Category Archives: Project management career progression

Making time for interviews

Whilst working full time and having a life outside of work job applications are sometimes a little hit and miss – however once you are attracting interest from hiring managers and have secured interviews you really do need to set aside some time to prepare. I have addressed how to prepare for interviews in a previous blog but the reality of actually putting the work in to ensure you reach success is crucial. Hopefully you will be given some notice ahead of your allotted interview date and as such you should plan ahead how you can spend some time to really work at your technique.

Using the job description you should be able to gain a good idea of the questions you will be asked from the list of required skills. Work through the list and think about some good strong responses, by giving actual examples of when you have used these skills rather than what you would do – the hiring manager will be able to form a good picture of you and how you work. This will no doubt prompt further questions about how you dealt with issues that arose etc and will help the interview flow. It is a good idea to formulate some questions and give them to your partner / colleague or relative to ask you. Answer the questions as you would at interview and be sure to allow your personality to shine through to (not forgetting to smile also), after each question ask your mock interviewer to repeat back to you in their own words what you have told them. By performing this scenario you will get practice at talking out loud about your experiences but also gain a good understanding of how clear you come across. If the responses back to you are unclear – then you need to look at how you are articulating yourself, are you using jargon and terminology which isn’t being understood?

Remember that practice makes perfect so the more you can run through your examples, the better you will be at articulating yourself. Try to keep to a structured format when supplying your responses, set the scene (briefly but concisely) then talk about your actions (remember the interview is about you not your team so “I did..” not “we did..” should be used and then talk through the outcome, what was it you achieved (the benefits).

Counter offers from current employer – questions answered

I have been with my current employer for several years but feel I am not really appreciated – I have been responsible for delivering strategic business lead projects and implementing PM structures. I have become increasingly frustrated by the businesses attitude towards my work as I rarely receive any recognition and my salary has not been enhanced for 3 years. I decided to apply for a new role and have now found myself with a couple of offers which pay more and potentially look like good places to work, I discussed with my boss who has made a counter offer of more pay. I really do not know what to do? Tony; Project Manager, London.

So you’ve been feeling undervalued in your job for a while and as such you have taken action by applying for new roles which you feel can meet your potential and after interviewing receive an offer or two. It’s a nice place to be in and negotiations are underway with your potential employers; you have made it known with your current employer that you are going to leave your role and your hiring manager is making moves to keep you, but has he asked why you wish to leave? All very straight forward and being professional you can explain that you feel that your skills could be put to better use on a new challenge and that you are feeling undervalued currently. Then the big question comes from your boss; what do they have to offer? Now this does not always happen as a good deal of employers feel that if you haven’t taken the steps to move on that you must do what you feel is right as they do not want begrudging staff in the office moving forward. However as in your case, some businesses know that as you play an instrumental role in their projects that losing you will be detrimental to the team and the project and so contact HR and arrange a new package offering for you to stay.

Have you considered that the “knee jerk” reaction to you leaving only then presents a need to reward you? This does not bode well moving forward within this business as they are only willing to re-evaluate your current status and reward because they are going to lose you. Does this also mean that every time you want progression or a salary review that you must go through the same cycle of applying for roles outside the business to gain any recognition?

The very fact that you have originally gone out and secured job offers says a lot about where you feel you are and having been made a couple of offers from businesses which appreciate your worth whilst offering you a remuneration package which reflects this means you are indeed worth more. Sometimes a change is as good as a rest, if you have any concerns about your potential employers – drop them a line with some further questions. Good luck!

Negotiating your job offer package

You receive a job offer and want to ensure you are getting the best proposition – here are some tips to assist you in doing just that. Firstly you need to take a look at the role being offered, is it a step in the right direction? Often we look for a new role for a number of reasons such as; the current role no longer offers challenges, you feel you are not being paid your worth, the boss gets under your skin, you want to progress your career, the business is not going in the direction you want to go in, your project portfolio is not interesting you any more etc. So taking a look at the role in greater detail is essential – no point jumping from one disappointing role to another and being trapped for another couple of years so you do not ruin your employment track record. Once you have identified that this is the role for you, you should address the following:

