Tag Archives: Starting out in project management

UK Job Snobs

Interesting to hear a snobbery emerging from the 16 to 24 year olds in the UK regarding taking up jobs considered beneath them, graduates with the attitude that they should be able to walk into a role which is in the field they have studied in or trained for. For me this also begs the question as to whether those with such attitudes have ever worked at all, a Saturday job or paper round were standard for myself and my peers when we were growing up. In fact by the time I had reached college age I was so experienced in waitressing that I was managing restaurants to fund the luxuries in my life such as car and mobile phone whilst studying full time.

Work Experience

It was these types of jobs, and believe me I have delivered pizzas, worked in factories, behind bars, and even stuffed compost into plant pots at the local nursery in my studying years, which really help to build you as an employable person for roles deemed more professional but also mould you and demonstrate to employers your ability to adapt to working environments.

Here are a few skills you will gain:

  • Team work
  • Following instructions
  • Time keeping
  • Attendance
  • Complaints handling
  • Customer service
  • Commercial acumen
  • Problem solving
  • Cash handling

Now add these to your qualifications, and look how much more attractive a package you are presenting to potential employers. We all have to start somewhere; naturally all employers are a little hesitant to hand out employment contracts to those straight out of education, but those who have references and proven they can do what it takes to fund their lifestyles are naturally set ahead of those that have always been supported financially by others.

I have provided careers advice to people from all backgrounds, from graduates to Director level – the graduates I have always encouraged to take any job, if they have no experience. Ideally if you can go in at a low level role within a large organisation then you will have the scope to prove yourself and move up the career ladder, but gaining any work experience is valuable and integral to achieving your career goals. For those looking to get into project management, it is important to get your foot through the door then look to get involved in projects. This is often the case for most PM professionals, falling into the field by being asked to assist on projects in addition to your usual role. In a time of austerity, with a lot of competition for the sought-after roles you need to do everything you can to enhance your employability.

Why Project Management Skills Are Desirable For Any Job

Project stakholder from New York State Department of Evnironmental Conservation

If you are looking to get ahead in your career regardless of your occupation then project management skills can be a great way to make your CV stand out against a pool of applicants. You don’t need to specifically be going for project management jobs to make use of such skills as the abilities and responsibilities of a good project manager are applicable across a wide range of disciplines and positions.

A good project manager is flexible and quick to adapt to new situations, but in general there is a core set of abilities that employers look out for when hiring project managers. There may be specific desirable skills that depend on the industry you are looking to enter, but there are some skills that are applicable across all disciplines:

Time Management
Project managers are held responsible for carrying out the details of their project on time. Delays can be very costly for companies, especially those working under strict contracts and missed deadlines can have very serious repercussions. A good project manager will be able to provide estimates for project milestones and make sure each milestone is met on time.

Budget Management
As project manager you may also be in charge of the budget for the project. You will be expected to complete the goals of your project with a set budget and be able to allocate funds appropriately. Effectively managing your budget is vital as in competitive markets profit margins can be thin, so overspending can result in eating into profits.

People Skills
Project manager jobs inherently involve working with a team under your command, so it is vital for project managers to be able to both instruct and inspire people. Project managers may be hired from outside but often companies will look from within when seeking to find a project manager, so you may find yourself in a position of authority with your colleagues and work friends. A good project manager must be able to remain professional in such situations and not let private relationships interfere with fulfilling professional duties.

Effective Communication Skills
Being a project manager involves not simply interacting with the team members under your command but also reporting to your bosses and potentially meeting with clients. Both situations will demand good communication skills of the project manager; superiors will want to know how the project is progressing, whether target deadlines and budgets are being met and how any potential issues will be resolved.

Good Technical Knowledge
Leading on from effective communication skills, when meeting with clients they may have several questions about the project which will require a technical expertise to answer. Project managers will be expected to handle any and all queries professionally and confidently so having a good grasp of your project and the technical knowledge surrounding it will be vital to assure clients.

All the above skills are vital for project managers but can also be applied to a wide range of roles. People who possess these skills can be very valuable so if you’re looking to increase your employability then investing your time into improving your skills in these areas can pay dividends in the end. There are a wide range of books on the subject which can help you, so if you’re looking for a new job or want to improve your CV then learning project management skills can be a great personal investment regardless of your occupation!

