Projects: Accomplishing Complex Work in Entry-Level Positions|
Entry level positions and internships can be challenging at first and often we find ourselves twiddling our thumbs and racking our brain for ideas of how to chalk up experience when our primary duties consist of answering the phone and refilling the coffee pot. Projects are an excellent mechanism for achieving positive results in your position without asking for a major commitment, job change, or promotion from your boss.
- Take a class or enroll in a certificate or master’s program that aligns with your career goals in the industry. This initiative shows that you are invested in your work and that you are ambitious. Utilize requirements for class as an excuse to take on a new project.
- Pitch an idea to your supervisor or ask if they have any specific needs. I explained to my boss that in order to graduate from my program, I needed to manage a project in the healthcare field. She offered more than I bargained for: a chance to present my project proposal to our ten division managers. I was able to attend the morning executive meeting and rather than just asking if anyone needed help, I passed out a one page summary of the project timeline, my interests and how I could be of service.
Set personal and organizational goals:
- The goal is to be an asset, rather than indulge oneself in an entertaining project. Managers, opposed to executives, tend to have a number of projects they would gladly hand off. I made it clear that I wanted to help with major needs in their divisions, which was appealing to this group. Together, I worked with two managers to craft a project that was a crucial need for them and an interest for me. Be open to anything. Even if it may not be your primary interest, you are acquiring a skill.
- In the same token, try to gear projects towards jobs or positions you would want in the future. My goal is to be a generalist in my industry so that I can one day take on a major leadership role, thus I want to get a taste of everything. Since my first major project focused on marketing, it was a chance to get my feet wet and acquire marketing knowledge and expertise.
- Write a project proposal or learning contract that summarizes the project goals and deliverables and run it by your supervisor and your project sponsors. It will show that you are organized, serious about the project and that you take initiative. Open yourself up to feedback on the proposal.
Invest in the right people:
- Reach out to stakeholders in your organization. Stakeholders are coworkers or business affiliates whose division or company could benefit from your project and who will be of assistance in the project’s development and completion. My faculty advisor suggested a number of key players in our organization of 13,000 employees who would be able to give me guidance and would want to see my project through to the end. They were lead directors and it was an excellent opportunity to get on their radar and work directly with them.
Keep track of your accomplishments:
- As you take on more projects and accomplish positive outcomes, keep a list of your projects and add them to your Linkedin profile and resume. The ”Current Projects’ section of my resume now encompasses half of the document. These projects may turn out to be your selling point as a prospective employee, rather than your job title and general duties.
- Utilize data from your projects. As you begin a project, analyze the current system and what you are changing. Keep track of the improvements and changes in processes that your project aims to advance and compile this information into one sentence after a project is completed. It is even better if you can identify percentages and numbers as evidence. When you interview for a job you can utilize the concrete data to show how you helped the organization improve.
- Take a course in project management. Some organizations offer them free to their employees or you can enroll in a certification program at a local university. If you’d like to get a less expensive jump on it, purchase The Fast Forward MBA in Project Management by Eric Verzuh for the quick and dirty on the best practices, tools and tricks for project management.
Stuck on how to start a project and don’t feel like you can approach your boss? Start small and organize office events ‘” a retreat, a staff volunteer day, or a competition to encourage staff to sign up for a community walk. These kinds of acts show initiative and your supervisor will note that you want to do more.
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