now that her children were older, she planned to get back to paid work part-time. She felt she’d lost her skills. But after preparing a portfolio that highlighted her writing, event-planning and fundraising achievements (including coordinating a fund-raiser to finance a choir trip to Ireland), Carolyn felt confident enough to begin exploratory interviews.
The examples above show how three people applied a project approach to everyday tasks and got results. Imagine the greater impact of this mentality when applied consistently and in successive projects! How will you apply this principle in your career?
Thanks to the following people for referrals:
Bronwen DiAntonio, Pat Openlander, and Lori Feldman.
- Daniela Petkova is teaching Advanced Spanish in the World Languages Department at Ursuline Academy.
- Anne Clift has begun her new job as an Architectural Products Specialist at CI Select.
- Stacey Phillips is working at Nieman Marcus as a Sales Associate, Dress Collections.
- Kim Royer is Assistant Children’s Librarian, Richmond Heights Public Library.
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