It seems like every day I’m talking to project practitioners who are struggling with their job hunting in one way or another.
One thing I see a lot of is that too many project management workers wait until they are thinking about, or forced into a career move before they focus on their own development and training needs.
Normally I would refer to these project management workers as professionals – but are you really a project management professional if you only think about career development when you need a new job?
The most frequently asked question I receive from project practitioners looking for a new job is – “which training course will help me find a new position?”
You can probably figure out the answer; yes, you’re right, for most it is none.
Of course a training course alone can’t help secure a new position.
So how come this question is the one that most people ask?
The popularity of PRINCE2 has led to two significant changes in the marketplace over the years in the UK.
Firstly we have many recruiters / employers who demand a PRINCE2 qualification (regardless of whether that organisation uses PRINCE2 as their preferred project methodology) and use this as a filtering mechanism when searching CV’s and creating shortlists.
Secondly more and more people really believe that by taking a PRINCE2 qualification (irrespective of the fact that they have no project delivery experience) will help secure employment.
With these two situations it’s easy to see why people would think undertaking the PRINCE2 qualification will lead to a job.
PRINCE2 the tick in the box
For many project practitioners with considerable project delivery experience, gaining PRINCE2 is a tick in the box exercise.
They can undertake the course and exam to show they have the PRINCE2 knowledge.
If they have experience delivering projects according to PRINCE2, even better.
That’s the real value – having both the knowledge and the experience.
It’s this combination that actually helps them secure the job – not just the training course itself.
What about other training courses?
The other frequently mentioned prerequisites in job advertisements in the UK are the Association for Project Management’s (APM) APMP and the Project Management Institute’s (PMI) PMP. Job advertisements will also mention, “or similar”. You may also see Managing Successful Programmes (MSP) and more recently Agile Project Management.
What you won’t see are prerequisite for individual courses in areas like stakeholder management or planning and control – however these are great differentiators when it comes to interview material to draw on and general recognition that you take your career and your learning seriously.
Be in control
Training while you’re gaining – the professional training you undertake whilst actively delivering for your current employer – sounds an obvious thing to do; but it is too easy to put training and development on the back-burner.
The issue is you never know when you may be vulnerable to layouts and staff cuts. If you are a professional you should not be waiting for a green light from a third-party to focus on your development.
A true professional takes control of their own career development and sure, if employer funded training is available, great. If not, look to no-one else but yourself to ensure your own professional credibility and currency is maintained through self-funded development.
Recently a project management candidate who I was speaking to complained that the cost of a particular course was too high and therefore their employer would not permit attendance.
Does a professional just leave it at that or should they fund the training themselves?
You could argue that the organisation would be benefiting from the employee’s professional development, through better project delivery and I agree; however having recognised the need, isn’t this an opportunity in your professional development that will ultimately push you on to bigger and better things? A classic crossroads in any career?
Finally, I believe project professionals should also seek out development that aligns to their aspirations; it doesn’t necessarily have to align to the current organisation they work for.
If you look back at your own development over the last five years, how much of that activity has been undertaken on internal courses? How many courses did you attend where you had a choice about what you did? Too many project management practitioners only think about their career today and the short-term future.
If you’re currently working within an organisation which has its own project management standards & methods and your recent learning and development has only been on these internal standards; it’s possible that you may struggle when entering the marketplace as your training is “employer” rather than “profession” or “best practice” based.
This is a classic situation that leads very experienced project practitioners to ask that question, “which training course will help me find a new position?”
So my message is, don’t treat learning and development as somebody else’s issue or a last-minute smash and grab; spend some time each year carrying out the skills gap analysis; researching the wider project management marketplace; understanding where the profession of project management is heading.
Take your career development into your own hands especially if you are an employee (don’t leave it at the mercy of the annual performance appraisal). Finally, don’t become that desperate job hunter who realises too late that they have nothing to differentiate themselves with in the marketplace.