Tag Archives: Q&A

Personal Statement, what do I do?? Questions Answered

Hi Nicola, I am currently studying at University and I have been asked to write a personal statement for a work placement as part of my course – I have no idea where to start as my original personal statement to get on my course reads like a biography, help!!!

Steve, Manchester

Hi Steve, Many thanks for your question. First of all it is great to hear universities are actively encouraging work experience placements for students, I cannot think of a better way to gain some relevant work experience whilst you are studying and this will certainly help you once you have graduated and are looking to start work.

The importance of such placements does bring some pressure to make sure you can piqué interest  with the best employers in your field to ensure a worthwhile placement, reassuring them you can do the job albeit in a junior capacity will make the difference between being actually picked for the role and also the duties that you will incur on the placement. You don’t want to be brewing up and making photocopies there right!

To start I suggest you talk a little about yourself in a work capacity, how you ended up taking the course and how you have utilised your skills so far. Use examples of putting the theory into practice whether it has been in paid work or for family and friends. Make sure you research the employer to understand what their USP (Unique Selling Point) is and match up your abilities and skills in this area. Then you should look to introduce what skills you have gained on the course and how you wish to progress in your specialist niche. Make sure you keep referring to particular projects the employer has worked on and start to introduce specific skill-sets; it is also good to touch upon the software you may have been using and your general ability to pick up new software packages. As this is a personal statement I also recommend you talk about why it would mean so much for you personally if you were picked for the placement, don’t go over the top with compliments to them but get a balance of your respect for their work and genuinely why you want to work there. Conclude with a paragraph about how you see your career progression once you have graduated and gaining specific work experience will assist you in reaching your goals.

I am assuming you will be submitting your CV with your personal statement, therefore let the CV be the formal part of the application and allow a more personal feel to the statement itself. Good luck!

Project Management job market insight – Q&A

This week we have a great question from a client looking to get an insight into the reality of the job market during reported “troubled times” with the economy.

Hi Nicola, do you know what is happening with jobs in project management at the moment? I’ve noticed a distinct drop in advertised positions over the summer holiday period, is this normal as I saw a healthier jobs board over the same period last year?

Judith; Programme Consultant – Bristol

Hi Judith, thanks you for your question – yes it has been a quiet summer for advertised jobs in the PM field. There are a number of reasons for this and the obvious ones are the Olympics and Paralympics taking over a great deal of attention, however the media were finally reporting upbeat news which normally tends to have a positive effect on recruitment. Once the doom and gloom stories of the economy shrink back – a sense of confidence from hiring managers’ emerges. To be fair I haven’t noticed a huge dip in project management roles across the board, a number of independent job boards seem to be publishing a healthy volume of new PM related roles on a daily basis and having been in touch with a fair few senior managers at large blue chips, I can confirm that hiring personnel is not on hold generally. In fact I have discussed many fantastic positions with these clients and noticed a trend of recruitment being taken in-house. This cuts back on the fees for engaging recruitment firms and in their opinion saves them time and money – they have in-house recruiters / HR who can do the job so why look outside. I can see their point and for roles which are not so niche and are well paid, they shouldn’t struggle to attract strong applications. However the harder to fill positions will still be dished out to recruitment specialists eventually; however they will try to fill the roles themselves, sometimes for months before taking external services.

Businesses are turning away from the major job boards and relying on their own websites, twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook to advertise / attract talent. This makes your job a little bit more challenging as you need to research organisations in your field, find roles and apply direct. Of course a great deal of the in-house recruitment teams are being trained up to use LinkedIn as a tool for finding talent too – clearly a time to dust off your profile and make sure it is up to date and searchable. The specialised job boards are offering very competitive fees for advertising roles on them so it is important to keep an eye on them too.

The advertised roles are certainly picking up now we are heading into autumn and speaking with a number of specialist PM recruiters – there is a positive impression that the recruitment market is picking up.

Q&A: Graduate CV

This week we have a question form a recent graduate who is looking to forge their career in event management.

Hi Nicola, I have been looking for a new role recently as the current position I am in is temporary – I have got some good experience in managing events as part of a placement at University and my current role. However I don’t seem to be attracting hiring managers with my CV and wondered if a functional format CV is the right format for me? Without this format my CV looks limited and listing my recent assignments as suggested by recruiters doesn’t seem to be effective either.

Wendy – Project Executive; Derby

Hi Wendy, Many thanks for your question. I am often asked if a functional CV (one which highlights out core competencies at the top of the CV) works for project management roles as effectively skills are the same throughout each role. I have to disagree with this statement as every role is different and I have yet to meet an organisation which runs its projects the same as another business. Therefore it is important to use a chronological format where you can drill down into what the projects were and how you delivered them in each role. Now I understand that you have a limited number of roles on your CV being a recent graduate but this is where you can list your part time positions and responsibilities too, as all experience is good experience. You have been fortunate enough to get some solid industry experience on your placement and in your current role which I would suggest you place most emphasis on and also draw out some key achievements. Your CV will soon be rich with information about your abilities and experience to date; by taking a professional approach to contextualising your experience and where you have used your skills you will be demonstrating excellent communication skills to your potential employer and should start to attract attention from hiring personnel. Here’s some further information about Functional Vs Chronological CV formats.

Applying for roles I am over-qualified for – Questions answered.

This week we have a fantastic question from someone looking to work for their dream employer – by (almost) any means….

Hi Nicola, can you advise about applying for a junior/admin role at your dream employers … Just to get a foot in the door at the right company. I’d be interested to know how to pitch an application for a job I could be described as over qualified for.

Vicky – Northampton.

Hi Vicky – great question! I’m not sure you are going to like my response though, as applying for roles less senior to your current role can be seen as a step backwards it is often the case that employers will discard your application for a number of reasons such as:

  1. HR / hiring manager may be anxious that you may be looking for a way into the business with no real desire to stay in the role – wanting to progress is great for most employers but when you are already a step or two ahead of the role, this means you will be in the advertised role for a few months before making a move upwards. This leaves HR and the hiring manager with the initial problem of filling the Admin role; this is essentially deemed as a waste of time and money recruitment wise.
  2. Suspecting you are looking for an easy-ride role, as it is more junior you perceive it as a job you can sit back in and not really engage. Whereas a less qualified person would see the role as a challenge and really work hard / demonstrate keenness.
  3. Your potential line manager may feel intimidated by you, especially if you have held a more senior role to them and have more experience – their job feels threatened by your presence.

My advice would be to wait for a role which is more in-line with your current seniority ideally as rejections for roles tends to put a mark against your name as candidates make an impression that they are either desperate for a role and applying for anything or didn’t read / understand the job descriptions – applications would then be rejected or put to the bottom of the pile.

Have you tried making a direct approach to the business in question? LinkedIn can be a great way-in, by looking up heads of departments etc and making contact you could start to form some relationships with the right people and then once a relevant role comes to your attention you can make an application and your name will already be known in the right circles. When you do make contact – ask questions about what career backgrounds the business tends to attract, how often XXX types roles come up and if you can get a fluid correspondence flowing – ask if you can meet for coffee. It’s playing the long game but it is more likely to harvest positive feedback and a way-in at a level you deserve to be at too (whilst gaining some valuable insider information which you can use to strengthen your application).