This week we have another great question about entering into project management from the armed forces.
Hi Nicola, I am due to leave the army soon and I am planning ahead my career – on discussing courses with my commanding officer it was suggested that I move in to project management as a lot of my skills match up closely with core PM requirements according to a skills checker used by careers advisors in the MoD. My background is within the officer ranking where I manage large teams in rolling out technology in global locations – as such I have been working to MoD structures and I feel these are transferable outside of the forces.
Hi Keith, thank you for getting in touch – glad to hear you are thinking ahead of moving back to civilian life, you have taken the right steps to speak with your CO and I assume you are taking advantage of all the courses and training which is provided to you when you have been given notice of leaving the forces.
Your experience lends itself well to a number of projects across industries – it saddens me that advice for our troops moving back to civilian life is grim at best, especially for project management. Having a brother who currently serves with the army I believe we need to be encouraging the transition of MoD personnel. Personally I have come across a great deal of ex forces personnel who have settled very well into project management roles for sectors such as defence, engineering, construction and manufacturing. Keys areas to focus on would those which you can offer something in return – think about the technologies you have rolled out, global delivery / exposure to cultural change, managing large teams and direct line management. All these skills are sought-after with large global organisations and businesses who adopt a “policing” approach to project management may also express an interest in your background.
What you need to focus on now is your CV – take time to make sure you research the roles you are interested in and check the core areas of interest, now make sure you focus on those aspects in your CV. Such as planning, reporting, risk management, stakeholder management etc. keep the focus on the technologies implemented and use terminology from project management (which you should be picking up from your courses and training) to ensure that the resume reviewer can match up your experience with the role. As with all writing their resume – it is important to make sure you are not using internal language from your current employer in the CV, a common language needs to be used as the hiring manager probably hasn’t worked at your places of employment.
Since the release of the OGC P3O guidelines and subsequent qualifications in 2008 the PMO became a hot topic in organisations as the move from the perceived “expensive typing pool” was encouraged to shift to an empowered state where it provides an interface between senior management and project management within the business. However the subsequent recession in 2009 and further doom and gloom with the global economic climate, we have seen a dip in the level of PMO roles available in the UK. Over the past year or so the shift seems to have moved towards effective programme and project managers taking the helm with PMO responsibilities being part of their remit. As the recession dictated a lower yield of roles generally in the PPM field it seemed to focus on key deliverers. Understandably if there are lower budgets but projects still need delivering the PMO will fall short. But I have always believed that the best PMO people will have experience in both supporting and managing projects as greater understanding of the reality of delivery can benefit those supporting and vice versa. Therefore I feel there is a great opportunity for PMO people to develop themselves further by taking on delivery of projects to strengthen their knowledge and understanding and demonstrating their adaptability to both areas.
There are still some PMO roles about so it is not all bad news but the competition is high and with employers increasingly asking for candidates who currently work in that industry it becomes harder for PMO professionals to transition into new roles beyond their sector. I do not agree with the employers as the role of PMO is about method not necessarily the “product” but in a risk averse world this is becoming the norm.
Moving forward I advise you offer up yourself for delivery in your current role as a PMO, taking on small projects to start and gaining experience and trust from programme managers etc will always strengthen your CV – but taking these measures will also place you in a better position for the job market today. Through being empowered in the PMO you will already have great stakeholder engagement experience and will also know the structured method to delivery, now it is time to put the theory into practice.
Applying for jobs can become tiresome especially when there is little to no response to applications made and job adverts are less than inspiring, I’ve even spoken to techie IT PMs who have set up software to apply on their behalf – which does seem a bit extreme and has proven embarrassing for them when I have called them about a role they didn’t know they’d applied for. I have spoken with candidates who have applied for jobs in excess of 20 per week – trust me, that is too many. And I have also spoken to those who do not apply for any roles yet always secure interviews for roles relevant to their experience.
