Like any job candidates, those seeking project management roles need to ensure they’re putting their best foot forward when they enter the job market. But the project profession is a particularly crowded and competitive field. And it’s proving harder than ever to cut through the noise, with so many channels open to promote yourself beyond the simple CV.
So, what can project professionals do to stand out? Here are a few key tips for getting attention.
1. Shout about your achievements
On your CV, LinkedIn profile and in job interviews, you have to go big on your eye-catching career highlights. “Every project manager knows how to delegate duties and manage scope,” Norma Gutierrez, a recruiter who specialises in the project profession, told the Project Management Happy Hour podcast. “Talk about the project you worked on that was different. That’s what we want to see.” Self-aggrandisement may not come naturally, especially as project professionals know better than anyone the value of team effort. But there’s no shame in claiming your role in driving a project to deployment. “Toot your own horn,” said Gutierrez. “This is the time to do it. Don’t be afraid to show yourself off.”
2. Make it a story
People relate to narratives, and you’re the hero in this one. So figure out what’s compelling about your tale and how best to tell it. Try to tie the key twists in your story to project management principles. Give some context to the situation you faced and explain why you took the actions you did. Finally, tell them what changed – in concrete terms. Say how many people you managed, how much you increased billing, how many more clients you brought in, or just how much money you saved the business.
3. Be clear about your goals and what you’ve done to reach them
Do you want to run large infrastructure projects that will help drive a country towards its climate change goals? Or are you more suited to the speed of a start-up, working all hours to help a small team establish and execute a strategy? Think about what you want and why, and leverage your strengths to that. Then you have to show what you’ve been doing to get there. “If, during the pandemic, you were laid off in March and still looking for a job after six months, what have you done?” asked Gutierrez. “Have you earned a new accreditation? Have you learned a new skill?”
4. Sharpen your CV
Think short and snappy, a one-sider designed to tantalise and get you to the next step – the interview. You should write the CV for the sector you’re targeting, tailoring it with key words from the job ad and the experiences you have that pertain to that. And bullet-point those, rather than explaining everything. “People don’t need to know you were a project manager, wrote estimates and created timelines and status reports,” Ben Aston, a digital project manager and founder of Black + White Zebra, an indie media company, told Happy Hour. “Because that’s what everyone’s doing. They want to know what makes you different and individual.” Finally, make it look decent.
5. Get creative
There are other routes to interview these days, beyond the CV. Whatever you put on LinkedIn may be every bit as important as your CV, for example, as many recruiters will head straight online, to pursue a form of benevolent stalking, once your CV has piqued their interest. You may consider writing a blog about your industry. Or how about tailoring your social media to show your professional strengths? If Twitter is your thing, think about how your tweets and the things you’re sharing reflect your suitability to a role. If Twitter’s not your thing, don’t force a presence, just because you feel it will help land you jobs. But think: are there other creative ways to tell your professional story? How about a dedicated Instagram account, for example, full of stats and infographics, or photos of your key project management achievements brought to life?
6. Keep learning
As well as continuing your professional development with specialist qualifications and accreditations, it’s important to stay abreast of the latest developments in your sector, so you truly understand how the wider business environment affects strategic decisions. Reading the sector news will help you understand how and why markets and working practices are shifting. As will talking to people around you. It all helps make you a more accomplished candidate. As David Wakeman, principal of Wakeman Consulting Group, put it on projectmanagement.com: “The big key to standing out as a project manager is to never stand still. There isn’t one magic idea that will make you a world-famous project manager. But if you are constantly learning, communicating and sharing, you have a good chance at being a leader in your organisation – and in the project management field as well.”
Read more about trends in the project jobs market in APM’s latest Salary and Market Trends Survey, and listen to the trends revealed episode of The APM Podcast.
For more tips on how to stand out as a project professional, check out: