Project Management Institute

A Foot in the Door

Turning Informal Meetings into New Opportunities; Plus, Looking beyond the Usual Sectors

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Turning informal meetings into new opportunities. Plus, looking beyond the usual sectors.

By Lindsay Scott

I'm meeting with a manager at a firm I've always wanted to work for. It's not an interview, but I want to make a good impression for future opportunities. Any tips?

These informal meetings happen a lot—and they're a valuable form of networking that can lead to full-fledged interviews. Although you could just go with the flow and see where the conversation takes you, I recommend a more structured approach to prepare for these types of meetings. I'm a big supporter of the SELL structure: summarize, explore, link and leverage.

Start by summarizing your message so you can give a clear and concise overview of who you are and what you're about. Check out resources on developing professional objectives or positioning statements to help you articulate this short and punchy elevator pitch. Next, explore the company's needs so you're prepared to ask relevant questions during the meeting. There's a reason the meeting was scheduled; it's your job to uncover what the challenges are, what projects are happening and what's on the horizon.

Then, learn to link how your skills, experiences and competencies might fit the needs of the organization. It will be easier to think on your feet if you already have a clear idea of what skills and experiences are likely to be of interest to the person you're meeting. Finally, use the meeting to spark a follow-up conversation. Send an email to elaborate on a topic you discussed or ask the person to meet for coffee or lunch. Looking for opportunities to reconnect will help ensure that when a new role opens up at the firm, you'll have an instant and legitimate contact available for a referral.

It seems all the project manager roles I see are in either IT or construction. How can I find any jobs outside of these sectors?

Don't fret. Projects—and project management jobs—are everywhere. As a recruiter, I've seen project management roles in pretty much every sector and business department. You're probably seeing a lot of construction- and IT-related jobs because they are the most popular and the most established.

Take a step back and consider the nomenclature and options when you search. For example, lots of project management roles that are business-related tend to come under the banner of business transformation and change. Project managers in this realm are not necessarily industry-specific because the projects are internal business change, such as human resources transformation. Or, businesses are seeking project managers to hasten change for their customers and suppliers, such as the introduction of new or improved services. With all these roles, IT will form part of the solution being delivered, but it's the whole change that needs managing. It's these roles that need a project manager who can orchestrate beyond just the IT elements.

When looking for new roles outside of construction and IT, the trick is to think about the challenges that different industries are facing. For example, the charity sector is focused on regulation and increasing donors. The retail sector needs to increase traffic in stores and online. Consider areas such as education, healthcare, media and transportation—all of which are facing change. Where the changes are happening, there's a need for project managers.

Here are some questions to think about: What types of projects would you like to be managing? What's the problem those projects are trying to solve or the benefit they're trying to deliver? In an ideal world, what type of organization do you want to be working in? If you can answer these questions honestly, you're in a position to start exploring target sectors and organizations.

How can I convince my manager to release some training budget for a project management course or event?

Your boss will want to know three things: 1. How much will it cost—including any extras like travel or accommodations? 2. How many days will you be out of the office—and how will your work get done while you're away? 3. What benefits will the course give you—and how will those benefits deliver ROI for the organization? For the third point, show how you plan to apply the training course knowledge to your current role and how it will develop your skills. Demonstrate how you will share your new knowledge with other project managers and team members. And explain how the course might improve behaviors on project teams. Illustrating how the course will help not just you but the entire organization may help convince managers to cover some—if not all—of the costs. PM

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

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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