Successful Work Search requires Effective Management of a Major Project

Successful Work Search requires Effective Management of a Major Project

Over the years, I have worked with many Project Managers as their Career Coach. The key 5 components for any Project were recently shared with me by several Project Managers when I worked at a recent Toronto Chapter Career Day Event. Subsequent Coaching meetings with PMI Association members have emphasized the 5 components that lead to the successful closure of a project.

No matter if a Project Manager is managing a large IT or a construction project for one’s Job Search project, similar Project Management steps are required for completion of the project. As Project Managers, you must see projects from Project Conception and initiation to Closure. You must: 1) conceptualize the job that you are searching, 2) develop a plan of action, 3) begin and conduct the actual work search, 4) manage the daily search and 5) evaluate the progress of the search on an ongoing basis.

Please keep some of your Project Management skills in mind, when you set out to manage your new project, a successful job search.

1. Project conception and initiation
To start a job search, it is critical that you do an assessment of your skills and experience. What have you accomplished in your career, and what are your immediate and future goals? Consider what you have achieved – both academically and professionally. Evaluate the career path that you have taken so far – where would you like to go in terms of your career? Please consider what is important to you when you conduct your work search – your values, interests, motivations, salary expectations and preferred location? What size of an organization are you interested in working?

2. Project definition and planning
Now is the time to plan your job search project. Chart your plan of action that you will require to reach your goal. What timelines have you set for your work search? What research will you need to do? Will you need to meet people in your field – past employers, members of Associations, networking groups? What information will you need to research to become more knowledgeable about your field of interest, the work outlook and the demands of employers? What organizations are hiring and what will you need to do to effectively market yourself?

3. Project launch or execution
How many people will you meet every week in your job search? Recommendations are that expanding your professional network while maintaining contact with people in your existing network, are key to conducting an effective work search. Depending upon what statistics you read, between 70 -90% of people, looking for new jobs, succeed by tapping into their network; plan your time accordingly. With that in mind, what percentage or how much of your work search time will you focus on building and growing your network – both online and in person? All avenues should be used for your work search – job boards, and company postings. Make certain that your resume, markets your key achievements and results according to the employers to whom you have sent your
resumes. Have you test marketed your resume and cover letter to people in your professional network? Do you have success stories that you can share in upcoming job interviews?

4. Project performance and control
Like any project, compare the status of your plan that with the schedule that you set out for your Work Search project. Track your work search process to this point. Are you on schedule? Is your resume according to the expectations of employers for specific jobs? How is your confidence? Is there anything that you can do accelerate the progress of your work search? How many resumes have you sent out?

5. Project close
So your project has been a success and you have accomplished what you set out to do – you have found and secured work in your desired field. How would you evaluate your overall job search? How did you perform in your job interviews? What could you do differently?

After all search project tasks have been completed, you the client can evaluate the highlights and success of your
work search project. Like any project, you can learn what you have done well and what you would like to improve
– after the project is completed and you have secured your new work role.

Originally published on

A Car Accident, Parent Modeling, and Leadership in Companies

A Car Accident, Parent Modeling, and Leadership in Companies

A car accident that I had in early June, gave me the opportunity to observe how some parents model behaviour for their children, while at the same time, it gave me a better insight of the genuine concern and caring of people and how that may translate into leadership. As a result of my accident, I was able to observe how a Leader in the Business industry in Canada, who has sold over one billion dollars of products and services to Canadian businesses and consumers and is one of the top managed companies in Canada, presents one public image, while in his private time, shows a lack of empathy and disregard for others.

I learned how a young man, who was coached by his father, behaved after he had an accident with me. I observed how a leader mentors others and how his moral compass, behaviour, and care and empathy for others do not align with the public profile that he seeks to present. Through his son’s actions, I observed a father and leader who modeled inappropriate communication, no honesty and a lack of concern and care for others.

On June 5, 2017, I was in my car with my mother at a red light, 10:00 in the evening, waiting patiently, behind another car. Soon the light turned green, and without any reason, I was shocked and surprise to see the car ahead of me, back up towards my car with my mother and I inside, rather than go forward, as normally one would expect, when a traffic light changes from red to green.

Obviously, this small accident was not a pleasant experience; it could have been resolved quickly and amicably. However, the accident gave me the opportunity to observe a Business Leader’s behaviours. Through the emails that the son sent me, I observed a disregard for other persons.

Leaders need to model good behaviour and actions for their children and their teams inside their businesses – and on their private time. Failing to show concern for others on their private time, demonstrates a leader’s real lack of leadership skills.

