What IS a Fannish Project?

I often talk about the fact that fandom is great because it lets people do projects and learn from them.  However, I want to take a bit of time to define just what a project IS – and its counterpart, the Continuing Effort.

The reason I want to do that is simple – if you can understand what a project is, you can't easily analyze your fannish activities to determine which one's you've done.  Without doing that it's harder to assess or build your skills and experiences.

Now being a Project Manager, I'm a bit biased, but professionally and non professionally I like to define a project like this: a project is a temporary effort that is undertaken to create a unique result, with a defined beginning and end. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project).  Projects have goals that can be met and measured, and exist for a limited time.

Thus an individual fanfic may be a project, or a series may be a project (with each story a subproject).  A particular cosplay costume is a project.  Running a convention is often a project – but may be also a continuous process or activity that happens to spawn projects.

Meanwhile, overseeing a Message Board is not a project as it's continuous (Business as Usual as its sometimes called in the business world).  Running a little league team is a continual project.  These are Continuing Efforts, and as you'll notice, are often very different from regular "projects" in that they don't end, often have less measurable goals, and may often be about maintenance or maintaining something.

Why is this important?  Communication and understanding.

Now in assessing your fannish life for useful experiences for careers, you'll want to identify projects this way because:

  1. It lets you communicate them.  Being able to state specific things you did for specific goals is important – "I did X and learned Y to achieve Z" shows specific intiative, knowledge, and goal-seeking.
  2. It lets you deconstruct them to see what you've done and learned.  Identifying definite projects with their definite results lets you assess specific skills and achievements you can use on a resume, to communicate in an interview, or assess your career plans.
  3. It lets you measure your ability to achieve things.  The ability to set goals and reach them, in short doing a project, is extremely important to success in, well, anything.  Assessing the projects in your life lets you do that.

When it comes to your Continuing Efforts it's a far different situation to communicate them in interviews or analyze them for useful insights.

  1. The often have a heavy maintenance component which is easy to miss – all those years stopping flame wars on the message board you run may seem unimportant, but it's something you learned.
  2. They are often less measurable, so communicating the success you've had in them requires a deeper analysis.  As noted, continuing efforts are often more about maintenance than one would realize.
  3. They may contain projects, but you may not see them – it's very easy however to identify the "projects" inside a continuing effort that made it work.  An example would be running specific tracks at a convention you've been staff on.

So keep these in mind when you're making that resume or analyzing your career options.  Some of your fannish efforts are Projects, some are Continuing Efforts.

– Steven Savage