“As a senior project manager with experience of working on some high profile projects with large names in financial services I have been applying for a number of project management jobs recently and had a few calls but still no interviews – what am I doing wrong? I am clearly attracting some interest but not a lot and I don’t seem to be getting further that the initial recruiter call and promise of being put forward to the client.” John Senior PM London
Without looking at your CV it is hard to say but I can make an educated guess at where you are going wrong John – for a start, the fact you have worked on high profile projects for reputable businesses will always attract some interest from recruiters. However the experience alone won’t cut it with the employers and this part is the most frustrating for the recruiters, your CV clearly isn’t selling you positively so the recruiters are taking a punt by putting you forward for roles but you are being rejected against your peers who have a much stronger CV.
Be sure to tell us about the projects – what was involved and what they achieved but don’t write an essay, keep it clear and concise (we don’t need to know sq ft just general scale). Then tell us how you work – think about the job description, it should contain a list of wants, are you addressing these wants on your CV?? And not just a list of skills, use the space to talk through context so we know exactly who, how, when, why etc. Do not assume the reviewer will know you work in a particular way, having the PM badges doesn’t excuse you from talking about method in your CV.
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!
Here’s your 7 step guide to reaching success when looking for a new job:
- Research – when you take the decision to start looking for a new role you really need to understand the industry and the roles you are applying for, make a start by looking at the types of roles you wish to apply for. Job descriptions and adverts are widely available online, by reading through them and understanding what is involved you will quickly identify the roles most relevant to you. Also spend some time researching the industries you wish to work in. Look at some of the larger corporate websites to gain a greater knowledge of what is hot at the moment as these will likely be the growth areas in that field. Start to match up your skill-set and exposure to relevant projects, make a note of these and use them as examples in your CV.
- Make a list – gather a list of the relevant role titles to your skill, and place in a spreadsheet to keep track of websites which yield good search results for them. As well as searching job boards, think about placing random searches into search engines as you will also bring up roles with direct employers too which you may have otherwise missed – a lot of employers will only advertise on their own websites.
- Focus – Ensure you are spending time on roles which you can meet a minimum of 90% of the criteria listed, this saves you wasting time on roles which you are unlikely to get into the short-list for and keeps your list down to a manageable size. It is important to streamline your applications so you can spend more time tweaking your CV and writing a cover letter for so you can yield more results. It is quality not quantity!
- Make another list – create another spreadsheet of roles you have applied to and through which websites, when etc. you need to be organised when you start receiving calls from HR / recruiters etc. it does make all the difference when you sound on the ball during these calls.
- Follow up – leave it a day or two after you make an application then call up the person handling your application. Check it has been received and offer to clarify anything further they may need to know. Round up the call by asking when you can expect to hear a response regarding your application – remain professional throughout, this includes speaking to receptionists etc. be friendly, clear, helpful and don’t let frustrations show. The person handling your application makes the decision whether to pass on your CV to clients/hiring managers so keep in mind they are testing you from the first point of application. Put yourself in their shoes – if you come across abrupt or desperate then they are highly unlikely to put your forward through fear of having their reputation soiled.