Leadership is not only carried out Monday to Friday, when it is suitable to run a company. Good leadership qualities can or should be modeled by leaders to their children and others, on their private time, and not just during business hours.

A respected leaders and CEOs in business will Establish a Good Business Environment

A respected leaders and CEOs in business will Establish a Good Business Environment

Years ago, I was a substitute / supply teacher in public schools. My work in schools gave me an opportunity to learn more about leadership in schools which has given me a better understanding of leadership in business.

Visiting and working short-term in different schools, gave me the opportunity to make various observations of several schools including leadership within the schools. From listening and talking to teachers in their classrooms and in the lunch rooms, I was able to get a sense of what it was like working at that school. I learned about whether they liked their principal, if they were motivated to come to work every day and how much they enjoyed their work environment.

From different schools, I anecdotally noted that teachers who liked their principals were more likely to be motivated to go to work every day. Even as a temporary teacher for that school, I sensed what teachers were committed. From my observation, there is a strong correlation between principals who are respected and liked, and teachers who are dedicated in their work at the school. A principal who is able to lead by example and develop a mutual positive relationship with teachers, is able to develop a comfortable environment that teachers thrive in.

I believe that just like a respected principal of a school will build an effective school environment for learning, my belief is that the influence that a CEO or a Leader is immeasurable. The CEO or Leader also sets the “tone” for that organization. The CEO can model what type of environment is developed within organization and how well people work together.

If employees see a Leader / CEO or a principal is able to set a positive tone by interacting well with all members of the organization, a conducive environment to work will be created and all employees will be motivated to come to work and produce the best work they can.

Brian Epstein: Genuine Interest in Others

Brian Epstein: Genuine Interest in Others

I come from a small town. When I reflect about my upbringing, I often ask myself what is one thing that I learned from living in a small community that has helped me in business and working with others?

Without question, I believe that genuine interest and care that people have for others in a small town is transferrable to working in a small business. Generally, in a small town, people want to support other citizens and the people who live to them. People find a way to be collaborative with their neighbours and all the people that live and work in the community. All citizens realize that if they are friendly to one another, a conducive environment for living is created, and a town that operates well is established; people will be happy and enjoy living in that community.

In the same manner, if a friendly environment is created at work, and people feel comfortable and welcomed, colleagues will feel supported and have less stress. Therefore, when people are genuinely interested in other people, Management and employees will be more motivated to go to work. A very good environment will be created when all personnel show interest in one another. Ultimately, I believe good results and outcomes will happen when people are genuinely interested in one another.

Employers, here’s how to benefit in the aftermath of an election

Employers, here’s how to benefit in the aftermath of an election

Seven key skills that staffers bring when they leave the political workforce

In a few days, there will be an election in the Province of Ontario. And as Kathleen Wynne conceded over the weekend, that means there will soon be hundreds of Liberal political staffers — and a few MPPs — looking for work.

Now, if you’re not a fan of the Ontario Liberal government — and not a lot of people are right now — you’re probably not going to lose a lot of sleep if they’re voted out of office. If you’re a Liberal political staffer, you’ve probably already lost sleep — and you’re about to lose a lot more — as you try to figure out what to do next. But if you’re an employer, you should probably be very excited — though you may not know it yet — because a lot of very talented people are going to be available to you very soon.

That’s because political staffers come with lots of skills that are valuable to companies and leaders. Unlike officials in the bureaucracy, political staffers don’t have job security — they serve a minister or premier and get fired when their party loses an election. After an election loss, these highly skilled people all hit the workforce at the same time — creating a temporary smorgasbord of talent.

While private sector employers may not be aware of the qualities that political staffers bring, they are incredibly valuable. They include:

Work ethic: When your job depends on the government being re-elected, you have a built-in incentive to work as hard as possible to help your party succeed at the polls. So, political staff are used to working long hours and being on call — and doing whatever it takes to get the job done.

Communications skills: Politics is one of the biggest employers and incubators of communications talent. Again, when your job depends on persuading people, you get pretty good at crafting a message, managing issues and dealing with the media.

Analysis: Every day, even very junior political staffers give advice or make decisions involving millions of taxpayer dollars. To do this properly, staff need to be able to analyze the risks and rewards of a project from all sides. As a result, people who have made a career in politics usually have excellent decision-making skills.

Flexibility and adaptability: Consider all the branches of government – education, health care, infrastructure, transportation, natural resources, environment — each of these has its own dedicated ministry. Most political staffers have worked for multiple ministries, meaning they can quickly adapt to new files and new projects.

