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.
Settling back at work after the holidays is always a difficult one; especially if you have been using your time away from the office to reflect on how different life could be, you might well feel like packing up your desk and leaving. You wouldn’t be the first and will not be the last to feel like this but you could use this negative energy in a positive way to give yourself something to look forward to.
Here’s a list of things you can make a start at addressing to put you in a better place to moving on in your career:
- Perform a personal stock take on your skills and abilities – learn about yourself and how your skill-set sits with the job market today, you may well find you are selling yourself short in your current role or you may identify a gap which needs addressing. Either way, it is a rarity for individuals to just sit down and take a long hard look at what you can actually do (mainly because we just get on with it).
- Clean up your online profile – pay some attention to that LinkedIn profile you have left suspended in a half finished state online (says a lot about a professional, especially those looking for a new opportunity), how is your twitter feed looking these days? What no post since 01/06/14? Have you been in touch with your peers online? Sung about your projects? Joined in chat groups… clearly not!
- Dust down your CV – having spent some time on point 1, you should have a good idea of what employers and recruiters are after seeing and you should also be in a good position to update your CV with some fresh information.
- Be really lazy at the job hunting – load your CV on the job websites and let the recruiters come to you. If your CV is good, they will be calling you, if it’s not so great you will be checking your phone for non-existent messages and maybe it is time to get a professional opinion!
There’s always a lot of pushback when it comes to singing your own praises on your CV, how very British of us not to celebrate our success. Often you will consider simply stating “completed on time and to budget” as good enough, but in reality this statement is met with a shrug of the shoulders, as a successful PM is supposed to deliver this a minimum right!? It is all too easy to become very egotistical too which doesn’t paint you in a good picture either as no one likes a show off. So how can you really add in detail to your CV which sings your praises but doesn’t have the hiring manager wondering how they will get your head through the door at interview?
Here are some tips:
- Tell us about the complexity and size of the project, often an area overlooked by throwing in internal acronyms which mean little outside the business or generic terms which could mean anything.
- Talk through some key challenges faced on the project – don’t assume the hiring manager will know that you have had to herd chickens and completely rebuild the hen house. I have lost count of PMs who have said “well it’s all part of the job”, not for every project it isn’t and if you don’t tell us on the CV how will we know just how good you really are?
- Facts and figures are important on a CV; there is a huge difference from delivering £300k of business benefits to 100 users than £3m benefit covering 1000 employees.
- You say you are good with people, but have you demonstrated this with some good examples in the CV. Just what is it you do to create a results driven team?
- Dealing with multiple sites? Matrix management? Offshore and nearshore? There’s a great deal of work goes into working with disparate teams, cultural issues, language barriers and even time differences which can become huge blockers.
- Picking up failing pieces of work? Have you told us this or merely stated you delivered it on time and to budget? It takes real skill to parachute in and fire fight with teams who may have had several PMs trying to deliver the work prior to you.
These are just a few ideas which will assist you in thinking through your assignments, it is important when you perform a skills audit that you list your core issues and how you overcome them, you will soon have a strong piece of information which can be tailored to your CV and really blow your trumpet without coming across as a self obsessed.