I was at an event recently when I met a hiring manager from a large employer in London, he talked to me about a project controls position which had become available and it really struck a chord with my experience. I asked a few questions and explained my background then asked if he would be interested in my application, to my delight he said yes and gave me contact details asking me to send my CV and cover letter to him. I am fairly sure my CV reflects the detail required for the role but I have little experience in writing a cover letter can you advise where to start? Sarah – Project Consultant, London.
Many thanks for your question Sarah let me start by saying well done for asking questions about the requirements for the role – this is a key starting point for the bulk of the letter. Ideally you should highlight specific examples of your experience which closely matches the role – avoid being theoretical, keep to facts. As this is a project controls role I would keep focus on where you have “policed” governance or put structures in place, talk though background briefly then what you were actually doing and the results achieved from this.
I know you mentioned your CV you feel is up to scratch, however, the CV needs to back up your cover letter – therefore you should read through the letter once complete then read through your CV to ensue it matches up. This is where many fall down, spending a long time creating a great cover letter then the CV doesn’t reflect this experience clearly. As cover letters often get discarded, it is important to make sure you really work on that CV or all that time will have gone to waste and you’ll be left wondering why you’ve not had a call.
The PM job market has been up and down over the past few years but there have always been good roles available throughout, and although it has become more competitive offers have continued to be made to good project people. One of the key issues tends to be securing interviews with a application list of hundreds, it isn’t difficult to see why employers and recruiters will naturally pick out the best CVs over anything else. It’s not ideal as the best candidates may be left on the shelf because their CV isn’t telling us what it needs to. I was speaking to a seasoned project manager the other week who has exceptional experience but his CV was really letting him down – it just didn’t attract attention for the more senior roles he had the experience in. He told me he has no issue with delivering strategic pieces of work, improving corporate wide project capability however he really struggles to spend time on recording this detail in a CV. He can talk about it very coherently but putting it on paper to the in point the relevant parts over too much detail isn’t his strong point. When I pointed out that we all have skills in different fields he agreed and said that is why he decided to make contact with me. Having spent years working with clients from all industries in a recruitment capacity – I know what piques the interest of hiring managers and recruiters alike. There’s no shame in being unable to produce an effective CV, if it was that easy then there wouldn’t be so many professional CV writing services available. I have yet to come across another specialist PM CV writer with a background in delivering projects, specialist PM recruiting and over 8 years PM careers support like The CV Righter. I set up the business after being approached on countless occasions by all levels of PM professionals requesting their CV be rewritten, it makes sense that with a proven technique which really generates interviews I write your CV and you concentrate on delivering your projects – as with any resource planning within project teams there are “horses for courses” and achieving good results is what we all strive for.
Taken this all into account, you will see why it is important to make sure you invest in your career by taking advice and making sure you are seriously considered for the roles that are available, whether in abundance or scarce.
I’ve had a number of clients come to me recently asking how difficult it is to transfer into permanent roles for a number of reasons; one main concern is lack of stability with contract positions. This is why I always question those who decide to take a contractor route, in an ideal world you would command a good day rate and aim to work 6 months of the year with 6 months out of contract – however day rates aren’t always ideal and those who don’t plan carefully will need to be in contract for the full 12 months of the year. If you are looking to move into a permanent role, you should also realise that the change isn’t always ideal for everyone. The fact you have moved around a lot means you probably don’t settle too well into a permanent scenario. It is this reason that employers may become wary of considering you for a permanent job, they will question whether you are just taking the role because there are no contracts about and will you leave when the market improves.
It isn’t impossible to make the transition, however you will need to put in extra work with your CV and I would also recommend a strong cover letter detailing why the change from contract work. The CV will need more focus on where you have delivered from start to finish – not necessarily picking up part run projects and I would also focus attention on where you have improved team performance. Evidence of hitting the ground running is great for contract work but not necessarily required for FTE. However areas where you have improved overall project capability and really worked with the business will come across favourably in the CV.
Be ready for questions about your motives, you will be scrutinised at recruiter level, HR level and by hiring managers so it is important to get your story straight and believable.
After reading a number of stories about those with aspirations to better themselves and secure their dream role it occurred to me that fear of the unknown or more so fear of failure are the major blockers to those wanting to reach their goals. Taking an easy road where you feel secure isn’t necessarily as safe as you may think – securing a position within a large organisation where you feel job security comes before your own career goals can really hinder you and be counterproductive. Taking the leap of faith by going after the career you believe is your forte can be far more rewarding and have equal risk to that faithful safe route. Not only will you feel as though you aren’t being utilised to your full potential you also run the risk of that time old “restructuring” which can inevitably mean redundancy. By researching what it takes to achieve your career goals and taking a few punts you will be taking the right steps towards reaching your full potential and general happiness.
Here’s an example:
John knew at university that he was a strong leader; he had a passion for creating and always felt he would be well suited to managing large construction programmes of work. However, John was worried he may falter along the way by having periods of unemployment as the route he felt was ideal often meant he would be working on contract not as an employee – who would pay the rent when he was between contracts? So he took a safe route as a large blue chip financial institution was offering graduate roles within their accounts department, he worked for years taking the appropriate qualifications and became a qualified accountant. Not a bad course to take but very limiting for someone who clearly had different aspirations. After 20 years faithful employment he was made redundant and because of the recession dip found himself struggling to secure a new role, he was also caught up in a catch 22 situation where a change in career seemed almost impossible. Every day became a struggle and his dreams of building were just that, dreams.
Had he taken the approach of the path less travelled and gained some experience in construction supporting large programmes of work and working his way up he would have no doubt come across the major construction stoppage during the recession but the outcome would have been different. He would be realising his dream and still had the period of unemployment/no contract. However the economy adapted and both fields picked up again for new roles, at least he’d be living his dream and the risks were equal.
Don’t be afraid to chase your career dreams – we spend far too much time working versus being at home, the benefits far outweigh the risks.