You’ve decided that its time to move on and you’re starting to think about getting things lined up to make the job searching as painless as possible.
Where do you start?
Looking for a new position is like having a full-time job, that’s why so many people struggle to find the time to do that while they are still in a post. In this article, we look at the top five things you should be thinking about and doing to make sure you make the most of your limited time and put your best foot forward.
One: Get Your CV Up to Date
Yes, it can be painful, but as soon as you learn about some of the top tips for creating a project management based CV, it does become a lot easier. Here are ten areas to look at:
- Make sure your profile at the top of the CV clearly shows your qualifications, certifications, job title/s, industry sectors, domain areas and some key specialisms that you excel in.
- Keep the profile very factual and get rid of the words or phrases that can apply to anyone, “hardworking”, “exceptional leadership skills”, “team player”. You need the space for the factual stuff we mentioned in point 1.
- Make sure you include a Linkedin profile URL alongside your name, email address and telephone number.
- You can include a double column of “Key Skills” just below the profile – in other words, use these short bullet points for your keyword catching. For example, you might include the types of methods you use to deliver; or add the types of projects worked on; PC skills, and so on.
- In the Career History, also make sure you add a few lines about where you’re working – including what the organisation does and which department you’re in. It helps people to understand what they’re just about to read about you when they have some context.
- Use numbers, figures about the projects you’re managing or supporting – again context is significant and knowing how big or risky a project gives that context. Share the budget, span of control and team sizes.
- Don’t just write about project outcomes – sure it’s good to see what a project is about, but the most crucial part is understanding HOW you delivered those outcomes. Make sure you cover off the core project management competencies (again, another place for keywords)
- Make sure you share your candidate details or registration codes for your project management qualifications. Make sure it’s also evident when you did the courses.
- Spend most of your time writing the Career History part of the CV and concentrate specifically on the last ten years. Anytime after that, you can write two lines for each position which shows the dates – where you worked, what the job title is and a line about why you were hired.
- Keep it short, remember the CV is just about getting the interview. For careers less than 20 years, two pages. Over 20 years you can go to three pages.
The recruitment system, especially in the UK, can sometimes feel like a ruthless game.
Two: Work the Network First
The best way to find your next opportunity with the least effort is to put to work all those people you’ve met and worked with over the years.
It’s true that most people find their next opportunities from their network. It makes sense, these people have already had an insight into your experience and what you can do.
When you’re first thinking about making a move, seek out a trusted few in your network and tell them about your plans. Choose those who you know well and are willing to spend time over a coffee to chat through what you’re thinking about doing next.
The network cogs start to turn, almost in a mysterious way, and people, by, and large want to be helpful where they can to people they like and respect in their networks. You start to be remembered when members of your networks hear about opportunities coming up and a recommendation from someone carries far more weight than submitting a CV for a job.
Work your inner circle first and remember to reciprocate wherever you can in your interactions with them.
And staying with networks, make sure you get out there in the wider project management community through networking events and meetups. It’s time to get your head out of your current organisation and learn how others in the project management world are operating.
Three: Work the Recruitment System
The recruitment system, especially in the UK, can sometimes feel like a ruthless game.
Apply for a job – feed your personal details to a website – to never hear anything back about the position. That might sound familiar to you?
Even worse, commit to an interview, take time off, prepare for it, agonise over it – never to hear any feedback or anything about it again.
Here are my top five tips for playing the game:
- Make sure your CV is showing a good match for the job you’re applying for. Many people make the mistake of not doing a quick sanity check before hitting the apply button. Ask yourself, is my CV clearly showing what has been stipulated in the job advertisement? That means matching language and keywords used too.
- Take the job advertisement and look at the roles and responsibilities listed. Does your CV clearly and concisely show at least the top five roles and responsibilities mentioned in the job advertisement? If not, either make the changes (truthfully) or don’t apply.
- Apply sparingly. Don’t apply for lots of different positions because you will receive a lot of knockbacks. Why? Because there aren’t enough jobs out there at any one given time, so you’re just playing a numbers game and hoping if you throw enough CVs, one is sure to stick. Don’t waste your time. Really focus on the positions where points 1 and 2 above are strong. Recruitment agencies quickly get fed up of the same person applying for multiple jobs because it shows that you care very little about making an effort to put your best foot forward.
- Have you been called for an interview? Don’t just accept the interview without first trying to find out more details about the position being offered. You’re trying to find out how serious this hire is for the organisation. Questions like “how long have you been trying to recruit for the position?”; “are you considering internal candidates for the role?”; “how quickly are you hoping to get someone on board?” and “is there any possibility this role may not get recruited?”
- At the interview when it comes to the time to ask your questions, make sure you ask about when you can expect to hear and is it company policy to offer feedback to interviewees? It’s frustrating (and rude) when you don’t hear back after making the commitment, so do also ask if it’s possible to follow up directly with one of the interviewers afterwards too. Decent organisations will have no problem with doing that – they see you as a committed professional and not just another CV across their desks.
Four: The Continuing Professional Development
It should never be the case that qualifications are only important when it comes to finding a new job and having the right ones on the CV is paramount. Many people do it because they know that the recruitment system and the keyword bots are always scanning for those when it comes to looking to recruit a project management practitioner.
Don’t wait until you’re looking to move on; make sure you invest in yourself now. Don’t wait until you’ve been knocked back because you don’t have your PRINCE2 or PMP.
Having qualifications on your CV is only one part of the story though. Making sure your portfolio, programme and project knowledge is up to date – that you’re knowledgeable about current best practice in areas such as Agile or leadership techniques will also serve you well when it comes to the interview too. What do you advise as the best course of action when managing a ‘wicked’ project? Which approach would serve us well in this project – waterfall, Agile, hybrid, something else? You need well-informed opinions to answer and showcase your experience in an interview.
With project management rapidly changing, who wants to hire someone whose knowledge is out of date?
Apply sparingly. Don’t apply for lots of different positions because you will receive a lot of knockbacks
Five: Do Your Numbers
Finally the last or perhaps it could be the first, make sure you know when the right opportunity has come along and it’s the one to go for.
I met a project management practitioner a few years ago who came along to a networking event because he was thinking about making a change in his career. He wanted to see what other practitioners were working on and get a feel for the market. He also wanted to see how he might compare to some of the people he was networking with – to get an idea of how his skills and experience might stack up. Over a few months, we kept bumping into each other, and I kept asking how he was getting on. By this time, he had two job offers on the table — both from great companies, both offering very comparable salaries and benefits, both very challenging roles. I asked him how he was going to make up his mind.
He told me that he did three simple things. The first, he talked to his family about what each job would mean – in terms of how busy he might be, or how much he may have to travel. The decision had to be the best one for the family. The second thing he did was a simple SWOT analysis. Working through the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats of each enabled him to start seeing the two roles more objectively. Written in black and white, it started to make it clearer for him. The final thing he did was an even simpler Pros and Cons list for each job, this time focusing on the work both opportunities would provide and whether the challenges ahead genuinely excited him.
When we think about making a change in our careers, the first thing we often think about is the salary and benefits. What is my bottom-line in accepting a new job, what is the stretch goal I’d like to achieve? The numbers are just one small part. Thinking, upfront, about what a new position needs to look like; what if offers to you, your family and your longer-term career is an exercise that will help you navigate the next stage in your career. It will help you choose the roles you apply for and the interview you use your precious time to attend.
Finding a new – better – opportunity in your project management career takes time and commitment, make sure you’re giving it everything.
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