As the year 2011 comes to an end and we enter an Olympic year filled with high-profile projects on view to the world, project managers across the nation and the world brace for the status of the project management marketplace. In January we'll bring you that very status with the release of the 2012 Project Management Benchmark Report, compiled from the responses of those both in and around the project management practition throughout the nation and the world to the 2012 Project and Programme Management Census. Take part in the Project Management Census today to have your say.
In addition to giving you this fantastic chance to shape the feeling within the project management jobs market, Project Management Tipoffs acts as the career adviser this month. As our regular readers no doubt know that we bring you a question and answer session each month in this space, our issue for December consists of nothing but questions from project managers, and answers from our wealth of project management careers consultants. Michael Hides, Gary Holmes, Steve Trippier, Lindsay Scott and John Thorpe all take a crack at some of the issues burning in the project management marketplace at the moment, making it an invaluable resource for legions of project management job seekers to come.
SPECIAL NOTES: Tipoffs is now available in podcast form for all of our audio fans keen on learning the ins and outs on project management, programme management and recruitment in the PPM world. The December podcast is now available. Click here to learn more about our podcasts and subscribe to our regular feed, or here to download us on iTunes. For the on-the-go, instantaneous information public, Project Management Tipoffs and Arras People are ready for you.
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Is Project Management Work Still Needed in This Economy?
"I have been out of work, so I am currently studying for Prince2 Foundation, at home by myself, as I cannot afford to pay for a professional course. My question, is there an increase or decline currently with Project Management work due to situation of the economy?" – Fred Lawale via email
Michael Hides of Arras People says: Hi Fred. I cannot help but feel the question being asked is more about whether taking the Prince2 question is a good use of your time and limited funds. However, I will answer the question asked as well as the inferred question.
In terms of the project management recruitment market we have seen periods of both high and low activity. Assignments have tended to be in the private and third sectors favouring positive growth activity (new products, business transformation to facilitate growth) rather than cut backs.
From a statistical perspective our activity this year has already surpassed last year's total, with four months remaining and this week alone we are looking at almost a dozen new roles to be started in the coming days.
The other notable feature with clients has been the risk-averse recruitment approach. What I mean by that is that clients are looking for an exact set of skills, and where in the past they may have considered transferable skills, they will hold out for an almost perfect match. This can be frustrating for candidates, who feel they can do the role but are not being progressed, let alone interviewed. My advice in this situation is two-fold:
- Firstly, only apply for roles where you can demonstrate a 90% plus match to the role requirements from your most recent (2-3 years) assignments/roles.
- Ensure your CV is tailored to highlight the skills the role is asking for. This is not about being misleading or claiming you have experience that you do not have; rather, you should be ensuring that the experience you do have clearly matches the client’s needs.
Turning our attention to the question of your PRINCE2 activity, I would have to ask a few further questions. These would be around your project management experience and particularly your PRINCE2 experience. A lot of our roles ask for PRINCE2, but when pushed the majority of clients are looking for project management training and one of the few standards they are aware of is PRINCE2.
We are starting to see a wider adoption of project management training with the likes of APM and PMI now being accepted.
If you have experience of working within a PRINCE2 or PRINCE2-like environment, then supplementing this with accreditation makes sense. However, I think it is only fair to warn you that the PRINCE2 accreditation alone will not make a massive difference in your prospects with respect to the roles Arras People tend to see.
In summary, the market is still active, but you need to concentrate on the roles that best reflects your experience and you will need to work harder to make yourself stand out from all the other candidates with similar experience.
If you would like to put a question to Michael or any of our other project management consultants, contact us and it could end up in a future edition of the Tipoffs Q&A. Also, be sure to check out both our Project Management Careers Clinic and also the Project Management Careers Advice pages for more advice related to project management careers.
Got a question for us? Contact us today.
How Do Project Managers Switch Their Domains?
"Common challenge: How can a PM best go about moving into another domain...i.e. - financial services to pharmaceutical?" – Robert Kelly via Twitter
Great question Robert, and probably the most commonly asked question at the moment with all the change out in the PPM domain and indeed the globe. There is never an easy time to switch industry or sector, and particularly now when opportunities are fewer and the country has adopted a "risk averse" attitude; it is not an easy feat. It is not impossible, but it is going to be a challenge and is not for the work shy!
A key starting point is to do your research:
- Understand the industry or domain you wish to enter.
- What key transferable skills can you bring to the table?
