My latest private project is relocation to Europe and part of it is looking for a new job. After attending several job interviews, here are my learnings on how to get ready for jobs that require project management or business analysis competency (or combination of both).
For project-based professions, the obvious focus of showcasing your skills is portfolio of delivered projects. Demonstrating your past experience is natural response to the job interviewer who is looking for a fit to their current challenge. But that may also mean that you are positioning yourself into the range of assignments you have already undertaken, in other words more or less to continue the job you were doing before. That may be perfectly fine if that’s what you want. Frankly speaking, being a project manager or business analyst is challenging enough.
It becomes harder when you have ambition to grow in your career, for instance to manage larger and more complex assignments, to enter new industry or different subject area, such as move from IT project management to broader organizational changes, or to move up from execution focused jobs to more strategic level. But what helps is your preparation and presenting the right experience from your list of accomplishments.
Here are my personal learning points, I would be happy to hear about your experience!
- When entering new domain, do your homework
Be prepared. If you intend to enter new industry, learn the basics first. Research the current trends, look at the activities and direction of the main industry players, check articles and any other publicly available information about the company itself. Do your best to understand what challenges are probably on the table and map your past experience to them to show that you have capabilities to solve them.
Entering new industry is hard, but doable. Some industries are very closed and have natural resistance to admit newcomers. To prove that you are the right candidate, go through your past accomplishments and pick up those that demonstrate your ability to learn or, another strategy how to enter new domain, to build networks and teams of experts that help you to deliver the results.
- Focus on relevant experience and be specific
After several years of being in project environment, you’ve accomplished a lot. But not all the experience is relevant to your potentially new job, so be careful to select the best examples. For instance, if you like to hire a plumber, would you be excited to listen to stories how that person was also a bus driver, librarian and learned foreign languages by being an au-pair? Guess no. Avoid this trap of presenting unhelpful information by putting your focus on staying relevant to the job description.
What matters is to present that you have the right skillset, even if that would be just 30% of what you ever achieved. Especially when you look for bigger job than you had before, select your particular achievements that put together a puzzle clearly showing that you have all the skills on the list, even if not yet used on one single project.
Being relevant also demonstrates your good understanding of the potential job. To make it even better, be specific when talking about how did you do things, how did you deal with situations, which tools and approaches you put in place. Being specific helps your interviewer to relate your experience to what the company is looking for.
- Stay confident
Staying confident and being prepared to answer all questions is your target. Project management profession is very broad and makes you ready for dealing with stress, communicate in difficult situations, handle risks, use soft skills, there’s a lot. Business analysts train their learning skills, complex thinking, attention to detail as well as seeing business context. Staying confident is then well earned and should be fully justified.
Good luck with your careers in 2019!!