Project Practitioners > Do You Stand Out?

Do You Stand Out?

By Lisa DiTullio

The latest national unemployment report shows a slight decline, suggesting we are on the road to recovery. I suspect it will be a long recovery, given the fact we are still hovering around 10% nationally. With high unemployment and a growing prevalence of project managers, how do you stand out among the crowd while seeking your next job opportunity?

A first-rate project manager sounds like a fantastical being - Proficient at planning and problem-solving, adept at budgeting; an accomplished negotiator and master influencer who is able to lead, motivate and communicate. Oh, and who is also able to remain calm during the height of the storm. So many requirements – How can you exhibit your qualities to differentiate yourself among the rest?

  1. Focus on Knowledge Management. What new education, skills and knowledge do you need in today's market? Do you have job search skills? Do know how to create a resume? Are you adept in social networking? Are you current in tools and practices? Do you have the 'right' skills to discover jobs and prepare for interviews?
  2. Design a Career Roadmap. In today's highly competitive market, it is essential to have a carefully planned career development roadmap to not only guide your job search, but to guide your career. Most individuals do not have the skills to successfully self-manage themselves; a well-organized framework with a milestone-based development plan is required. Outplacement services can guide you through the process.
  3. Be aware. What are the industry trends? Where are new opportunities? Identify your transferrable skills and promote them when reaching out to developing fields, such as alternative energy, healthcare or emerging industries. Understand how to navigate your options. Be familiar with how recruitment firms work; don't fall prey to exclusive contracts.
  4. Be creative. Do you have a brand identity? Can you reveal it in 30 seconds? Do you have business cards, a web site, and a LinkedIn profile? Do you blog? Write articles or Tweet to increase your exposure? Have you ever spoken at a PMI event? Your resume alone no longer opens doors for you – it's about presenting yourself in new and memorable ways.

The good old Triangle (a.k.a. The Triple Constraint) no longer defines project success. For project management professionals, think of a new triangle when job seeking. You will be assessed on 3 attributes: your skills, your attitude and your behaviors.

  1. Skills: Do you have the ability to compete a certain task or activity through having the right knowledge and an ability to apply that knowledge?
  2. Attitude: How do you view the world? Our attitude is the result of our unique experiences in life – these give us a unique 'map of the world'. Be aware—as we age, we tend to be more set in our ways.
  3. Behaviors: What are the actions or thought processes you apply in a particular situation? Your behaviors are often the result of application of both your skills and your attitudes.

Be prepared for behavioral interviews. This is when you will be asked questions about what you have done in the past, suggesting that your past experiences will, to some extent, be a fair indicator of future behavior. The questions are designed to look at what you have actually done in situations that have some relevance to the role you are applying for. Anticipate your interviewer to ask probing questions to reach a depth of detail that force you to share previous experiences and behaviors. Not only will the in-depth questioning reveal whether you possess the desired characteristics, it will also show if you can handle a barrage of difficult questions.

Conducting an honest self-assessment of who you are and what you bring to the table can help you in your job discovery. A self-assessment is designed to help you take a step back, and conduct an honest self-reflective evaluation of what you offer and then allow you to organize the information so you are effective in presenting your skills, experiences and attributes so you stand out among the crowd. Self-assessments typically cover 4 areas:

  1. Value Inventory: What's important to you? Is it autonomy, prestige, a flexible work schedule, lots of leisure time, a high salary?
  2. Interest Inventory: What do you like/dislike regarding various activities associated with your profession?
  3. Personality Inventory: Know your strengths, your traits, your motivational drivers, your needs and your attitudes.
  4. Skills Assessment: What are you good at? What needs improvement?

Before heading out to an interview, be 100% prepared. Do you know the company/industry you are meeting? Are you familiar with current events? Do you have your elevator speech prepared? Are you in the right state of mind today? Have you rehearsed? Do you have your references lined up?

When you accept the job offer, don't rest on your laurels, believing the journey is over. Create a 100-day plan for yourself. Be sure you have a clear understanding of your job scope, your responsibilities and the resources available to you. Know how your performance will be measured and know when you will be measured so you are fully prepared for the event.

Maintain your skills, knowledge and experience and fill any gaps identified along the way. Revisit your Self-Assessment periodically; an honest re-assessment will indicate learning or credential opportunities. Establish career milestones for yourself and manage them as only you know how to do – like a successful project manager.

Lisa DiTullio, Principal, Lisa DiTullio & Associates, LLC,

Lisa has designed a Self-Assessment tool for Project Managers. Please contact her directly at if interested.

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