An Agile Approach to Your Job Search: Produce Something, Get Some Feedback

Produce Something

When we last spoke, you had a board and a ranked list of todos. Now, it’s time to apply your agile mindset to your todos and use your board to help you do so.

Remember when I asked you to make each of your todos small, so you could accomplish each of them in a couple of hours or less? That was so you could do something, and then get feedback on it. If that something is your resume, great. If that something is some networking, excellent. If that something is asking for references or recommendations, even better. Maybe that something is your photo on LinkedIn.

Yes, I’m going to drive you all nuts with the photo on LinkedIn. There is no excuse for you not having a photo on LinkedIn, and I do not understand why people looking for jobs do not have a smiling photo on LinkedIn. So there. Take the darn picture and post it already. Remember, the agile mindset is not about perfection; it’s about doing something and getting some feedback. Just do not take pictures of your private parts. Take a picture of your smiling face, please.

So, look at your board. What is the first sticky on your board? Take your first sticky. Move it to the “In progress” column on your board. Now, do it. When you’ve finished it, finish reading this post.

When you’ve finished the sticky, move the sticky to the “Done” column. That’s it. Here are some examples. Let’s assume the sticky was “Revise resume” and the next sticky is “Email resume to Becky for feedback.” You will move the Email sticky into the “In progress column until you actually send the email, and then you may move it into the “Done” column. No moving any stickies into the “Done” column unless you are actually done, please.

You can see where I’m going with this, I bet. The board makes all your work visible. You can use cards, if you prefer. I like stickies because they are colorful. If you like, you can use one color for resume-related work, one color for networking, one color for meetings, etc. I would get confused. I just use yellow stickies, because I like yellow.

If you make all the work take two hours or less per task, you are more likely to finish a task when you start it. You are less likely to multitask and get confused. “Where was I? Was I revising my resume? Browsing Monster? Networking on LinkedIn? Where was I?” You do not want that. You want to focus all of your time, so that you use all of your time wisely. Looking for a job is difficult work.

If you make a phone call and do not get through, you can either mark the call as done, or do what I do, which is make a note on the sticky, of the time I called, and put the sticky back on the todo list, which means I have a note of the dates and times I called this person. I can decide if it’s worth calling this person yet again, or if this person is a dead end and I should call someone else instead. Or, if I should use another approach to contact him/her. I have the data at my fingertips, literally.

Try this for a week and see what happens

As you work through this for a week, here are some suggestions for a week. Start your week on a Wednesday. There is a great reason to not start your week on a Monday. We are human. If we have not been diligent about our todos, we tend to want to “make up” the time on the weekend to catch up the time on the weekend for Monday. I don’t want you to do that. Be honest with yourself. If you did not do the work, admit it. It’s your job search, not mine. You’re the only one who is going to have the problem, not me. I will have some suggestions in the “Avoid These Traps” and the “Build Your Self Esteem” posts (not yet written).

Get Some Quantitative Feedback

One piece of feedback is to chart how many of your tasks you actually accomplish during the week and when you accomplish them. In agile terms, this is called a burnup chart.

You can use a chart like the one below as a start at looking at how many tasks you complete during a week and over time.

Basic burnup chart for an agile job search

On the top, you look at the number of tasks you complete each day. At the same time each day—whether it’s at the beginning of the day or the end—count the number of tasks you completed. You should have some days with zero in them. You are supposed to take a day or two off each week. I don’t know which days those are though, which is why there are seven days up there.

Here is an example, when you have completed tasks the very first week, on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. Count the cumulative tasks completed under each day. Once you know the days you take off, assuming they are the same days each week, disregard those days. Let’s assume I take off Saturday each week. I look for a job six days a week, and take Saturday off. But the only thing I do on Sunday is to look through the Sunday paper and catch up with my LinkedIn networking, anything I haven’t done during the week. So even though I work on my job search six days a week, my Sunday tasks are light. That means I have a significant dip in the middle of the week.

First week of a Burnup chart for an agile job search

As you count the number of tasks done each day, see if you have days with more tasks done and days with fewer tasks done. Are there reasons for that? Maybe you’re looking for a job while you have a job. Maybe you have big todos that you could not manage to break your into chunks that are small enough to complete in one day? Maybe you have days with job fairs—that’s a day with just one task, the job fair. You should expect the number of tasks per day to vary a little, but not too much. If your tasks vary a lot, work on your task breakdown when you plan each week. If your todos are too large, you will be overwhelmed with your job search and you will be less successful in your job search.

Agile provides with you with the ability to see your work in progress, and the ability to get feedback on your work. The larger your chunks of work, the less ability you have to see your work in progress and the less feedback you can get. So make your todos as small as you can reasonably make them.

On the bottom, are the weeks of your job search. Since all the tasks are supposed to be relatively small, you want to just count the number of todos. No, the tasks are not normalized, so those of you math or scientific types are saying, “JR, what are you thinking? Some of these are longer and some are shorter?” They are. Live with it. Make all your tasks shorter and they will be closer to normalized.

The number of todos per week should be relatively consistent, week to week. Sure, especially as you learn to use agile, you might find that you have trouble estimating what you can do in a week. But by the time you have tried this for 6-7 weeks, you should have a pretty good idea of what you can accomplish in one week. So look at what you accomplish in a week, and see if it’s consistent from week to week. If not, that’s feedback on what you are planning and what you are completing.

If you decide to plug this into a spreadsheet, you will be able to calculate and graph your progress. Decide if you need that much feedback. The data is there if you need it.

The point of the lower graph is feedback for you. If your job search is stalled, look at your numbers. Does the data say anything to you? Are you performing the same number of tasks? Maybe you don’t have to, but that’s the first place to start. Quantitative data is the first place you want to check for feedback—it’s easiest and it’s available to you.

Ask for Qualitative Feedback

As you work through the week, ask for feedback as you finish your tasks. Ask your family, friends, colleagues, fellow networkers. Are you finishing your work faster? Are you responding faster to their requests? Are you accomplishing what you wanted to accomplish? Are you happier or more content with your job search?

It’s difficult to be happy during a job search. People often feel that it’s a time of great chaos because it is a time of great change and uncertainty. And, if you feel that you are taking steps forward, you may feel less discontent, even if you don’t feel happy. So, ask for some feedback from your family and colleagues as you work through this week.


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  1. Saswati

    I’ve been trying to hire using different techniques, but I can’t seem to get it right. People come through the door, and walk out in a short while. I’ve tried salary raises, better infrastructure, different management approaches, but I can’t seem to find people who “get it”. Anyone here have any ideas on how I can find my people?

  2. Anuttama

    Interesting that you should post a comment like this. Google “”look beyond resumes”” and the site that comes up is what I’m currently working on. We faced a similar issue like yours and we decided to try and take a crack at changing this.

    What we’ve done is completely abandon the classical “”resume”” and we’re trying to get a sense of the person even before we make a call or an interview.
    It has helped immensely in getting us the right set of people.

    And what’s more, we’ve identified that hiring that is driven by skills and experience is just not working any more. It’s how you groom someone who aligns with your vision that matters. “

  3. Shyam

    Great effort guys! I wish your concept grows and helps a lot of people wake up.


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