Gantt Charts to Plan and Execute your Job Search Strategy!

• Has your job search hit a plateau?
• Do you wonder if you are on track?
• Would you like a more efficient way to track your progress?

Job search may be one of the most complex, projects, you will ever need to manage!

Jump start your Job Search, by getting a realistic view of what you have been doing. Learn the secrets which professional, project managers, have been using for years.  Gantt Charts can help you track your progress, analyze gaps and set new goals.

As a global career counselor and business skills instructor, I taught a wide-range of Professional Business Skills courses for Technology, Business and Medical professionals. One of my most popular courses was was Project Management for business professionals. This course was a core requirement for all of the students at our college. Students learned how to create Gantt Charts to track activities, manage multiple projects and measure their efficacy. I reviewed many interesting student projects from “organizing a surprise birthday party,” to “starting a business.” Using a Gantt Chart, enables you to conceptualize a project and break it into manageable chunks.

As an MBA Career Counselor, I teach clients about job search strategy and help them formulate a customized, career action plan. This includes providing intensive counseling and educational support for clients who've lost their jobs. Recently, I was contemplating how to do this complex task more efficiently. I suddenly had an “aha” moment. Why not use Gantt charts for a client’s job search? Isn’t job search a complex project? If so, then project management methodologies would be very useful.

5 Main advantages to using Gantt charts for your Job Search Strategy
1. Job and task sequencing (understand what needs to be done)
2.  Development of daily, weekly, monthly calendars
3. Processing idle periods and staying on track
4. Simplify the flow of deliverables and activities due-date assignment/keep yourself accountable
5.  Track your job search Performance and schedules

Definition: Gantt Charts are important tools that can help you plan and manage complex projects.

You can visually see the order in which tasks need to be carried out; identify crucial resources and the times when these resources will be needed the most. This is called the "critical path" method of project management. For a job search, there are many critical and sequential steps and many deadlines for job applications, and postings. Gantt Charts help you to monitor whether the project is on schedule. If it is not, they help you to pinpoint the remedial action necessary to put it back on schedule.

Sequential and parallel activities: In project planning (Critical Path Analysis) some activities are dependent on other activities and must be done in a certain sequence. This is similar to creating a book report outline, after writing the book report. Many of us were guilty of doing this in grammar school. Since part of the grade was dependent of handing in the outline, we just created an outline after the fact. Often, we didn’t understand how the outline, created a succinct framework to guide the book report. Many job seekers, in a panic, just dive into the deep end of a job search. However, without a strategy or a plan, the search often lacks focus and direction and can derail. Also, if the wrong strategy is employed, there may not be much of a response from employers and this can be damaging to a job seekers’ self esteem.

This is not surprising when you learn that less than 5% of North American’s ever receive training in job search. Don’t let your next job be random! For each job search activity, ask yourself if is it sequential/linear or nondependent/parallel? Do you have to hold off on going to a networking event, because you also want to talk to your neighbor, who may have some contacts in your field? No. These tasks are not dependent on each other and can be done “parallel” or concurrently.

How to get started: good online resources. The Mind Tools website lists the steps below to get you started (see info in italics).

Step 1. Create a “task list”, like a shopping list of all activities you will need to complete in your Career Action or Job Search Plan. Below is a task list I helped a client develop. This client was working on career exploration and was planning a major career transition.

My sample Task List... *(for career exploration and career transition)
1. Career Transition. Find a career counselor who is licensed to administer and interpret tests. Take a valid and reputable career tests to explore your interests and skills. 
2. Review your career values, skills, motivators with your counselor.
3. Detailed analysis of core competencies week 3 
4. Research career paths which fit your unique skills (use the database provided with the career test)
5. Chose 1 or 2 industries, specify 3 functional roles, identify 3-5 potential job titles of interest,
6.Research companies, identify 1 or 2 target industries, identify 5+ functional skills and identify 3-5 job titles.

Step 2. Input your task list into an Excel Spreadsheet. For each column of the spreadsheet: list the tasks, the start times, the estimated length of time to complete and earliest start date. Is the task sequential or can it be done parallel with other activities? More info from the Mind Tools website

Step 3. Use graph paper with the days or weeks and list all the tasks required

Step 4. Plot the tasks onto the graph paper. Indicate when each task begins, starting on the earliest possible date. Draw it as a bar, with the length of the bar being the length of the task. Above the task bars, mark the time taken to complete them. Schedule them in such a way that sequential actions are carried out in the required sequence. Ensure that dependent activities do not start until the activities they depend on have been completed.

Note: your Gantt chart and subsequent project management diagram, doesn’t need to be fancy or complex to be effective. However, your Excel spreadsheet and Chart will need to include the following columns: Task, Start time, Length of time to complete, Resources and type (sequential or parallel)

Check out the Gantt Chart tutorial on the Purdue University website. This online tutorial enables you to  create a Gantt Chart without purchasing “Chart Wizard” software. 

Learning how to create a Gantt chart is a skill which can be added to your job search toolkit. You can even go low tech and draw a chart or print a chart and fill in the blanks. Some people who are tactile learners, like to create a basic diagram on paper and use index cards with Velcro on the back to plan the tasks. This gives them the flexibility to interact with their chart, in a physical way.

In Summation: Gantt Charts can help you execute a stellar, Job Search
(according to Mind
• Help you to plan out the tasks that need to be completed
• Give you a basis for scheduling when these tasks will be carried out
• Allow you to plan the allocation of resources needed to complete the project, and
• Help you to work out the critical path for a project where you must complete it by a particular date.
• When a project is under way, Gantt Charts help you to monitor whether the project is on schedule.

I'd love to hear which job search or technology tools are your favorites!

Author: © 2010 - All Rights Reserved - Sharon B. Cohen, MA,Dip.Educ, CPRP, Career Counselor and Career Transition Specialist. Read all my Blog postings at

In Atlanta in 2010? Attend a Job-Search Workshop Feb 2 St. Joseph's Catholic Church. Email me for more details

1 comment:

  1. PM Hut 3 months ago

    This is the first time I've seen Gantt Charts put to such use.


    Sharon B. Cohen 3 months ago in reply to PM Hut

    Thank you. This is definitely a non-traditional use of Gantt Charts and Project Management.

    Using Gantt Charts, with my individual clients is really eye-opening. Often, clients come to me because their job search has stalled and they aren't sure why? Using a comprehensive, Gantt chart, allows me to conduct a "gap analysis for clients." Then, we can pinpoint specific, job-search strategies which require remediation, education and implementation