Archive For November 30, 2012

Not needed a CV for 10 years; where do I start? – Friday Snippet

Been in a role for a long time whether it be self-employed or employed so haven’t needed a CV? What to do? Don’t panic and follow this step by step guide to achieving an attractive, attention seeking and professional resume.

  1. Create a list of your career history, noting dates, role titles, company names and basic remit to start.
  2. List your key achievements to date – keep to examples which demonstrate where you have gone above and beyond the call of duty or made a real difference. Simply noting down projects you have managed to time and budget does not demonstrate an achievement as such (you were paid to deliver the project). However if you have implemented a new programme structure to the business or dealt with particularly difficult stakeholders etc. then talk about it.
  3. Perform a skills audit – start by drawing a line to represent the project timeline, then note down core areas you have exposure to such as writing the business case, planning, Risk & Issues, supplier management etc.
  4. Take a template from the internet to start – fill in the areas you can easily do, such as dates and achievements etc. then refer to the following blog posts which will assist you in filling in the gaps:

Now you should have a good solid document to work on – you’ll need to spend some time tweaking and rewriting, but you will soon find that what seemed a wall too high to climb is merely a hurdle along the way to getting back into finding a new role.

The employee’s guide to work benefits

In the current climate of widespread financial uncertainty, millions of people across the country are feeling the pinch. Years of wage stagnation coupled with a steadily rising cost of living have piled pressure on countless households, crippling consumer demand and making a major contribution to tipping the economy back into recession. It’s certainly true that times are challenging for many employers as well as their employees, as the persistent weakness in consumer spending has forced them to find ways of cutting costs whilst simultaneously boosting efficiency. However, the secret to good employee management is to remember that a happy workplace is almost certainly a more productive one.

Wage cuts or freezes might seem at first like the only realistic choice for employers, but there are ways to sugar the pill. If workers feel they’re not being adequately rewarded for their efforts because of circumstances which are completely beyond their control, then there’s a chance that they’ll become demoralised and distracted or they’ll simply decide to seek better opportunities elsewhere. Employee benefits, however, can be a useful sweetener and help to maintain staff loyalty. Workers are more likely to be sympathetic to any difficulties their employer is having if they can see the organisation is at least making an effort to lighten the load on their own shoulders. However challenging the situation might be, employers must remember that their staff have concerns of their own to think about.


The effectiveness of employee rewards obviously varies from person to person, and this is something that both employers and workers ought to consider. For example, high childcare costs are commonly cited as one of the biggest financial worries facing working families. It’s often simply unrealistic to expect one parent to stay off work to look after their children, particularly when so many people have sky-high mortgages and utility bills to service. It’s perhaps unsurprising, then, that childcare vouchers are one of the most popular workplace rewards of them all. Providing workers with vouchers to help cut costs and make childcare more accessible is often gratefully received by workers.

However, not all employees have children of their own – indeed, many struggle to settle down in one place for a sufficient length of time in order to start a family – so handing childcare vouchers to these workers is clearly a waste of time. There are other schemes, however, which might attract their attention. Gym membership discounts, for example, might prove attractive to some members of the workforce. Regular social and networking events outside of work may also help to boost team spirit and camaraderie amongst the team by encouraging them to get to know one another better.

From an employee’s perspective, however, flexible working is one of the most practical and attractive work rewards on offer. Many people have to commute long distances to work – particularly in the current climate, when good job opportunities are at a premium – and this can be both expensive and energy-sapping. Giving workers the chance to work from home or to choose more practical hours, on the other hand, provides a real incentive and can result in a significant productivity boost.

Janice Lincoln is a freelance writer specialising in business and employee relations and incentives such as the cycle to work scheme and child care vouchers.

Let’s do coffee – How to Tackle Informal Interviews

We’ve practised questions and answers, researched the business and got our suits dry cleaned only to receive a call from HR / recruitment services asking us to attend an informal meeting with the hiring manager. Suddenly, we feel unprepared and unsure about how to handle a meeting in Costa or Starbucks tomorrow at 8:30am – what to do!?

