by Samantha Read, Head Editor, INALJ New Brunswick
Project Management and the Job Interview
These days you’ll see a lot of job titles with “Project Manager” in either the title itself or as a major function of the duties of the position. Similarly to Interpersonal Skills, Project Management is one of those transferrable skills we all may have, to one degree or another, but might not even realize it.
Although project management is often overlooked, it’s the driving force behind any venture. Effective project management can push a project to the fullest of its potential, creating work that surpasses expectations. On the other hand, poor project management can stall productivity or kill a project entirely.
Whether or not you hold the official title of project manager, chances are you’ll be called upon to lead some sort of project at some time. From initiating a procedural change in your department to implementing the Electronic Records Management Software, or starting and implementing a seed library at your workplace, projects come in all shapes and sizes.
You may be asked about your project management skills in an interview, so you might want to consider some of the projects, large or small, that you’ve been involved in. Like interpersonal skills, your experience in project management might not involve a direct connection to the library and information studies field, but is most certainly still applicable. It is one of those areas where the most amount of transferrable experience might come from your volunteer experiences.
Simply put, project management is the process and activity of planning, organizing, motivating, and promoting procedures, protocols and events to achieve specific goals. When initiating a project, it is a good idea to prepare a formal project plan outlining all of the human resources, steps to be accomplished and deadlines involved. In this plan, you may wish to include your organization’s mandate to remind participants of their goals in the accomplishing the project. Other elements, such as expenses and revenues, must also be included.
Another important aspect to managing a project is managing your time. Ah, time, that finite resource we all have to work with on a daily basis. If, as project manager, you are collaborating with people, it might be reasonable to expect that your initial project deadlines serve as a guideline only. One of the most important elements of successful project management is flexibility, and taking into consideration that others may use time differently than yourself is key to achieving your goals while maintaining that spirit of collaboration and teamwork between yourself and your colleagues.
In short, a project plan can help organize your project’s deployment and help to get it up and running. If this plan is followed, edited and monitored throughout the duration of the project, the outcomes may surpass project goals and be considered a success.
Certainly, not every project that you plan as a librarian or information professional will succeed. In an interview, it is always a good idea to reflect upon your mistakes and outline how you might do things differently based on your experiences. Lessons learned through unexpected or uncontrollable factors while managing a project might be a good way to answer that ever-cited “What are your weaknesses?” interview question. You may have discovered, for example, that you need to improve upon your delegating or communication skills. Projects often involve a team of people, and so your team building and working skills will undoubtedly be a factor in your ability to successfully lead a project to term.