- What industry knowledge do you have which will lend itself well to your chosen field (IT, software, specific clients related to the field, etc.).
Once you have done this there are a number of routes you should look to explore such as:
- Clearly defining your skills and transferability in your CV (remember it’s not always the best candidates who are called for interview: it’s usually the best CVs). What is your USP (unique selling point) that ultimately sets you apart from everyone else?
- Network – use your contacts, make sure you utilise all the people you work so hard to keep in touch with through social media, forums, discussion boards, etc.
- Get yourself out there – visit professional events and make new contacts. Large blue chips (are you keen to join a specific organisation, check their news, twitter, PM sites etc) often hold seminars on site and welcome new faces.
That said, it is difficult for anyone looking to obtain a new role at present, regardless of moving sectors – you will have a great deal of competition, but those who work hard often "reap what they sow".
You need to be willing to put in the required extra bit of effort and ensure each application is tailored specifically for each organisation and role. You will also need to really do the research to understand what a company is looking for when attracting new talent, coupled with trying to get a step closer to the hiring manager or HR through your contacts.
If you would like to put a question to our project management consultants, contact us and it could end up in a future edition of the Tipoffs Q&A. Also, be sure to check out both our Project Management Careers Clinic and also the Project Management Careers Advice pages for more advice related to project management careers.
Got a question for us? Contact us today.
How Do You Gain Buy-in For Organisational Change?
"What kind of skills does a project manager need to demonstrate for a role where projects are all about organisational change, especially knowing that the senior staff will be opposing any change to come." – Andreas Splett via LinkedIn
Gary Holmes of Arras People says: Hi Andreas. First and foremost I would have to say that organisational change is predominantly about successful communication. There are a huge number of business change and organisational change projects out there that fail because key members of the business have not been communicated with effectively and have subsequently not bought into the change.
In terms of demonstrating skill sets in relation to these types of projects, one of the major areas you should be looking to develop is around stakeholder engagement. Your company or organisation may have a Stakeholder Engagement Strategy already in place, which you can use to help you develop your Stakeholder Management Plan. From here, you should be looking to group together your stakeholders into different groups, based on the level of impact / influence they have on the project and also their level of interest in the project.
From here, you should be looking to develop an overriding Communications Plan, which will help you engage with all relevant stakeholders during the project. You should also be aware that this is something that will need updating continuously throughout the project lifecycle. This is a tremendously important tool for use by the common Business Change Project Manager.
As I'm sure you can imagine, these types of projects are often politically sensitive; staff may be subject to huge changes, even redundancy, so engaging effectively is critical to your success.
A key aspect of your Communications Plan will also include a strategy regarding board level communication. Again, effective and constant interaction with board level staff at Sponsor and steering group level will be essential to your success in delivering the project.
If you would like to put a question to Gary or any of our other project management consultants, contact us and it could end up in a future edition of the Tipoffs Q&A. Also, be sure to check out both our Project Management Careers Clinic and also the Project Management Careers Advice pages for more advice related to project management careers.
Got a question for us? Contact us today.
How Should a Contractor Deal With Giving Notice?
"As contractors, you move a lot & this economy takes time. What if you have an oppty, but current 1 isn't over for a month?" – Robert Kelly via Twitter
Steve Trippier of Arras People says: Well Robert this is probably a dilemma faced by most contractors at some point in their career, maybe even more so in the current economic climate when roles aren’t quite as plentiful as they maybe were a few years ago.
I think there are probably a number of factors to consider when making a decision of this nature, maybe not all of which can be considered independently.
First thing I would say is that if the assignment only has a month to go, then I imagine you are potentially at one of two stages i.e. the project is 95% complete and all that is required is overseeing of the final stages with no major input required in which case a quick conversation and re-allocation of the remaining tasks would probably secure an early release with no impact to either party.
However I imagine that such a situation would not generate the question in the first place and the more likely scenario is that the project has reached a critical stage where your input, experience and guidance is required to see the project through to a successful completion. If this is the scenario that has generated the question then I would suggest that some serious thought is given to any decision to leave the project early.
Whilst a short term decision to take the new role may seem favourable, even sensible given the current uncertain market place, the longer term consequences of such a decision need to be considered.
The first word that immediately springs to mind is reputation. As a contractor I would suggest this is a fairly key facet of what you have to offer, alongside the more obvious tangibles such as specialist knowledge and experience, for example. The world of contracting is by its very nature, an uncertain one and the risks are well known by all, and in what can be an uncertain environment I would suggest that a good reputation is almost a pre-requisite and such a fragile thing needs careful nurturing and protection.