Don’t panic for a start – an informal interview is certainly nothing to worry about but equally it is not something which should be treated as informal either. I have often pushed back on hiring managers asking why choose an informal meeting over the traditional approach. I have heard a few replies from: issues over time (heavy diaries mean meeting outside the office and office hours), interviewers wishing to escape the office for a change to testing candidates in a less formal environment. As the format of such interviews is perceived as “let the conversation flow” – it could be a test to see how you lead a conversation which isn’t so daunting but keep in mind that you also need to ensure you are entering core skills and experience into the dialogue too. Culture fit is generally a key driver to informal interviews – by taking you out of the formal environment the hiring manager may be trying to understand who you are, what your personality and sense of humour is like. Will you get on well with the team or stick out like a sore thumb?

Always treat these types of interviews like a test – if you prepare for the worst you can cover all bases and ensure you gain the greatest success:

  • Do not assume the interview will actually be informal just because the surroundings are; prepare your questions and answers as you would for competency based interviews.
  • Careful what you order!! Coffee houses are great but I have known candidates order strong coffee and be bouncing off the walls in the interview. Be sensible or avoid caffeine altogether and order decaf.
  • Be prepared to be distracted, the downside to coffee houses and hotel lobbies has to be the noise and the hustle of people coming and going. For this, you must keep focussed on the interviewer – remember this may be a test!
  • Make sure you have the mobile number of the interviewer in case you cannot see him/her when you arrive – especially first/last thing in the day as there will be a great deal of smartly dressed people at peak periods.

Don’t let the informal setting get in the way of asking some good strong questions – make sure you leave the meeting knowing if this is the job for you or not. It is not unreasonable for you to ask to see the offices at some point in the process too – it is important that you get to see where you could potentially be spending 8 hours a day, so if an offer is extended post interview – ask.

Let’s talk about transferable skills – starting out in Project Management

There’s always a lot of talk about skill-sets and particularly transferable skills; however if you want to transfer your career into the project management field then it is important to highlight the right skills which will be of greatest benefit to you and your potential employer. Now we all know there are differing types of project management roles from support through to managing and there are also more technical PM roles too – not just IT, they may be construction / engineering etc where you need to have a good knowledge of the field as well as PM methods to be successful in delivering benefits. So I am going to cover some key transferable skills for the PM aspect not any specific industry based element, here are a few to consider:

  • Investigating – Researching and questioning why? Key components to any good PM professional, being able to push back with quantifiable evidence is required even more now that funding is tight and projects benefits really do need to be explored thoroughly before starting off another project.
  • Planning – Planning / scheduling projects, predicting outcomes / scenarios, organising events and preparing for tasks – it’s a must!
  • Leadership – Core requirement for any good Project Manager and comes in very handy for Programme Support professionals too.
  • Influencing – The ability to gain buy-in is a big requirement for PM professionals, whether it’s from senior management, external (or internal stakeholders), sponsors or suppliers – you need to be able to persuade and encourage others.
  • Teamwork – Proving you can bond with others and build a strong force which produces results is key to successful project delivery.
  • Problem solving – Taking different viewpoints and exploring solutions is a big part of PM, from understanding workstream leads other commitments to supplier issues.
  • Budgeting – At some point you with be either managing your own budget or monitoring budgets on projects in a support element.
  • Decision making – The ability to look at your options and actually pick a way forward is crucial especially in a critical situation.
  • Training – Working with others either as a manager (PM) to mentor and train people in the project team or as a support person (PMO) to train others in various aspects of the project lifecycle such as risk management etc through workshops and 1 2 1 engagement.
  • Organising – From coordinating teams and individuals, arranging meetings and resources to scheduling.
  • Time management – Meeting deadlines and setting priorities are the core factors of project management and being on time is a given.
  • Creating – Not always highlighted as a core skill for PMs but in my experience of delivering projects, inventing, originating, designing or composing play a big part to success.

Now you can use this as a starting guide to performing a skills audit – once you have a list of transferable skills, you then need to provide some good examples of each skill (where you have used them / how / outcomes etc). These will help you form a basis for applications to project management jobs.