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Measure Twice, Cut Once: The Importance of Project Planning

Measure Twice, Cut Once: The Importance of Project Planning

    Over the weekend, I completed a repair on an XBOX 360 with red rings. The project was a success and I thought a lot about how I approached this project — and how it could have gone better.

    Take stock of your tools

    Do you have what you need? Just as a good chef looks over the entire recipe before they begin, it is important to look through the entire process before you start.

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    In my case, I neglected to see if we had any solvent around so when I got to the step where I needed to remove old thermal paste, I was unable to proceed without a trip for rubbing alcohol.

    The other danger is there could be a step that says “let this sit for a couple hours*.” In cooking, it can be a step reading “place in the fridge for 8 hours” but in my case, I needed to re-flow the motherboard with a heat gun then allow the board to cool undisturbed

    Many times a project will have a step that requires you to do nothing more than wait. It could be waiting for glue or paint to dry, a motherboard to cool down, or your cake to rise. It’s important to know where the delays are and plan accordingly.

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    Allow plenty of time

    This is one I always struggle with. I am tempted to start projects at 10pm or midnight thinking it won’t take that long. Then, around 2am, when I’m overtired and frustrated, I make stupid mistakes.

    Resist the urge to start a project planning late in the day. Start fresh the next morning and make the time to complete it successfully. I completed my project over the course of about a week. I started on a Saturday afternoon and dismantled the console, then ran into my problem of no rubbing alcohol so I had to stop. Then I got busy and didn’t return to it until the next weekend. I picked the project back up Sunday afternoon when I had 4 hours free and completed the project without needing to rush.

    Have a clean and stable place to work

    I cannot stress the importance of this step. I needed to leave the Xbox dismantled for five days on our kitchen table. If I was trying to do this on my desk, or on the dining room floor I could have lost pieces or it could have gotten broken. It is vital to have a safe, secure place to work that won’t be disturbed.

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    Take special consideration if you have kids or pets. There is no assured defense against children and cats are infamous for their love of sitting places where they’re not wanted. To say nothing of those tiny screws making perfect play things.

    Organize your parts

    When taking apart something with multiple sets of screws or other small pieces, have a system for separating and organizing them. Many small screws can look nearly identical, until you get halfway through the project and realize you’ve used the wrong screw in the wrong place and now have to back track and replace them.

    I have a screw organizer, but you can use anything with different compartments. I’ve even used an empty egg carton in a pinch. If you don’t have anything handy, grab a piece of paper, and apply some double-sided tape or make a loop of tape and stick your screws to it, especially if they’re very small.

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    For this project, there were only three steps requiring screws so I used a blank sheet of paper and drew circles and wrote down the step number of the walkthrough I was following and placed the screws in that circle.

    With a little project planning, you can save yourself a lot of extra time, effort and making a silly mistake which could cost you. Make the time and plan out your next project. I always hear my father’s advice in my ears when I start any new project:

    “Measure twice, cut once.”

    (Photo credit: Measure Twice, Cut Once via sxc.hu)

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    Last Updated on August 14, 2020

    How to Find a Career That Is Right For You

    How to Find a Career That Is Right For You

    There are thousands of careers to choose from. No wonder finding the one that’s right for you can feel like a guessing game.

    Choosing or changing careers can be scary. Even if it’s right for you now, you might wonder, who says it’ll still be a fit in the future?

    The truth is, you have to start somewhere. Whether you’re looking for a first job out of college or need a new career, follow this process to find the right one for you:

    1. List Out Careers You Could Pursue

    It sounds simple, but it’s good advice: Start with what you like. Even before you begin looking for the right career, you probably have an idea of what you’re interested in.

    Next, make a second list, this one including your strengths. If you aren’t sure whether you’re actually good at something, ask someone close to you who’ll give you a truthful answer.

    Once your lists are made, cross-reference them: What do you like to do and do well?

    In a third list, rank these. If you’re skilled at something you don’t particularly like, for instance, that should fall lower on the list.

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    2. Take a Career Assessment

    Standardized tests shouldn’t make decisions for you, but they can get you pointed in the right direction. Career assessment tests gauge your abilities and interests and make recommendations for career paths based on the answers you give.[1]

    Before reviewing your results, take a break. Getting some perspective can help you see whether your answers were guided by your mood. Look at the percentage match and ask yourself whether you could see yourself doing the work of the career or role every day.

    For example, if your responses emphasized helping others, the test might point you to a medical career. However, if you don’t want to work in a hospital or clinical environment, you might cut that option or place it lower on your list.

    3. Sweat the Details

    Every career has gratifying and frustrating things about it. Before you choose one, you need to be clear on those. Reading reviews and job descriptions you find related to each career, make a list of its pros and cons.

