The Right Fit

New to the Job Search? Here's How to Build Experience Right out of the Gate; Plus: Discover a Digital Advantage



New to the job search? Here’s how to build experience right out of the gate. Plus: Discover a digital advantage.

By Lindsay Scott

I’m seeking my first role, but after submitting 50 applications, I’m getting nowhere—no interviews, no responses. What am I doing wrong?

When someone tells me they’re getting completely shut out in the job search, I can’t help but wonder: Are you applying for the right roles? And since you’re trying to break into project management, I have a more specific concern: Are you aiming too high for someone who has little professional experience? If you’re going for project management opportunities that require experience, you’ll get passed over because other applicants have had much more time on the job.

Fortunately, there are steps aspiring project professionals can take to change their luck—and open doors to possible opportunities. First, research and understand the supporting roles that exist within the types of organizations that appeal to you. Building up project skills through any type of work is the best way to gain experience and attract potential hirers. Look for business-oriented roles such as an analyst, coordinator, team administrator or supporting manager. These types of roles will help lay a foundation for a project management position in the future.

Another option is to look for entry-level project management roles. These positions, such as project coordinators, project officers or project planners, focus on supporting the projects and programs. Some of these roles might exist within the project management office (PMO) or have PMO in the title. To determine if you’re suited for these roles, look closely at the tasks and activities listed in the job descriptions. Do you have any relatable experience that you gained during college, either through volunteer work or extracurricular activities? Tasks like planning, estimating, budgeting, working with a team or working on something with a specific successful outcome can help demonstrate your knowledge of these project management principles.

Finally, lean on your network. Many of those who are fresh out of college get their big breaks through friends of friends, extended family, parents of friends and so on. Who in your network already works in project management or in an organization that has projects? Whether it’s via a LinkedIn post or more traditional communication, let people know what you’re looking for. They might be able to help you find the right fit.

I want to work on more innovative and digitally driven projects. How much agile experience do I need—and how do I get it?

You don’t have to be a scrum master to land exciting opportunities on bleeding-edge projects. Organizations from all sectors need project managers who are eager and able to apply multiple approaches—particularly agile and hybrid—to deliver their innovations. Most companies are looking for project professionals to develop their understanding of when to apply different approaches at the appropriate time based on their own judgment.

It’s never too late to grow your delivery knowledge and fill gaps so you understand all the differences. A good first step would be to consider earning the PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)® certification, because it signals to hiring managers that you have a deep knowledge of all things agile—and how to apply it. That knowledge will position you to better understand the styles of leadership involved in agile and hybrid projects, moving from command and control to servant leadership.

You’ll probably find that your future career in project management will use myriad delivery approaches, with no single approach more dominant than the other. It’s about incorporating all the advances in project management into your development and not getting hung up on needing to have certain job titles to deliver projects.

Have a career question for Lindsay Scott? Email [email protected].

I need to earn professional development units for Giving Back to the Profession. What are my best options?

There are several routes you can take to earn Giving Back to the Profession professional development units (PDUs). These are activities that allow you to share your knowledge and skills in ways that help build and grow project management. It just depends on how much time you have and your preference for sharing knowledge.

If you like to write, you can create content on places like (Knowledge Shelf is the place to start looking at the kinds of topics covered). You can publish LinkedIn articles or start your own blog about project management. If you’d rather speak, contact your local PMI chapter to find out how you can present to your peers at their events. Or seek out other project management events and conferences where you can give a presentation on a specialized topic.

Mentoring others also can qualify for Giving Back to the Profession PDUs. This can happen at your workplace or perhaps with less experienced project professionals from the local chapter. You also can take mentoring to the next level by training others, which is easier to accomplish than you might think in today’s virtual world. You could produce a series of webcasts for YouTube or curate your own specialist group on LinkedIn or Facebook.

Volunteering also qualifies for PDUs. That can mean anything from getting involved in local chapters to assisting at larger PMI events. PMI’s Volunteer Relationship Management System website is a good place to start finding the right opportunity for you. Whatever you choose, just remember to track and report your PDUs. PM

img Lindsay Scott is the director of program and project management recruitment at Arras People in London, England.



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