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How to get a job as a Project Manager? – Part 1

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Applying for jobs can be daunting and draining, especially if it’s your first job. At least I know it was for me, but it doesn’t have to be, so I hope you find these tips helpful.

Disclaimer: Before we begin, I want to clarify I am by no means a human resources manager or an expert on this subject. 

I was able to position myself in different F500 companies in other countries multiple times. Additionally, I have participated in and led several hiring processes for project managers, consultants and associate project managers for years. So, this series of articles will focus on the entire application for a job.

Part 1 (this article) focuses on searching for a job, reviewing the requirements for a job, and writing or updating your CV and cover letter.

STEP 1: Looking for a job in any country:

This step might sound obvious to some people; I knew it was for me when I was applying for jobs in South America (where I am from), but everything changed when I moved to England.

I realised I didn’t know where to start.

I wasn’t aware of salary ranges, responsibilities, company boards, etc. And what about the differences among countries? Would it be the same to apply to Germany as to the United Kingdom? How about France?

I am not going to lie; this was a challenge at first, so this I what I did:

  1. Navigate various job boards – I would start on Linkedin to understand what different companies are looking for in my profession. I would look for people in those companies with similar or the same job profile. This exercise will also give you an idea of these people’s skills and competencies and help you understand where your skills match.
  2. Talk to a native person – If you have the chance, ask different people in the country or city you are looking for a job, even if that person is not in your industry. These conversations can be very valuable for your professional development. For example, when I was looking for my first job in the UK, one of my friends was a lawyer; she told me valuable information about what to expect when applying for jobs in the UK, like the types of interviews, what I had to include a cover letter as a minimum and others. She even referred me to her firm at the time.
  3. Get help from professionals – In the case you are still a student or have access to the resources to do so, look for some services that include reviewing your Resume and Cover Letter, responding to emails or even with some interview guidelines. So take advantage of those services if you can access them. Some universities and colleges offer these services for free even if you are not enrolled in an undergrad program. 
  4. Get an idea of Salary Ranges – I use Glassdoor to get an idea of salary ranges in a company, an industry or a job position. So use this or similar tools to get an idea of what to expect. This is particularly important if you are applying for a job in a country you don’t know. Also, consider researching the cost of living and how much your salary would need to be.
  5. Network! – I have mentioned the importance of networking before, but you do need to do it. Speaking with different people from the same industry can open many doors and teach you first-hand experience of what to expect when applying.
    When I first moved to England, and all my friends from the Master degree left to their own countries and I realised I had no contacts!. So I would suggest taking a look into sites like Meetup, which connects people into events (some free and some paid) with the same interests. Additionally, the Project Management Institute (PMI) or the Associate of Project Management (APM) provide several events you can use for networking.
    Networking can also help you position yourself in the industry you desire. For example, suppose you want to become a project manager in the healthcare industry. In that case, attending different events related to the subject and adding those people on Linkedin can make your profile easier to find for recruiters, as you will probably have similar or the same connections in your network.

STEP 2: Understanding the problem

Now you know why the country, which position and which companies interest you. The next step is to understand the problem.

Like every project, every job post has a problem the company wants to solve/fulfil; therefore, they created that post. 

Read the job post carefully and understand its intention, as it will shape your application.

For example, if the post says they need a Technical Project Manager, go to the description and understand what kind of Technical Project Manager they need. Does this person need Infrastructure experience, or is it software related?

Note: Please don’t be discouraged at this point if you don’t meet every single item in the job post, but also understand if you are the right fit for this position.

Understanding what kind of problem the company is trying to solve by hiring the right person will help you to write your CV/Resume and in your job interviews.

STEP 3: Writing your Resume

Your Resume needs to highlight and specify how your experience and education can fulfil the position you are applying to. This is why I think having one Resume for all your applications is not a good idea. I know it can be tempting to use the same one for all your applications, but not tailoring it for a specific job post, can backfire on you. This doesn’t mean you have to write a new CV for every single job post, but at least tailor it. You will probably be applying for similar job posts anyways.

When I mentioned “tailor the content in your CV to meet the requirements for the job post”, I didn’t mean for you to copy the job description line by line in your Resume. 

Please, don’t ever lie in your CV, it will be very obvious that you don’t have the necessary skills for the job on the interviews or when you start working (which is way worse as you might not pass the probation period), so it’s never a good idea to say you have skills for a job when you don’t.

What I mean is, to highlight some experiences from previous jobs that are relevant for that job post or use similar words from the job post in your Resume. 

For example, if one of the job description items says they require someone with experience delivering websites in Shopify. And, you don’t have experience in Shopify, but you did delivery projects in other e-commerce in the past; make sure you include that experience detailing the e-commerce you have used. Include these experiences even though these projects were not within your main responsibilities or they were smaller engagements. Even having the experience of using a ecommerce platform might be beneficial for your application.

Remember, companies are not looking for someone that ticks all the boxes perfectly but someone who can get the job done even if they have to invest in you to learn those skills beforehand.

Note about Robots and AI tools: In large corporations, it is a good practice in the Human Resources departments to use robots to filter applications. Also known as Applicant Tracking Software, this software track words in your CV and your Cover Letter to see if you are a good fit for the position before a person can even see your application.

One of the best tips I can give you here is to try to use some of the keywords you find in the job description in your CV and Cover Letter before you apply.

For example, if in your current Resume you have written that you have experience delivering projects for Large Corporations and high-level managers, and the job description requires someone with experience delivering projects for C-level managers, consider re-writing this line using the C-Level managers word in it.

A simple change like this can be the difference between getting your foot in the door for that job application.

Step 4: Writing your Cover Letter

Each country has its own system to value the inclusion of a Resume or a Cover letter, so I suggest you first get familiarised with the system in the particular country or city. For example, most companies in Latin America don’t require a Cover Letter, but in the UK, it is almost a must for most companies.

I received the best explanation of what a cover letter was from a human resources manager a while ago – “your Cover Letter is a love letter for your future company; imagine you are trying to invite someone on a date; what would they want to know from you before accepting to meet you?”. So both your Resume and your Cover Letter are your presentation to a company.

This is what you should include in a cover letter as a minimum:

  1. Who are you? – Explain your education and experience. As I explained before, match the job post description with your current experience. This part of your Cover Letter needs to catch the hiring manager’s attention as to why they should continue reading your Cover Letter. This section should explain why you are the best fit for this position. Here is an example. If the job post requires a digital project manager delivering projects in Shopify:
    1. If you have that experience, mention it right at the beginning. Say you are a project manager with x years of experience and plenty of experience in Shopify.
    2. If you don’t have experience in Shopify, but you have experience in other e-commerce, mention you are a project manager with x years of experience delivering projects with different e-commerce platforms (mention them).
    3. If you have absolutely no experience with e-commerce but have been working in the tech industry before and want to switch. You can also mention that you are willing to learn and explain why you would be the best fit for this position.
  2. Why do you like them? – Explain why you want to work in that particular company. Is this company aligned with your values? Do you like them because they are leaders in the industry? Please do your research and add it here.
  3. How will you help them fist the problem they currently have? – You would need to use the job description again here. You’d need to explain why your skills, personality or attitude to learning will help fill the gap they currently have in the company. Why are you the best fit and no others?
  4. Closure – Always thank the hiring manager for taking the time to read your application and encourage them to interview you.

Step 5: Design and format

As for the length, keep both documents within two pages. Some companies even request your CV to be a one-pager only. 

More than two pages per document would be considered “too much” for most applications in Europe and the United States.

In terms of design, get familiar with your industry. If you are applying to a consultancy job, for example, a more traditional design (black and white, chronological and no colours) would be preferred; in contrast, if you are applying to a more creative industry, those features might be a plus.

Please note: both your Resume and Cover letter need to include how the company can reach you. You would need to include your email and phone number as a minimum.

Now you are ready to begin applying for jobs. Please remember I will be releasing part 2 of this series in the next two weeks.

Best of lucks! You can do this!

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