As a project professional you are used to getting others to embrace change, however, have you ever analysed your own viewpoint of change? We have all been guilty of digging our heels in when someone wants us to change something, whether it is your favourite bag or the colour of your lounge. Naturally we start to feel threatened by being told that things look tired or aren’t right. The same happens when you are looking to apply for a new job, there’s the whole change of company, environment, culture and how we do things which come into play but before we even reach that point we need to address actually securing interviews and the job. This can be terrifying for some who have perhaps been working in a business for years and have been made redundant but also for those who recognise they need to make a move for whatever reason. Applying for jobs has changed over the years and suddenly what was always an effective way of securing a new role is now dated and requires some work.
Your CV is the most important starting point for job applications – employers have become fussy and as the shift in lower salaries through perception of a buyers’ market has moved on, the salaries are certainly reaching a more commensurate level but employers expect to see excellence for the price. I know you will be sat there thinking, my CV is fine, it has always secured me interviews in the past so what next. But have you tested it in the market? Had many calls or much interest? If not, then maybe you need to address why!
Resistance to change is common as you well know and some of the reasons are below:
- Comfort zone – it is scary to move out of your comfort zone but it is also healthy to do so as much as possible and addressing your career goals / approach to securing a new role is important. Explore new avenues.
- It worked before – yes but times change, as do expectations.
- Uncertainty – research, there’s plenty of help out there which is free to access. Talk to people; find out how they do it.
- Am I really good enough – easy to lose confidence when you have been struggling to secure interviews for a while or been made redundant, work at understanding your skill-set by performing a skills audit.
- Loss of control – by embracing the change you will soon gain control, careers coaching can be a great way to understand how to make a positive move forward.
Do not assume because your CV reads fine to you, that it is good enough to whet the appetites of employers – ask for feedback from peers, recruiters, and specialists in the field. All feedback is good feedback; don’t be disheartened if you hear something you don’t want to. Be thankful it has been highlighted and address it constructively; ask for advice or for more clarity.
I was approached by a client recently who has been working in a strategic role within the NHS for over 15 years, she is keen to make a move out to a different sector and has approached me to discuss how to go about making that change. It is always difficult when you have stayed with a role/organisation for so long, we do tend to become institutionalised and our confidence levels can really suffer when we challenge ourselves to move out of our comfort zone. At first we talked through the reasons behind moving on, an important factor whenever you are looking to make a big change. Having uncovered a deep seated unhappiness with how the role has been re-shaped over a number of restructures and changes to organisational policy – it has become very clear that a move away is important for her growth and well being. As such, we have structured a plan with which to work to. First of all we need to get down on paper what she has been delivering over the years, looking at how she works, and also what some of the key challenges have been. By pulling together a skills audit with workable examples we can start to work on the confidence issues. Sometimes it takes an overview of what you have achieved and the challenges you have overcome to make you realise just how good you are! We have decided to work together in constructing a CV as a good exercise where she will learn new skills in putting together a CV in the future but also gain a strong affinity to what is being included which will help when we reach interview stage. Once we have a strong CV I have agreed to analyse the types of roles which would be a close fit for her, we will talk through these roles and assist her in gaining a wider knowledge in how her current role fits into organisations outside the NHS. Once we have pinpointed some roles of interest, we will go through the application process and ensure the applications made are the best they can be to yield greater results. Whilst this part of the process is running we will begin interview coaching, making sure we include some fantastic and relevant examples to use whilst clearly articulating the right amount of information and understanding of what is being asked of her by interviewers. The service will not conclude here, we shall continue to work together right the way through the offer process and even through to settling into a new role. This is a big move for my client so it is important she feels fully supported whilst making the transition, there will be no point she will feel fazed or overly nervous as we’ve agreed a fully inclusive mentoring and support service. The CV Righter works with you to understand your needs and offer a bespoke service which will get you on the right track.
Over the years in recruiting project professionals I have found one of the key pieces of feedback from clients is that candidates have been unclear answering questions at interview. Often starting off with an example of when they did XYZ and going off on a tangent so not covering the response effectively. This is easy enough to do when the pressure is on and you are trying to convey a great deal of information.
