New Year, Old Program-Tips for Program Managers

Program Management

It’s January; time to muster excitement for that program or project you inherited. It’s not a bad program. The people who work on the project are okay.  The problem is that this program has been with the organization since the beginning of time (or so it seems).

It runs smoothly and has good participation, but why would you want to go in and simply follow the steps laid out by the many predecessors before you? You want to make the program your own without discounting all of the great work that made it a “good” program.

But how?! It is established and no one within the organization is asking any questions.

You can gain some ownership over an inherited program and look for opportunities to update and refresh something that is not broken.

Here are a few strategies that can help.

  1. Host a kick off session. It is easy to assume that because a program has been with an organization for years, everyone within the organization understands what the purpose of the program is and how it operates. That is simply not true. Use this kick off session as an opportunity to gauge the organization’s understanding of the program. This opens the door for questions and allows you and your team an opportunity to resolve misconceptions about the program. If staff are confused about certain elements, I guarantee you the community you serve has some of the same questions.
  1. Assess the program’s alignment with the organizations’ goals, mission, and vision. A flagship program that runs well can be a blessing and a curse. It is great that it is not an issue but it may not have grown or evolved with the organization.  Assessing alignment can help you create an action plan for the next program year.
  1. Discuss evaluation throughout the program-planning phase. Evaluating a program should never be an afterthought and must be more than an obligatory, online survey sent to program participants.  Convene a group of staff to discuss evaluation during the preparation stage and task them with leading regular discussions around program evaluation.

You are good at what you do. Do not let an inherited or established program change your approach.

Respecting Your References: Don't Make Them AfterThoughts

Happy New Year! For everyone resolved to find a new position in 2015, here is the single greatest tip I can give you with regard to references for success in the New Year: Reach out to them BEFORE using their name.

The initial application process for many companies now includes a request for a minimum of three references.  While I find this odd, the great news is, you are ahead of the game.  You don’t have to be caught off guard by this step because you already know you are looking for a new position and will at some point need to provide references. Do yourself a favor and start building/updating your reference list now.  Here are a few proactive steps to take prior to receiving a formal request for references.

 1. Make sure they still know who you are and are able to speak to your skills as it relates to your current career path

If you no longer work with or for this person, this is a must. Reach out to them via phone, email, or even social media and let them know that you are in job search and plan to use them as a reference.

Reminding a potential reference who you are means stroking their memory of who you are as a professional. Even if a professional relationship has turned into a friendship (I am currently friends with a number of my past supervisors) and you just hung out with this person for the holidays, take a moment to ensure that they know where you are trying to go in your career.

Help them give you a great professional reference by reminding them of projects that you worked on and skills that you possess that directly relate to your current career path. Sample job descriptions can also help when explaining the types of positions you are interested in.

2. Make sure that you have updated contact information

During your outreach, make sure you have their preferred contact information. What are the best phone numbers, email addresses, and physical addresses to reach them? To ease their burden, provide them with the information you currently have and let them update where necessary.

3. Make sure that they actually want to be a reference for you

Give them a chance to opt out. Touch base with your reference before you submit their name to a company. It may not happen very often, but there are cases in which a person will decline a request to be used as a reference.

4. Make sure you actually want to use them as a reference

Knowing or working directly with someone does not automatically make them a great reference.  Use the initial contact to gauge their responsiveness (if they never respond to your inquiry, don’t use them) and how articulate they are.  Remember, this person is speaking on your behalf.

Someone agreeing to provide a reference for you does not mean you have to use them. You make the final call!

The New Year gives you a perfect reason to reach out to former co-workers, supervisors, and acquaintances and reintroduce yourself in a non-awkward way. Take advantage of this opportunity and avoid the scramble to put together a reference list on the fly.