  1. Salary – is this an improvement and commensurate with the task you are being asked to execute? Although salary is important if you have other reasons for moving on from your current employer, you should take a pragmatic view of what the new employer has to offer. Do not expect to jump up £10k from your current role unless you have been massively underpaid previously and can justify your reasoning for such a big jump in pay. By presenting a business case on why you feel you should be commanding £XX more than the offer you have been made you are more likely to make an employer sit up and listen rather than flatly refusing the offer and demanding more.
  2. Benefits – an interesting area, pensions, healthcare, season ticket loans, child care vouchers, car / car allowance etc should all be taken into consideration but really; which of these actually interest you and of the ones that do and are offered – are they good enough? If you are currently paying into a good pension scheme and there is an option to transfer into a new scheme – what can the employer really offer you? By listing your current benefits and stating their value you can present these to the HR team with a preference for the parts you are actually interested in and state justification for why these are important to be maintained or improved upon.
  3. Bonus – how realistic is the bonus scheme, what have they previously paid out to others in similar roles. Are they based on personal /group performance or a combination? Taking a pragmatic approach to this is important – you may find that your bonus handsomely enhances your salary; however a lot of firms are reporting suspension of bonuses due to the global economic situation. Make sure you state your current bonuses and list actual payouts so a reasonable comparison can be made which will benefit your negotiations. When a bonus scheme has not been paying out at your potential employers’ business this can open up further negotiation on salary.
  4. Holidays – although these come under benefits it is important to make sure you address this benefit as you would your salary. Some organisations cannot present any negotiations on the holiday entitlements offered for a particular grade but it is worth investigating further as a sudden loss of a week’s holiday can impact your life significantly, especially when you have other commitments such as children. Some organisations can offer a compromise such as working from home for some days or flexi time which should be negotiated before you take on a new engagement.

Sometimes the recruitment process can take weeks if not months before an offer is made leaving you frustrated and when the pressure for you to make a decision within a couple of days is presented, it is easy to try and play the employer at their own game – don’t! There are often a good few reasons why it can take so long for decisions to be made and as such you should take an understanding approach to their offer and ask if you can take a little longer to decide. Of course once negotiations are underway the onus is on HR staff to swiftly take action and mediate between the hiring manager and you to reach a compromise – this can take a while.

The lesson to be learnt from negotiating your offer package is to present your reasoning for wanting a change made to the offer – I have seen offers being retracted by employers when candidates come too hard with demands, but presenting your business case in a professional manner often reaps a good result. Do not make do with an offer through fear of losing it – be professional and see how the employer responds.


Impressing the boss is one thing – carving a name for yourself is another

I am not one for lateness; in fact I have an in-built program which won’t allow it. I can count on one hand the times I have been late for work – those times were completely unavoidable. But being late isn’t the only bug bearer in a successful team – there are those who consistently turn up “just in time” who are also noticed in a professional environment. I have always liked to get into the office a little early as it gives me time for reflection and also the opportunity to pick up any problems which may have manifested overnight. In turn it allows me the opportunity to get ahead with my workload allocating time for any further issues which may arise without having a huge impact on my daily schedule.

I am not an advocate for those who turn up to the office at 7am and leave at 7pm either – this if anything worries me that the individual cannot fit their work load into core office hours which means they have either got too much on their plate or they are bad time managers. Getting the balance right is key, we’ve all had to start really early or finish late on occasions and that is the nature of working in a project environment. Arriving half an hour before the office opens is good practice and allows a little quiet time before the phones start ringing off the hook.

Going the extra mile is also a good way to get noticed; this does not mean volunteering for everything available and will result in the 7-7 shift; but taking on additional pieces of work will not only highlight you as a team player – it will assist you in building up your skill-set. I have often advised those both working in a project environment and those looking to get into the PM field to take this approach as it is a fantastic was to really get involved in core areas which are of interest to you and prove your ability to pick up areas of work new to you. For those who are not currently in the PM world and want to join it, it is imperative that you gain valuable experience working on projects. You can add the detail to your CV and really demonstrate your commitment to potential employers about taking a dedicated project position moving forward. For those who are seasoned in the PM field it is a prime opportunity to work on projects which you haven’t had exposure to before which will widen your knowledge field and potential for getting into differing projects later down the line.

There are others ways to increase your skill-set and get noticed for the right reasons at work – such as volunteering yourself up to head up presentations, some may be based on something new you have learnt or to generate a discussion about ideas you may have for the business. Not all management teams are open to new ideas – which is a shame and can be catastrophic for the business but you should persevere all the same. Your ideas may be shelved at the time but brought out when needs arise in the future. However most good managers will take your ideas on board and look at how they can be utilised with the core business goals. You could be the instigator for some fantastic strategies in the business – nice to add to your CV huh!

The best way to really impress your management team and the business is to think out of the box and don’t be afraid to challenge – the best businesses actively welcome being challenged and it proves a great way to really build strong strategies and initiatives that work for the business and for your career.