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.
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).
This week we have a fantastic question about PM qualifications from one of our clients’:
I have been working in the project management domain for a number of years and been working to a fair few methods due to the variety of projects delivered, all my methods have been learnt on the job and I feel I have a good grounding which will be attractive to employers. Do you think I should gain formal accreditation in these methods, will it enhance my career moving forward or will employers be happy with my hands on experience?
David, Project Manager; Leeds
Hi David, many thanks for your question – glad to hear you are going about the big qualification issue the right way. First of all having the structured approach experience is always paramount to the majority of employers out there and also for your own professional development. I all too often see a lot of project professionals who have gained accreditations before putting the method to practice; this is often deemed the wrong way to go about things. I agree that more junior PM staff and those starting out in project management would benefit from taking introductory courses which will allow them a good understanding of why / what the stages of structured PM are in place, but don’t recognise the benefit of taking qualifications for methods which are not currently being used unless there is a requirement to bring such structure to the project with no other champions in the field available to oversee the implementation.
As a seasoned professional you would be adding to your current repertoire by taking qualifications relevant to your experience as this adds reassurance to the hiring manager that you are committed in the field of PM and also willing to enhance your own professional development. As such I would evaluate where you see your career heading and take an informed decision as to which qualifications to run with. If you have a particular specialism and can see this as a growth area in PM then it would be wise to follow this route, there’s little point in going for the qualifications which you don’t deem personally useful moving forward. As PM courses can prove to be expensive, you might also look to your current employer and see if they are willing to invest in your professional development. By providing a good business case for the need; such as training others / implementing companywide structures etc you should be able to strike a deal which will be mutually beneficial.