    There are a lot of factors to think through. Key questions to ask yourself include:

    • What are the hours required by this type of work? Can they be flexible?
    • What skills are required? Do I possess them, or would I be willing to learn them?
    • What are the education requirements? Can I afford to go back to school?
    • How much do jobs in the field pay? Is the payscale top-heavy or evenly distributed?
    • What does job growth in this sector look like? Are they traditional or contracted roles?
    • Are opportunities in the field available in my area? If not, would I be willing to move?
    • Would I be working solo or on a team?

    In answering these questions, you’ll find yourself crossing a lot of careers off your list. Remember, that’s a good thing: You’d rather find out a career isn’t right for you now than after you’ve put yourself on that path.

    4. Find the Sweet Spot

    The crux of the career question is this: What’s the “sweet spot” between your interests and strengths and the market’s needs? The greater the overlap, the better.

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    Be warned that you’ll have to compromise. Perhaps you enjoy working with animals, but there’s no demand for that line of work in your area. You might be good at math, but you wouldn’t want to crunch numbers in a cubicle for a living. Finding balance is crucial.

    5. Start Networking

    What’s the best way to get the real story about the careers you’re interested in? Talking to professionals in the field.

    Where should you find these people?

    • Reach out to local businesses.
    • Scour your social media networks, particularly LinkedIn.
    • Ask a past employer for recommendations.
    • Sign up for industry events and conferences.

    Schedule a short interview with each of your new connections. Ask them to weigh in on the comments you see online. Every role and company is a bit different, so don’t be surprised if their responses don’t align.

    Regardless of who you find or what they say, write it down. If one interviewee’s responses differ wildly from online responses, chat with someone else in the field. Do your best to find out what’s the rule and what’s the exception.

    6. Shadow and Volunteer

    As valuable as networking can be, you need a firsthand glimpse of the work. If you hit it off with one of your interviewees, ask to do some job shadowing. Sitting beside someone as they work can help you understand not just the pay and the responsibilities but also the culture and work environment associated with each career.

    Job shadowing is a good way to get your feet wet before taking a career plunge. If you felt uninterested or unhappy during your shadowing experience, it’s a good sign that you should ponder a different career path. If your shadowing experience made you want to come back for more, you may have found your calling.

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    Volunteer work is an alternative to job shadowing that can get you the experience you need as you analyze your career options. As a volunteer, you can be more flexible with your time and get opportunities you wouldn’t find elsewhere.

    7. Sign Up for Classes

    Many careers have an academic component that you can’t ignore. If you decide you want to be a lawyer, for instance, you might want to know you can survive law school first.

    Sign up for an introductory class or two related to each career you’re interested in. The earlier you do this, the better. If you’re still in college, the class will count as an elective and may be covered by your scholarship, but if not, look for a community college option to keep costs low.

    Taking a single class is not the same as earning a degree in the field. With that said, it’s a good way to test the waters before you invest thousands of dollars.

    If the content interests you and you look forward to class each week, that’s a good sign. If you start dreading the class or choose to drop it, focus your attention elsewhere.

    8. Enter the Gig Economy

    Contracted work is a great “try it before you buy it” career tactic. Skipping to an entry-level role requires more commitment than you might want to give while you’re still investigating your options. The gig economy offers the best of both worlds: paid work as well as flexibility.[2]

    Gig workers take work from companies or individuals that do not directly employ them. Plumbers and artists are good examples. Rather than receiving a regular paycheck, they sell their services by the task or deliverable.

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    In the gig economy, you aren’t bound by long-term agreements. If you don’t like the experience, you can simply move on.

    You never know if you’ll enjoy something until you try it. And because contractors work with professionals in the field, gig workers naturally get networking and shadowing opportunities.

    9. Market Yourself

    As you zero in on your dream career, there’s one final test you can use to find out whether you’ll be successful: marketing yourself as a candidate for hire. Whether you get bites is a key indicator of how you’ll fare in the field.

    Beware that, as someone without much experience in the field, you’re going to get a lot of rejections. Don’t be discouraged. If you get two interviews out of 50 applications, think of it as two opportunities you didn’t have before to find your ideal career.

    Just as important as outreach is a good inbound strategy. Set up a website, and post your portfolio on it. Describe your dream job on your social media.

    Recruiters are constantly on the lookout for candidates that fit their company. The more exposure you get, the more people will be interested in what you have to offer. Put yourself out there, and you just might find the perfect fit.

    Don’t Give Up!

    Nobody ever said it was easy to find a career that’s right for you. Finding one is tough enough, and even then, you may find yourself looking for a new field ten years into your career.

    Whatever you want from your professional life, you have to be willing to put in the time. Don’t hesitate, and don’t give up. Start your search today.

    More Tips on How to Find a Career

    Featured photo credit: Saulo Mohana via unsplash.com

    Reference

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