Fearlessness: Right away, political staffers are thrown into morning briefing meetings with government ministers and senior leaders — all the way up to and including the premier or prime minster. So even the most junior staffer has a lot of experience dealing with big personalities and high-stakes meetings. Policy staff, in particular, are used to high-level meetings with companies, governments and other stakeholders who work with the government.

Networks: Though you might think it was more advantageous to hire a staff person from the same party as the current governing party, it can be even smarter to hire staff from a party just out of power. In Ontario, where one party has been in charge for 15 years, staff turnover has meant that many former staffers now have key and senior positions in organizations all over Ontario. These people — thousands of them — are all connected through LinkedIn and Facebook. This massive and very loyal network can be helpful when you’re looking for a vendor or a contact or information about an issue — and they all have relationships with senior government bureaucrats.

In the next few weeks, when these talented people hit the market, some private sector employers will gloss over their resumes, thinking that they’re typical “government” workers. But that’s a mistake your competitors are going take advantage of. Bankers – take a good look at Finance ministry staff. Corporations and startups – kick the tires on some Economic Development staff. Run a clean-tech company? Environment staff. Universities? Education staff. And on and on it goes.

Originally published in the Financial Post.
Image: Financial Post

The CEO Whisperer: What Today’s Anxious Economy Needs

The CEO Whisperer: What Today’s Anxious Economy Needs

An earlier version of this article appeared in the National Post on August 30, 2017

Canada’s job market is booming and unemployment is at its lowest point in more than two years. So why are so many people, particularly senior executives, so nervous about the economy.

The anxiety is real, palpable and growing. A recent poll says that nearly half of all Canadians are more concerned about the economy than any other issue — 10 per cent more than at the end of last year.

Why so much anxiety? It’s true that global politics does not appear to be particularly stable right now, and there are always ups and downs in the markets, but most analysts say that overall the Canadian and much of the world economy is pretty strong. As someone who works closely with CEOs and high-performing professionals, I think I might have an answer to what’s on peoples’ minds.

I think a lot of the anxiety is because people now have wider access to information, but it’s harder and harder to process what they hear without objective, outside help.

At one time, people judged their economic security by what was happening in their community. Things may have seemed fine on the surface, but if the local firm laid off one of their neighbours, they got anxious. That was their network.

Now, it’s a much wider network, including the social  network. If one of our Facebook friends is laid off — even someone we barely know — we feel like it’s happening at home.

Blue-collar worker are now, sadly, used to the ebbs and flows of good and bad times. For CEOs and other high-performing professionals — whose job is to assess risk — the new networks make matters arguably worse.

Professionals usually live with the possibility that they could be reorganized or downsized at a whim. But that anxiety is amplified right now, thanks to political uncertainty in the United States, fluctuating commodity prices, climate change and lots of other factors outside most peoples’ control.

Often, what modern business leaders really need is an outside perspective — a “CEO whisperer” if you will. An experienced, professional version of someone who does not have a direct stake in every situation but can listen and give good advice.

A growing number of professional CEO whisperers provide this kind of advice.

In some cases, they are former business or political leaders who have stepped off the corporate ladder. Others are employment counsellors. When they do their jobs well, they provide objective opinions that can help people make better decisions when they’re worried about their jobs or what comes next.

The best professional advisors all share similar characteristics:

  • They use data — Good information is the best remedy for anxiety based on feelings or hunches. Look for an adviser who can analyze real risks and opportunities using data, not speculation based on rumours or vague impressions.
  • They can say No — Business leaders often find it hard to let go of the pet project that simply isn’t working, or to tell and underperforming unit that it’s time to pack it in. On the other side, it’s hard for employees, friends or colleagues to give their best advice to the CEO when their livelihood or relationship depends on the boss’ favour. Find someone on the outside who can look in, tell you when you’re wrong and has nothing to lose by doing so.
  • They can say Yes — Good ideas aren’t set in stone. Leaders sometimes need to test and validate their ideas in a safe place. They can benefit from talking to someone who doesn’t have a stake in a new idea, yet can listen and encourage. The best professional advisers act as a sounding board letting leaders bounce ideas around and raise concepts that may come out of left field, yet might work.
  • They identify strengths — Often, business leaders under pressure fixate on their weaknesses, while their strengths are hiding in plain sight. A good adviser can help leaders identify the best parts of their leadership style — what gets people to listen — and encourage them to develop these.
  • They give perspective — I often remind my own clients to stay grounded. I remind them that, in the end, what brings us security is not the precarious world of work, but our families, friends and community. What gives us strength are the people we love.

Perhaps it sounds trite or ironic — but sometimes the best person to help a CEO make better decisions in anxious times is someone who can objectively and dispassionately listen — and be a CEO whisperer.