It is not just your reputation with that particular client that you need to consider. You may think its ok because you will never work them again; it was a one-off assignment never to be repeated so it doesn’t really matter if you "muddy the waters".
But who else will they tell? What will they say to the agency that placed you in the assignment? How will that agency feel about placing you anywhere again after you let their client down at such a key stage of the assignment? It quickly becomes very clear you are closing off avenues for future assignments that will be very difficult to re-open. I doubt this will be the limit of your considerations, and I am confident personal circumstances are likely to be one near the top of any list.
However, I would say that the decision is not likely to be an easy one to make and it is one that should be afforded the necessary time to think through. It is all too easy to act in haste and then repent at leisure. As a contractor – you have signed up for an uncertain path; as a reputable PPM professional managing your own limited company and seasoned in contractual work you know only too well that the risk is part of the course you have chosen to take.
If you would like to put a question to Steve or any of our other project management consultants, contact us and it could end up in a future edition of the Tipoffs Q&A. Also, be sure to check out both our Project Management Careers Clinic and also the Project Management Careers Advice pages for more advice related to project management careers.
Got a question for us? Contact us today.
Can Social Networking Help My Job Search?
"How are social networking and community sites helping project managers in their careers?" – Radha, London
Lindsay Scott of Arras People says: Much of the feedback from our own community of project management professionals in respect to social networking sites is the ability to keep in touch with people that they have met along the way in their careers or other peer events like project management conferences, seminars and face-to-face networking events.
Times are moving on and social networking sites are not just about keeping in touch with people you know: It's also a vehicle for getting to know new people, learn new things and to find a new position.
When a job seeker is in the market for a new job, nothing beats the strength of their own personal network in helping them find the next position – and more importantly, it tends to be a less stressful way of finding a new job. Joining up for the first time and taking a look around for old friends and colleagues may be the only thing they need to do. For others, more work might be required.
The first suggestion on joining the network for the first time is to take time to create your public profile. The profile is not a CV or résumé, and therefore shouldn’t just list your career history. The profile should be short and to the point, but enticing enough for people to want to contact you and strike up a networking opportunity. Successful profiles tend to focus on a particular project management specialism, high profile program or project you’ve managed, prominent organizations worked in and other project management groups you might also be a member of.
Secondly, make it clear on your profile what your objective is in joining the network – if it is job seeking, make it clear on the profile what you are interested in and what you’re looking for. This should help cut down on approaches which are irrelevant to your needs. For any networking to be successful (on or offline), job seekers need to be prepared to put in some effort. Like many things in life, you get out what you put in. Start to build up individual links to others that share similar skills, backgrounds, experiences or offer skills which you don’t currently have – you could be picking up additional skills, advice, tips from others along the way.
If the sole intention is to find a job, LinkedIn tends to work better and you have a number of ways to make sure you’re prominent on the site. When creating a profile, for your current job title choose something like, "Currently looking for my next opportunity in Financial Services project management in London". Choosing this as a job title will ensure you feature prominently to organisations that are currently looking for new project management staff. Also, use the status updates regularly to show that your account is fully active. Your details will again feature prominently to your own network and those looking to hire staff.
LinkedIn also has a feedback functionality which enables ex-colleagues to leave feedback on someone’s performance or successes, a great way to market one's own achievements. The site also allows you to link to other websites like your own blog and Twitter feed. You can also update presentations onto your profile which is a great way to share some of your own experiences or skills in subject matter areas.
Finally LinkedIn is also great for its abundant groups on project management that you can join. You can join up to 50 groups - at last count there were over 4000 related to project management. Use the groups to learn more about your profession, exchange opinions and share advice. All these activities help increase your profile and give more opportunities for networking.
The larger your quality network becomes, the more opportunity for meaningful connections that could pay dividends in your career.
Social networking sites are excellent for general careers advice, too – maybe you’re thinking about moving into a consultancy position, but are unsure about the current market demand or salary/rate associated with your skills. Networking sites give job seekers an opportunity to find advice for free – as long as you're prepared to readily offer your advice on a given subject in return. This is a great shop window in which to display your experience – especially if you have a particular specialism within project management. You can quickly become the site's "expert" with many valuing your opinion on particular topics and, more importantly, inviting enquiries from people wanting to hire your services. The power of networking certainly seems to bear fruit when the concept of "you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours" comes into it.
