Project Management Institute

Forging ahead

take the next step on your career path with an attention-grabbing résumé and a professional development plan


Take the next step on your career path with an attention-grabbing résumé and a professional development plan.


Q: I need to update my résumé for the first time in five years. What would help me make it relevant for the project management field in 2015?

A: I've been advising project managers on this for a number of years and there are five common pitfalls to avoid:

Too many project managers start their résumés with wordy personal profiles that fail to make an impact. Don't bother with the usual “on time, on budget” summary. Keep it simple instead. Add a clear, concise headline that grabs the reader's attention. Clearly state who you are and how you can help the person reading the résumé.

Make sure your opening includes your job title, qualifications, your specialty (IT, finance, marketing, etc.), the sector you work in and some areas of expertise within project management you particularly want to highlight. And that's it.

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Project managers have a tendency to include a lot of information about the projects they've managed during their career. But these projects may not be of interest to the person reading your résumé. Hiring managers or human resource representatives are trying to determine whether your experiences fit their requirements. To answer this question, you must outline the core skills and competencies that helped you deliver past projects.

Provide just enough of a project overview without including too much technical jargon. Remember to outline the basics, like budget, the size of the team you managed, how risky it was and how many stakeholders there were. These are the details a reader really wants.


Many experienced project managers say they can't possibly create a résumé with less than five or 10 pages. They say their experience can't be edited because it represents their long career history—and gives them the edge over less experienced project managers. But project managers should be able to convey information concisely. A 10-page résumé definitely does not showcase that skill.

The reader of the résumé is not interested in what you did over a decade ago. They know that your current expertise is the result of many years of work, but they only care about what your experience will mean for them if they hire you.

Focus your work history on the last five years (10 years if you've worked for the same employer for a long time). For earlier positions, include only the date, the company you worked for and the job title. This shows the reader your previous experience, and they can choose to ask you for more detail in the interview if they're interested.


It has become common in project management résumés to include a list of skills, such as “stakeholder management,” “managing business change” and “leadership.” The skills are not attached to any career history, nor is there any context. Instead of including a bulleted list that stands alone, consider highlighting these skills in your career history. These skills are what hiring managers are really hiring you for, so it makes sense to give them the context they deserve.


The most impressive achievements and accomplishments on a project manager's résumé go beyond finishing a project successfully. Project managers are expected to deliver a project on time and to budget, so that alone is not really an achievement.

Key achievements showcase the difference you personally made. They highlight how you went above and beyond the call of duty to deliver benefits and value for your organization.

Ask yourself, “What benefit did my organization receive because of what I did?” Then communicate this achievement, as well as any key facts or figures that back up your claims.

If you haven't updated your résumé in a while, it may be worth starting from a blank sheet of paper and using these insights to form the first draft. Remember to always have someone from outside the world of project management read your résumé. A hiring manager might not be as clued in to the ins and outs of project management as you are.

Q: I've been working in a project management office (PMO) for a few years now, and I'm not sure where my career is going. Do you have any advice about creating a career path in this area?

A: There are two options for people working in a PMO: either stay within the PMO field or think about moving into a delivery role, like a project management position. If the latter appeals to you, there is a lot of information and advice already available. Check out PMI's website, and Career Central specifically, for career and professional development information.

If you think you'd like to progress in a PMO, there is less career development advice out there. The interesting thing about a PMO role is that you undertake the same training and development that any other project management practitioner would, but the way you use this knowledge differs.

A lot of PMO people have to adapt their training, because there aren't many PMO-specific training courses available. PMO people also look for development in areas such as analysis and data management, quality management, coaching and mentoring, and business operations. It helps in their primary role as custodians of good project management practice within their organizations. Senior positions in PMOs, such as portfolio office managers, will require that you have previous hands-on delivery experience, such as a project manager or program manager role.

Finally, you need to carry out your own research because your PMO career path will be determined by the organizations you work for. You need to be able to answer the question, “What do I want to achieve in my PMO career?” to help drive your own development plan. PM

Project managers should be able to convey information concisely. A 10-page résumé definitely does not showcase that skill.

img Lindsay Scott is the director of program and project management recruitment at Arras People in London, England.
This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI.




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