The key to answering the question rather than missing the point is to think about what you have been asked and think about an example which clearly demonstrates the skill being questioned. Preparation before an interview is required, by taking the job description and looking at the list of requirements you can gauge the types of questions which will be asked and from there you can think about your examples.
- Set the scene – give enough information for the interviewer to understand what it is you were delivering / supporting or the task in hand
- Talk about your actions – I know we work in teams on projects but the interviewer wants to know what you did, so avoid talking about what we did and talk about what you did!
- The outcome – what actually happened, talk about the result so the interviewer can understand how effective your actions were.
Here is an interview question and response to demonstrate how to structure your responses:
Interviewer:“Give me an example of when you have dealt with widely dispersed stakeholders?”
“When I was managing the new IT desktop roll out of Windows 7 at XXXX I was responsible for a number of technical teams based at head office and out at various divisions across the UK. The stakeholders were internal people such as a board member (the sponsor), head of IT (head of programmes), senior project managers and teams based at 4 different locations and external stakeholders such as the software development company project managers and technical teams.
I created a stakeholder map which clearly identified all the stakeholders in order of importance and a plan which covered communications. It became apparent that I would need to meet the key stakeholders on a regular basis to ensure project milestones were clear and everyone involved could gain a clear perspective of where we were in the plan and highlight any bottle necks which couldn’t be addressed at my clearance level.
The result meant that I had bi-weekly meetings with key stakeholders and regular “on the ground” reporting from workstream leads to ensure the work was being completed in a timely fashion whilst checking against the benefits to keep the senior management team on board with operations.”
The above example is rather generic but you get the idea – setting the scene to give the interviewer enough insight into what was being delivered and then talking through who the stakeholders are to demonstrate your understanding of who stakeholders are and how to harness a communications plan followed by the end result is giving the interviewer the right kind of information without going into chapter and verse and detracting away from the question and more importantly the answer.
Adopting this approach to your examples is good practice and also can help you when talking through achievements on your CV.
Time to strip back your CV to the bone, and build muscles back – rid that fat! Christmas is a time for celebration and usually means eating and drinking more than the usual quota, as New Year kicks in we take a resolution to fight back at the added pounds and detox our vital organs. This is also true for your CV, not just over Christmas but throughout the year we add more pieces of information to the ever growing CV as we achieve more and use more skills. So whilst you are trying to abstain from all the bad things and need a distraction from bad habits – now is a good time to give your CV that much needed detox.
Here are some tips on doing just that:
- Back to basics – hopefully you already have a structured CV which provides the main skeleton to your work history; this is an excellent starting point. Strip it back to bare essentials and take all the “fat” out to one side.
- Work that fat – now you have a list of all the bulk, separate from the CV take a good look at what is relevant to you as a professional and tone it up. Reduce the text down to clear and concise statements. Look to integrate similar pieces of information in that role into one bullet point.
- Tone up the muscle – once you have strong statements make sure they are looking as good as possible, refrain from repeating terminology and buff up the content you have to ensure each statement looks as good as it can.
- Exercise – yes, you can apply a regime to your workout by practising – don’t be tempted to take the lazy route and just write a statement leaving it at that. Write and rewrite until you have a well written piece of work.
- Repetition – make sure you work through the entire CV applying the same structure (but not repeating action words such as managing, reporting, and delivering over and over).
- Detox – remove all the parts the employer does not want to see, put yourself in their shoes – we expect you to be organised, motivated and energetic. Think about core competencies which are vital to achieving your goals such as planning, team management, applying structure and how you do this.
Employ key structure to each bullet point – the employer wants to know what you do/did, how you do/did it and some context in terms of size/locations of teams, budgets, type of assignment, timescales and challenges met along the way.
A new year means a new start for everyone – the employment market is still struggling but there are still roles out there so it is imperative that your CV is at its peak fitness; toned, free of fat and looking good. You will be surprised just how quickly your CV is picked up for interviews if you put the work in; don’t be disillusioned by the fact that there aren’t so many in your field applying for roles, employers are being every bit as stringent in their filtering process with job applications which means you have to really work at it!