Your Clients Need a Job Search Project Plan- Here’s Why!

By Paul Cecala

Project management principles provide a strategic method for job searching and are especially helpful for clients that cannot get started. This offers a road map with metrics and shows progress by giving clear steps towards employment. It offers career practitioners a tangible tool, clarifies areas of client need, and includes built-in accountability for sessions with clients. Sometimes, clients might get frustrated with their job search.  An example is a communications expert with a splendid work history and excellent experience could not get her job search started. She was overwhelmed and at a loss for what to do, so she sought the help of a career professional.

It is the role of a career services professional to provide clients with all the best tools they can to support a successful job search. Additionally, with the proliferation of the gig/consulting economy, it could be beneficial for all job seekers to become good project managers especially as they pursue the next steps in their career. Incorporating the methodology of project management into their job search makes sense for both the client and the career professional.

Project management principles provide a framework for creating a plan, identifying key mid-point accomplishments, and measuring success towards the goal of employment (Project Management Institute, 2021). Clients find this useful because they offer a logical progression of tangible action steps with simple metrics. By using project management tools like a Gantt Chart and metrics dashboard, clients can easily see their progress, strengths, and deficits and work with the career professional to identify corrective actions.

What does a Job Search Project Plan look like?

A job search project plan has two phases with eight milestones toward goal attainment.

Phase 1 – The Preparation Phase has four milestones and should take about four weeks of full-time effort. The client builds the foundations of their job search, establishing work goals and purpose, identifying target employers, researching those employers, and developing branding/marketing materials. In her book, Targeting a Great Career, Kate Wendleton suggests these four activities as essential in conducting an effective job search (Wendleton, 2014).

Phase 2 – The Active Job Search Phase is the daily grind of networking, applying for jobs, and interviewing. It encompasses three milestones. There is a progression to networking that emphasizes conversations with hiring authorities and when done well, leads to interviews. By measuring key activities of networking, it is easier to identify which efforts are producing results and which are not, as well as what the client needs to do more or less of.

Figure 1 depicts a generic Gantt Chart with seven major milestones defined. Clients are encouraged to modify and personalize this by adding the smaller steps within each of the milestones, as necessary.

Milestone completion dates are included to give the client something to strive towards. For example, some clients might get stuck revising their resume, constantly seeking the perfect resume at the expense of a “good enough” resume, With the charted projected completion dates, the career practitioner can keep the client moving their search forward. Of course, as with all project plans, this is a living document open to revision based on conditions. Using such a progress chart, clients feel accountable, like a “boss” pushing them to keep things moving towards project completion.

Figure 1

Job Search Project Gantt Chart

Cecala Figure 1

Job Search Project Gantt Chart © Cecala Career Consultants, all rights reserved (Cecala, 2023, May)


The eighth milestone defines some job search progress metrics and utilizes a dashboard for tracking those metrics. Figure 2 is a sample dashboard. It too can be modified to the activities that the client and career practitioner believe to be most important in a successful and efficient job search. The key is for clients to measure their activities to determine which are working and which need adjusting.

Not getting enough interviews? Talk to more hiring authorities. Not conducting enough hiring authority conversations to generate interviews? Network with more people who can introduce you to those hiring authorities, and so on.


Figure 2

Sample Project Management Dashboard

Cecala Figure 2
 (Cecala, 2023, May)

Value to Clients

Clients have reported they find this methodology extremely helpful. The process provides a clear progression of actionable steps to take in a prescribed order. It is the road map needed to prevent a scatter-shot approach in their job search (Cecala, 2023, October). It offers a plan to ensure clients reach all potential employers in each target market. It provides a specific set of deliverables or metrics the client can track and suggests strategic changes to the daily and weekly activities and goals of their job search.

For example, a 25-year-old client recently laid off by Microsoft, got the job from an on-campus college career fair and had no idea how to conduct a job search for his next job. Using this project management methodology with a career practitioner, he accomplished each milestone, including. branding materials in about 10 weeks and eight sessions. He worked diligently and by the seventh session had completed significant networking and was in the interview process with three different employers for four distinct positions. Five weeks later he was negotiating with two employers to get the best possible offer. He landed a dream position at Google.

Value to Career Practitioners

This methodology can be used in a variety of ways to promote and grow one’s career services practice. First, it can help a practitioner to clarify clients’ needs for success and determine the deficits in their job search process. It gives both clients and   practitioner a plan or map for how coaching sessions will proceed with clear goals for each session. Anecdotally, my own experience with clients is that a significant percentage of them attain employment within three to five months using this type of methodology.

The Efficiencies of Project Management Methodologies

By following a systematic step-by-step approach, the job search progress is clear. The client and practitioner know exactly what needs to happen next. There is no ambiguity. It provides measurable goals for accountability to the job seeker and their career practitioner. Finally, it is a tangible tool for the practitioner to offer their clients. Career practitioners in a variety of settings, such as private practice, colleges, One Stop Career Centers, etc. might want to consider this or other project management methodologies for their clients as a means to secure employment as quickly and efficiently as possible.




Cecala. P. (2023, May 30). - 4 metrics to track to land your next job faster. Cecala Career Consultants. www.cecalacareer.com/career-advice-blog/4-metrics-to-track-to-land-your-next-job-faster

Cecala, P. (2023, October 5). Stop scatter shooting your job search, start targeting. Cecala Career Consultants. www.cecalacareer.com/career-advice-blog/stop-scatter-shooting-your-job-search-start-targeting

Project Management Institute. (2021). PMBOK Guide (7th Ed.).

Wendleton, K. (2014). Targeting a great career. Course Technology.



Paul CecalaPaul Cecala, BS, GCDF, is the principal at Cecala Career Consultants, LLC. He earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and has 24 years of experience as a career coach helping more than 4,000 individuals find career success. Known as the “project planning” career coach, he has taught over 1,000 seminars and workshops on conducting successful job searches. He can be reached at www.cecalacareer.com. Follow him at: https://www.linkedin.com/company/cecala-career-consultants.

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Libby Scanlan   on Monday 03/04/2024 at 08:15 AM

Paul, I love this approach to the job search. It is an overwhelming process and to break it down into actionable steps where clients can see their progress, even when they haven't gotten a job offer yet, is invaluable. Thanks for writing this-I plan to dig deeper!!

Paul Cecala   on Monday 03/04/2024 at 08:46 AM

Thanks, Libby.
I will happily discuss it further with you, if you wish.

Sharon Allen   on Tuesday 03/05/2024 at 01:30 PM

This looks like an easier way to facilitate practical solutions when working with people who are job seeking.

Paul Cecala   on Tuesday 03/05/2024 at 02:42 PM

Thanks, Sharon.
That has been my experience in using it for nearly a dozen years now.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the comments shown above are those of the individual comment authors and do not reflect the views or opinions of this organization.