Creative writing does not need to be fictional – in fact a good story teller should be able to apply a style to factual events to make them an interesting read. Some readers actually have a greater buy-in to pieces of literature which are true and this often makes for a larger following. As the web has grown into huge proportions and businesses are reliant on websites, Facebook pages and blogs to market their products it has become necessary for copywriters and content writers to look at different approaches.
Having a creative background albeit visually, I found quite early on in my degree that I could apply my abilities to written form – at first it was a lecturer who read one of my journals and said he liked my humorous approach to writing and from there I was encouraged to write more. I did this throughout my degree but when I left University I went on to forge a career in project management and found that a straight forward factually based style was required especially as I was dealing with a number of teams based across Europe so language barriers became an issue. However I believe that a more creative approach to writing presentations and particularly for workshops, the style can be much more engaging than stuffy communication.
It was when I started working for a project management recruitment agency that I found a balance between writing factual pieces of work and being creative – I was quite heavily involved in contributing to the company blog, newsletter, and I also wrote my job adverts for prospective candidates. I noticed the more inclusive a job advert was that I received a greater focussed set of applications for my jobs. By noting down key elements but also trying to give the reader a flavour of the organisation, I was starting to generate a great deal of interest. Talking through what they could receive in return for working at the organisation such as culture and making a mark, could easily make up for less competitive salaries.
The interest was not just from the prospective candidates but also other businesses who were particularly interested in my style and I was approached on countless occasions by head hunters. It is true to say that this style of writing has also proven very successful for my current business of professional CV writing – taking a bland piece of information and applying a creative slant to the document has struck a chord with my clients and employers. Bringing some personality to the CV and really painting a picture about the individual in regards to abilities, skills, management style and problem solving.
It just goes to show that you can apply your creative writing abilities to many aspects of work and making an extra effort can really help you get the message across… No more death by powerpoint!
All too often I am approached by PPM professionals asking me why they are not getting into shortlists for roles commensurate to their salary/day rates and experience. One look through the CV will tell me all I need to know about why the applications are not being taken seriously, if the CV is well balanced with project detail and core competencies then it is usually that the CV doesn’t speak the right level of seniority and responsibility. Overlooked have been key areas such as team management (and direct line management which is less common with PPM professionals these days thanks to matrix environments), levels of management dealt with and of course complexity of projects (with the issues that these attract). Do not assume a job title will cover core areas of responsibility as titles can be very deceptive from organisation to organisation. If you are working at programme level then one would expect to see some reference to the elements of programme management required in order to carry out your role, project support professionals need to address the core areas they are covering such as interfacing the PM teams with senior management as standard and look into areas such as building project capability. Are you hands on or do you orchestrate teams? Or a bit of both, talk to us about how you deliver and deal with underperforming staff. Training and mentoring individuals and teams tends to be par for the course with most PPM professionals however not all and there are many ways to administer and gain buy-in; from your teams and also from your senior stakeholders.
There may be elements of change management you apply to your delivery and particular emphasis on risk – talk about these, all core areas sought after by employers. Don’t get caught into repetition on the CV – you may deliver similarly from role to role but there are always subtle differences, make sure you draw these out to add more value to the CV rather than stating “same responsibilities as XYZ role”. Cover as many elements of the project lifecycle as possible running through the roles so you can really start to tick the boxes of the hiring manager’s wish list. As a contractor you may have some fantastic war stories you can share – talking through how you hit the ground running and trouble shoot, and don’t forget that all important handover to BAU. Employers would much rather have a contractor come in and solve their issues and leave the team capable of continuing the good work once you leave. Always adding value, thinking about the end goal and how you can be attractive to your next employer is very important – don’t sell yourself short.
So we’ve been in and out and back in and double dipped the recession, a lot have held on in their current jobs feeling it to be a safer bet than moving into the unknown – but in reality, just how safe is it to stay with an employer after a few years? The business may be booming and there is no sign of streamlining, however a story I hear all too often is that there appears to be no progression and roles are becoming a little stale as the projects are very much alike. As far as your career progression goes, the safe bet is actually making your aspirations grow stagnant. Most PM professionals enjoy the job because of the diversity and growth, and as much as your company may be signing off training to keep you interested and happy – is it really enough?
I was talking with a programme manager last week who told me he had realised he’d lost his spark because there just wasn’t enough of a challenge for him anymore. When he had started his role a few years ago at his current employer, he had significant challenges with disparate teams and projects not delivering on time or to budget. Having spent time to really understand the team and implement a stepped capability model into the business, he had brought the programme capability through to maturity and apart from the occasional anomaly he has a smooth running ship. He explained that he’d hung in with the business as the job market was unstable and felt the security of his current position was enough to keep him interested. But as time has flown by he realises that he needs to do something against his risk averse comfort zone and take a leap of faith to secure a new challenge and get his spark back. Although he has a great deal of loyalty to his current company, he knows that the current structuring means he will continue in the same role with no chance of progression until “someone dies” and as the PPM team and structure are looking healthy for the foreseeable future his only option is to move on.
Is this you? Are you feeling trapped in a comfort zone which is slowly killing your passion for PM? The market is always up and down, there is never an ideal time to jump ship but as a good PM you will be used to researching and weighing up the risks, so use these skills to look at new opportunities and relight that fire.
Performing the role of an interim Project Management professional is rather different to an employee position – obvious differences are that you are a temporary resource and as such you are paid (usually a good rate) to go in and address core business needs, and provide a robust solution.
Often you will face resistance by permanent staff and are viewed as the bad guy as opposed to the solution provider, it is not a role for the feint hearted and as such you will develop a style (and thick skin) which is flexible and understand the need to bring teams on board quickly without giving the impression you are stepping on toes but still meet overarching business goals.
Here’s a list of some things which you should consider if looking to take the plunge into contracting:
- No inductions – unlike the employee route which will have you sat in week long inductions, the contractor will be thrown into the IT team to get set up on their systems and then you are on the start line (the starter pistol having been triggered weeks earlier).
- Little support – as you are likely to be commanding a high day rate you will be deemed an expert in your field, so don’t expect any hand holding, be ready to roll your sleeves up from the off.
- No training – not true with every organisation, I have seen some businesses investing in training and qualifications for contractors, however this is a rarity and not something you should be expecting.
- Expected to hit the ground running – As per the inductions bullet point, jumping straight in is the norm. You will develop a style over time where you will have a communications plan set up from the off, getting to know the teams and understanding their perspective is important.
- Inheriting teams – although not always the case, some are lucky to be able to recruit their own team, whether internally or bringing in talent. But you will always come across assignments where the team has already been picked, not always ideal but a good leader will ascertain the teams’ abilities and needs quickly and ensure they are driving results.
- Resistance – how many have tried before you, I have spoken to many a contractor who has taken an assignment which has previously had several PMs try and fail. In this instance you are likely to be met with teams who are waiting for you to fail or are just fed up with a newbie coming in and implementing yet another method of approach.
Contractors by nature tend to get bored in their roles after a while which is why they choose to take this route, always looking for their next challenge and keen to be involved in problem solving. The best contractors really have the people element of PM nailed down, the ability to really understand people and lead from the front is key to being successful – arguably a skill which cannot necessarily be learned but can certainly be honed.