What is the right way? Well there are lots of right ways as much as there are lots of wrong ways – the most important way, is the one which suits your lifestyle and schedule most. If you are between contracts or unemployed, then I recommend all the below. However if you are currently in employment and not in a rush to “jump ship” then I would pick and choose which work for you best. Remember, if you are working in a secure area and cannot take calls during the day – you need to ensure you are communicating this in applications / on your CV and you should also look to set aside time where you can speak with recruiters’ etc. such as taking lunch breaks off site or agreeing to take calls prior to work or after hours.
Here are some ideas to ease the search for that next new role:
- Set up searches to do the trawling for you – most job websites will have a search engine which you can set to run daily / weekly and email you the results. The key to success for this type of search is to try a few keywords and see what the searches bring back to you. If you have a niche skill which you would like to play on, then you may only need to put this skill as a keyword such as Primavera etc. However using keywords such as “project manager” for a London location will return a rather large list of roles, so try to get the balance right by using keywords closely matched to your skill-set / industry / sector etc. Once you have your list of roles emailed to you, you need to go through each role and discard all the roles which are clearly not for you. By filtering down your list to a small manageable list of jobs, you are cutting down the disappointment of rejection and also cutting down your workload to send your applications to. Track your applications (which should be easy to do if there are only 3 or 4 per week) and request feedback for rejections, this should assist you in understanding whether your CV is saying the right things.
- Market yourself – Gain a review of your CV to understand if it is working for you, once you are confident it is, load it on the job websites and wait for the recruiters and employers to come to you. If your CV is good – they will! If you are under confident or you have tried this method and it hasn’t worked for you, seek advice from a professional CV writer who specialises in your field.
As part of one of our services – The CV Righter can assist you with getting started on applications and show you where to look etc. For a free CV review contact us: www.thecvrighter.co.uk
Friday’s news made an interesting read; “Tom Winsor ‘best candidate’ for police watchdog role” was the headline on the BBC news website. Interesting because what has traditionally been seen as a role for a police individual has been opened up to a civilian, the first time since the role was established. Winsor, a commercial lawyer has been handpicked by a committee and backed by the home office to take the role.
Could this be the start of a shift in the job market? Particularly for project management staff, who in recent years have struggled to shift into any role other than the sector or industry and project type they have experience in? PMO professionals have had an easier ride in transitioning into other industries but purely due to a lack of experienced individuals in the field during a time where employees in secure roles are less willing to move roles due to uncertainty in the market. PMO staff can be recycled within the organisation and set up to support the next programme of work whilst project managers (particularly those with a niche specialism) are more likely to be moved on or kept but to work on projects which do not “light their fire” hence more project managers actively searching for roles, meaning more competition which has lead on to hiring managers (in a risk averse state) picking candidates most closely matched to the organisation.
I have often felt that businesses are missing a trick when it comes to bringing new employees onboard, surely someone who has a breadth of experience and skills in the field of PPM but less exposure to the “product” will be asking questions often overlooked by teams who are too familiar with it? Also it has often been seen that organisations adopt different ways of working across sectors – could elements of this be introduced into a different industry? It all comes down to perspective, strategy; and no doubt – fear of change.
So reading that Winsor is a prime candidate for the role filled me with a sense of hope for everyone looking to make changes moving forward. And a lesson to be learned here is that Winsor took on a piece of work to analyse police pay – the review left him unpopular with people within the force however he gained a great deal of exposure to how the force is operated. This insight and his ability to address key areas of change without fear of losing popularity coupled with a different perspective, the home office feel, has placed him in pole position for the job. Take opportunities to look into different areas and fields – it may well be your passport out of your current industry into a great new challenge.
The CV Righter is a professional CV writing service which was formed to assist all those in project management – having a background in managing projects and implementing PMO processes followed by 5 years experience in recruiting project management staff from support roles through to programme directors across all industries and sectors means we have a good insight into what the employer expects to see on your CV. If you would like to learn more about how we can assist you, get in touch: https://www.thecvrighter.co.uk/