Featured images:

Amy Sawyer provides career advice and tips for jobseekers at Gatwick Diamond Jobs – a UK job board specialising in local jobs in South East England

Project Management versus Project Support careers

An interesting question came about from a client I was coaching the other week, he has gained some really good experience in project support and is looking to progress into the delivery aspect of PM. When I asked him what he enjoyed most about his career so far he became very animated and passionate about the work he had put in to creating financial monitoring and resource management tools. It quickly became apparent that he has a clear skill-set much sought after within PMO environments and his knowledge of promoting best practice through traditional means such as workshops and one to one coaching he also took more innovative approaches which met the constraints of the business managers and project managers. When we discussed his desire to change over to delivery from support he said it is because he wishes to progress his career, I pointed out that there is a career path within the project support element and that salaries are certainly commensurate to delivery staff once you move up the ladder. He said he felt that the general consensus is that delivery staff command more respect – naturally I had to push back on this as PMOs have evolved significantly over the past few years and that organisations are quite rightly using them as an interface between the business and the project delivery staff. Not nearly the “admin pool” it was once perceived as, maybe looking into businesses which value the support element as much as (if not more) than the project management functions are certainly the right route to take if you are looking to gain some gritty and challenging experience and forge a career.

Career crossroadOf course if you have always had it in your mindset that you want to be a project manager then you should follow this course but I would recommend working more closely with the project managers in roles such as Project Assistant, Project Coordinator, Junior PM etc where you are more likely to gain some exposure and experience in delivering the projects. The PMO is generally there to support as opposed to deliver, although I have seen some PMOs evolving to incorporate both.

Some are not cut out for delivery, the pressures in both environments are high but the delivery does have the “buck stops here” element so not for the feint hearted.

Example Project Management Cover Letter

Writing a cover letter seems to be a daunting act for so many – I have previously written about what to include but wanted to provide an example letter to assist you in gaining interest from potential employers. Cover letters should be tailored to each application and it is a good idea to spend time making sure you tailor your CV too. Unfortunately, gone is the day when one size fits all so taking time to apply for fewer jobs but putting more effort in will give you a better chance of success for generating interest and that all important interview.


Here is a fictitious job advert:

Project Manager required to manage a number of new product development projects within FMCG manufacturing, the successful applicant will have a good understanding of project management methods such as PRINCE2 and will have managed teams within matrix managed environments which are globally dispersed.

  • Exceptional project planning using MS Project
  • Manage resources across different cultures
  • Competent in PRINCE2 methods
  • Good client facing exposure
  • Extensive financial tracking and management responsibility
  • Comfortable providing monthly presentations to site managers and senior management teams

Of course the tailored letter for this role is only applicable to those with at least 90% of the above required skills and experience. This is a rule of thumb for all job applications; don’t waste your time applying for roles which are not relevant to you.

So a cover letter will go something like this:

Dear Sir / Madam (ideally try to get the name of the person you are applying to)

Please find enclosed my CV in application for the role of Project Manager as per your advert (reference CVR2905) advertised on XXXXXX.com.

I would like to draw your attention to my current role at XXXXX where I am responsible for managing up to 15 concurrent FMCG new product introduction projects, although PRINCE2 is not a process used at this organisation I have previously used this method at XXXXX where the business adopted a light version and all projects were managed through aspects of the project lifecycle.  I should also point out that during a contract position prior to this I implemented PRINCE2 methods into the core project management function within XXXXX.

All my roles have required extensive stakeholder management with internal and external parties based across the UK, Europe and USA. Most of my team management experience has been within matrix environments and where resources are globally dispersed. I am an advanced user of MS Project and have used this to plan projects for the past 10 years; I have held full P&L responsibility for all my projects with budgets ranging from £100k to £1.5m. I currently provide bi monthly presentations to our senior management team on project status, financials and forecasting – these are generally utilising Powerpoint and on site however I have also travelled to a number of our manufacturing sites for this purpose also.

I am available on my mobile to discuss further and look forward to hearing from you in due course.

Yours Faithfully (if you do not know their name) / Yours Sincerely (if you do know their name)

Jack Tyler


So as you can see – the letter addresses all aspects of the job description with examples and tells the reviewer more than the CV allows as we only want a 2 or 3 page document which should be highlighting the above but may not have all that detail. This will greatly enhance your application and should do all the right things in getting the reviewer to really read your CV not just skim through it along with 100 other applications. It also does the trick of helping the HR / recruitment consultant understand your relevance to the role; bearing in mind that a great deal of these reviewers won’t always have specialist knowledge of the role.