Here's the top three mistakes project managers make when joining a networking site:
- Being economical with the truth – some job seekers have a tendency to be a little too enthusiastic when writing the profile, which could come back to bite – especially as all their peers and colleagues are reading it
- Thinking that quantity over quality counts – it doesn’t matter that you have 600 contacts and a badge for top networker! Ten carefully selected contacts would be much easier to manage, value the relationship more and will be much more productive in reaching your goal
- Not using it enough – use networking sites little and often. Be generous with the time and always be thinking "what can I put into this exchange," rather than "what can I get out of it".
During my time in the social networking world over the last four years I've met some great contacts online, contacts that have then become contacts I've met with, and then worked with, subsequently. The fascinating thing about social networking is that you’re never really sure where it will take you and what opportunities will come up as a result. And that’s the beauty of expanding your networking circles from the comfort of your own chair.
If you would like to put a question to Lindsay or any of our other project management consultants, contact us and it could end up in a future edition of the Tipoffs Q&A. Also, be sure to check out both our Project Management Careers Clinic and also the Project Management Careers Advice pages for more advice related to project management careers.
Got a question for us? Contact us today.
How Do You Cope With Losing a Job?
"What advice would you offer a Project Manager who has lost his or her job?" – Patricia, Newcastle
John Thorpe of Arras People says: Keep positive; not the easiest thing to do when you’ve recently lost your position, but it is vital that you keep your energy levels up and your outlook positive. In order to prepare yourself for the job searching process, it’s time to move away from the emotional upheaval and start thinking practicalities about the weeks and months ahead. Keeping positive will be vital for all the meetings, interviews and networking activities you will be taking part in over the coming weeks because first impressions really do count.
Your search for a new position should be treated as a full-time job in itself and the very first step should be a plan of action. There are plenty of tasks and activities to be planned and actioned, specifically areas such as;
- Conducting a skills audit
- Learning the skills of a great CV writer
- Researching the market and the different sectors open to you
- Thinking about your transferable skills within project management
- Setting up networking opportunities both personal and within the wider professional community of project management
- Finding the right places to apply for the posts you’re interested in
- Getting the administration center ready to keep a track of all your opportunities and activities
It is tempting to quickly start applying for new roles as soon as you can but there are two major steps that need carrying out which will give you better returns on the applications you make.
Firstly, skills audit is quite simply "looking at what you've got versus what the market is asking for". If you have been in employment for a while it is quite common to find yourself in a situation where you’re not quite sure what’s going on in the outside project management world. It’s time to start researching current markets, sectors and vacancies (from employers websites or popular job boards) to find detailed job specifications that give an insight to the current "wants" from employers. The skills audit is useful in two ways; firstly, an opportunity for you to clearly see what skills you have and secondly, a skills gap analysis on which to focus in the near future.
Following the skills audit and research of the market, updating your CV is the second most important area to focus on. Many people find CV writing a tough skill to master and project management CVs are no exception. Remember the CV is there to inform the reader about what you are bringing to the table; your key skills, key achievements, the core competencies that demonstrate your abilities as a successful project manager. Many fall into the trap of giving too much detail about the organisation, the project, the business reasons for the project which is great if you are promoting your previous employer but not good when this space should be used for showcasing yourself.
It's worth remembering that your next position as a project manager will most likely be managing a project whose subject matter you have no prior experience of. The employing organisation needs to know that you have the core competencies of a successful project manager who can deliver no matter what the project is about.
One quick exercise which can help you start your CV; find all the core competencies of project management i.e., planning, risk, change, team management, leadership etc. Take a blank sheet of paper and divide it up, put each of the competencies into the boxes. Next, in each box list your own corresponding skills, experiences, achievements, tasks, activities for each of the competencies. This provides you with a framework on which to start your CV, ensuring that all the key competencies of what makes you a great project manager are covered.
Mastering the CV writing skills coupled with a clear understanding of what you are bringing to the table for a new employer through the use of the skills audit provides a solid foundation for moving forward in the job search process. You can now focus on drawing up a list of where my next opportunity is likely to come from for example, which job boards are the best for my kind of roles, which organisations would I like to work for, how do I use my own personal network and how can I leverage from the project management community.
Keeping busy and staying focused on the right activities should be second nature to project managers, so utilize these skills in your search for your next position.
