Tech & Work

Using the project management iron triangle to choose a job search tool

I spent last week pondering the esoterica of career management and role

matching. Although I find such things a great deal of fun, they do not

meet the short-term goal of finding me a job sometime before year's end.

Addressing that challenge involves putting theory into practice. In this

case, it means getting organized so that I didn't accidentally double or

triple (or more) submit to a job via network contacts, recruiters,

professional associations, and things as prosaic as job boards.

I spent a few minutes this morning envisioning what a good tool set

would look like. The tool set would contain ways of threading email and

voice conversations together, build calendar entries from suggested

appointment times, keep track of who was connected into which

organizations, and allow me to aggregate leads in a timely fashion. In

an ideal world it would be entirely graphical, so my poor picture-driven

mind could handle the data. It would also update information from the

various job sites, each of which relies on its own internal database to

record your information.

To further constrain the search, I have both limited time and very

limited resources. After all, I'm not here to develop software (though

there seems to be a market here) but rather to find a job myself. So,

let's fix the software budget at under $50 total and fix the time to

less than one week of development or training.

So, in formal language I have:

  1. Time fixed at less than one week

    of invested effort – I have to meet my basic needs in that time or

    the project fails
  2. Resources fixed at one person (me)

    and under $50 for expenses – I really cannot get anyone else to do

    the job and I don't have much more money.
  3. Functions which would take a

    concerted development effort to build – looks like a nice product

    if it existed.

With two-sides of the iron triangle fixed, I decided to cut down on my

functional requirements. What did I absolutely need, what fell into the

nice to have category, and what could I really live without.

In the “need to have” category come threaded conversations and the

ability to track which jobs I've applied to, who either networked me

into that job or will act as a referral, the contact information to

follow up on the lead, and the lead's status. Without these I cannot

adequately execute on my current task.

The “nice to have” category includes the automatic event generation,

lead aggregation, the ability to thread together multiple conversation

types, and updating from various sites automatically.

The “live without” category came to include my favorite features.

Graphical interfaces of the mind-map variety have never been overly

popular. Normalizing the data from the various websites would also

probably have to wait for me to hire a developer with my non-existent

venture capital.

So, what to do?

For me, for now at least, the answer looks like Google. They have both

mail and an integrated calendar; the later includes a nice map feature

which helps me to keep track of where I need to go. I also built a

workbook on Google Spreadsheets using the company name as the key on one

page and contact name as the key on another – it's no database but when

I get around to it I'll import it into OpenOffice. Establishing a good

set of keys and table structure will save me time later on. As an added

benefit the Google elements all come with built-in collaboration, a

definite plus which I didn't initially anticipate.

For graphical mapping I pulled down FreeMind; it's not perfect but it's

definitely a good place to start. If I can figure out how to integrate

it into Google (or into a back-end database) I may be cooking with fire.

Assuming, that is, I can do it by the end of the week while taking care

of everything else and not going over budget.

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