I have always considered myself to be an organized person. I write everything down and rarely let things slip through the crack. However, there are times when even the most put-together people make mistakes. My first job out of college was as a recruiter. I started off slowly, only contacting people who had been pre-screened by management, but after a while the workload for the company became so much that I got to find my own recruits. The contracts I was staffing were as large as 500 people, and I’m sure you can imagine the workload that goes into something like that (even with a team of three of us it took months to feel like we were making progress). None of that may seem relevant, but what’s important to remember about recruiting – especially when you’re doing it on your own with few guidelines – is that you have to keep track of everything. There should be a plan in place so you know exactly what you’re looking for.
There was one specific contract that came our way, and I was the acting lead recruiter, and my “team” was me and three other people. Had I known what I know now about managing any kind of project, I would have done things quite differently. There was no plan created from the beginning. I did not sit down with anybody to talk about what we were looking for, what keywords we should use, there were no tracking spreadsheets, and it was all-around disorganized. It turned out that a few of us had been contacting the same people (I’m sure they felt as though they were getting bombarded). Planning, organizing, and controlling are three main components of a project manager’s job (Portney et al., 2008, pp. 3-4). On my own, I felt like I had those three things under control, but with no experience in leading any kind of project, I severely slacked on the planning and organizing portions when it came to my team. I wanted everybody to jump in head first because I didn’t want us to fall behind on such a large task, but looking back, that was not the way to go.
There were some aspects that turned out to be successful, such as the fact that a few weeks into the recruiting process we finally were on the same page, had come up with position descriptions to send to candidates, and came up with a plan for which members of the team would recruit for certain positions (instead of us all trying to do everything). While everything turned out okay in the end (although I should add – it’s been over two years since I left that job and last I heard that contract still isn’t fully staffed), I learned so much from my mistakes. Although I felt like we got a head start by jumping in, in reality we lost time due to everyone’s confusion – which was my fault. We should have spent a day making the plan. Defining the scope of the task and assigning roles and responsibilities would have started us off on track, and instead of losing time later trying to figure it all out, we could have hit the ground running.
Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.