If you would like to put a question to John or any of our other project management consultants, contact us and it could end up in a future edition of the Tipoffs Q&A. Also, be sure to check out both our Project Management Careers Clinic and also the Project Management Careers Advice pages for more advice related to project management careers.
Got a question for us? Contact us today.
In This Issue
Social Media Roundup
Various Related Subjects Around the Web
- PROJECT MANAGEMENT KNOWLEDGE: Project Management in a Troubled Economy
- PM PODCAST: Episode 158 Premium: Project Managers are Agents for Economic Growth!
- MARTIN WEBSTER, ESQ.: A Model of Change Management | Kotter’s 8-Step Model
- ASK A MANAGER: Giving Notice When Boss Will Tell You To Leave Immediately
- PMI PODCAST: You're Not an Unemployed Project Manager, You're Between Successes
- A GIRL'S GUIDE TO PROJECT MANAGEMENT: How Social Media Changes Project Management
- ROBERT RYAN PMP: Stakeholder Buy In
- FORBES: Surviving Long-Term Unemployment
- TELEGRAPH: Careers Advice: Switching Sectors in a Downturn
- APM FORUM: How Important is Sector Knowledge When Managing a Project?
From Arras People & How to Manage a Camel
- EPISODE 22: Arras People Podcast (New!)
- (NEW!) THE PROJECT & PROGRAMME MANAGEMENT CENSUS
- LINKEDiN: Arras People Group
- CAMEL: A Government Cut Worth Some Perspective
- CAMEL: Social Media and Project Management
- CAMEL: Pace of Change - Portfolio Management
- CAMEL: From Redundancy to Tabloid Coverage: One Jobseeker’s Story
SPONSORED LINK: The Eight Constants of Change
- WEBSITE: Are You An Unemployed PPM Practitioner?
- WEBSITE: Best in Class Project Management Recruitment Services - Contract
- WEBSITE: Social Media
- WEBSITE: Software Directory
- WEBSITE: Training Directory
- WEBSITE: University Directory
- INDUSTRY NOTES: A Key Element of Economic Revival? (Also in PDF)
- INDUSTRY NOTES: Advice for a Project Manager who has Lost Their Job (Also in PDF)
- TIPOFFS: Project Management & Pay
- ARRAS BOOKSHOP: Books for Project Management Careers Marketplace
Podcasts & Vodcasts
- The Project Management Vodcast from Arras People (New!)
- The Project Management Podcast from Arras People
- Parallel Project Training
- Project Shrink
- The PM Podcast
PMI Careers Central - Career Advice for New Project Managers
Arras on Twitter
Latest from the Camel Blog
- Do I Have to Give Notice as a Project Management Contractor?
- What Does a Project Support Officer Do?
- Project Management Career Q&A - Contracting Notice Period
- Bridging the Technical Readiness Gap with Project Management
- Is it a Bird? Is it a Plane? No, it’s a Super PMO!
- Do Project Managers Really Need a Career Path?
- Mind Mapping to Gantt Charts
- Playing the Project Manager
- Benefits on the Boat
- PMO Career Q&A - Unemployment Sucks
Previous Editions of Tipoffs
In this month's newsletter we review the current project management marketplace in terms of salaries and rates. This time last year we released salary data so thought it would be a good time to get an update on that and see what's been happening in 2011.
"Agile" project management? Or is it "agile" project management? Methodology or philosophy? We shed light on both these and many others questions concerning Agile's foray into the project management community.
Arras People introduces the Higher Education Directory and delves into the largely unexplored, possibility-laden world of university courses and degree packages now on offer for project managers.
Arras People looks at holiday time and how thoughts about making a change in your career shouldn't be idly tossed away. We show you how to make the most of it, and introduce our Differentiate Yourself series of webpages from a recent slideshow presentation.
Arras People looks at stakeholder management issues as they pertain to the project management community, serving as a watch dog for the 5W-How about the people most affected by the projects you manage.
Arras People wants project managers to continue their professional development - this edition of Tipoffs intends to show you how, and what tools are at your disposal.
Arras People checks out the current affairs and issues being faced by those within the two main sectors of employment for PPM - the public and the private sector.
CAMEL: Managing Your Project Team
Project management and sports teams alike both require a solid manager. A few pointers on cajoling top performance out of your team through exemplary leadership can't hurt, either. David Roberts from Arras People's Training Directory sponsor CUPE Projects offers five specific tips for managing the modern project team in a blog post for How to Manage a Camel.
Latest News from Arras People