Effectively Managing Your Research Projects

When I first started my career as and Internet Researcher, I realized quickly that a big secret to being a good researcher was developing an efficient project management system. Since I was the only researcher in an office that at any given point in time had 5-15 people asking for help, I had to nip this in the bud quickly or I would go crazy.

Over the years, I developed a system that worked well for me and also allowed for some flexibility in my projects. You can make an effort to plan out your day, but as everyone well knows, things come up over the course of a day that must be addressed immediately and if you are not flexible with your schedule at least a little bit, you will drive yourself insane.

image from http://www.business-strategy-innovation.comBasically, being a lone researcher you have to do a juggling act. The first and MOST IMPORTANT thing to do is to set realistic expectations with the recruiters who are privileged to have you helping them. Recruiters are ALWAYS going to tell you that their search is urgent and needs to be done yesterday. But if you’ve got 10 search assignments that are all urgent and need to be done yesterday, where do you start?

  1. FIFO – I operate under the method of “First In, First Out” for the most part. The order in which I receive searches is the order in which I conduct them. There will always be exceptions to this, but it’s a good foundation on which to base your organization.
  2. Exclusivity and/or Money-Down Searches – if we’ve received a retainer or exclusivity on a search, these searches receive top priority since the client has obviously put some skin in the game.
  3. Money-Makers – I’m sorry if this seems shallow, but the recruiters who are making placements and generating revenue for the company deserve more of my time and research efforts. While I am absolutely more than happy to help ‘onboard’ a new recruiter and get them some companies and contacts to practice on, the folks who are generating the dollar bills usually get a bigger chunk of my time.
  4. KINDNESS AND APPRECIATION – the recruiters who truly appreciate research, respect my workload, and treat me with kindness I will always bend over backward for. The recruiters who complain all the time and treat me like crap will get placed in FIFO order. Please remember to treat your researcher like a regular human being and not your personal punching bag. Just because you’re having a bad day doesn’t mean you need to take it out on your researcher. We often have a delicate balancing act that we are dealing with and don’t need recruiters yelling at us that our time frame to finish something is unacceptable.

Of course, things will come up during the day! I get phone calls, requests for help with our database, I have to conduct training classes, and so forth. But here’s the ultimate “urgency” filter: USE A SEARCH REQUEST FORM/PROFILE. Have your recruiters fill this out to give you details on what it is they need. This way, you’ll have the information right in front of you. And remember this:

If the search is not important enough for you to fill out a request form and give me some details on what it is you need, then it’s probably not important enough for me to work on at this moment.

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This statement is not meant to be rude; having a request form will help you weed out the urgent and the not so urgent. Plus, it will encourage your recruiters to help YOU stay organized. Getting search requests via email, phone, post-it’s, walk-ups to your desk (or “drive by requests” as I like to call them), hollering across the room, etc., it’s tough keeping track of them. If you have a standard format that you use, it’s easier to manage your desk.

Remember – successful businesses are run with process-centric, NOT people-centric, guidelines. Think of your research function as its own business – if you have an established process that you simply plug others into, then it’s easier to manager your projects than if you have to operate with ten different ways of doing things. Help your recruiters understand that you’re not just trying to create more work for them, that you’re trying to be more efficient with YOUR time so you can get them candidates quicker. They will be more likely to help you out with this if they see that the ultimate reason is because of them!

reposted with permission from ResearchGoddess.com

Amybeth Quinn began her career in sourcing working within the agency world as an Internet Researcher. Since 2002, she has worked in both agency and corporate sourcing and recruiting roles as both individual contributor and manager, and also served previously as the editor of The Fordyce Letter, FordyceLetter.com and SourceCon.com, with ERE Media. These days she's working on some super cool market intelligence and data analytics projects. You can connect with her on Twitter at @researchgoddess.


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