Taking Inspiration from the King of Pop

“Man in the mirror”

Michael Jackson would have been 60. Like me, this news may have led you to reflect on your favourite MJ song. Listening to some of his classics led me also to hold up a mirror to PEN’s experience of placing associates with clients.

Over the last five years we’re proud to have worked with over 160 associates, many on more than one assignment, with in excess of 50 clients. Below are some reflections based on that experience.

“Wanna be startin’ something” 

The aggregate feedback from clients highlights 3 skills that they value most highly, and these are not necessarily those set out by a typical CV.

1. Stakeholder engagement. Clients value associates who quickly build relationships. They value individuals who listen hard and seek to understand different perspectives. Often it is hard to set out in a CV just how good your stakeholder management skills are; certainly it is more than having led a team or successfully delivered a project. I think there is merit in considering how best to highlight this skill in CVs or in client interviews.

2. Problem-solving. Clients value associates who, as well as having knowledge and experience, are able to think creatively to problem-solve. This goes beyond the daily project challenges: clients value those people who dig in when a crisis happens and are able to give additional support beyond their normal skillset. Clients don’t want to hear about how everything has always gone well. They are keen to hear how you have overcome challenges and blocks and delivered.

3. Resilience. Clients value associates who are resilient; they value those people who can keep going in the face of adversity, who stick to the task at hand when others may be losing their heads, and those who put in the hours when the outcomes are at risk. Clients are keen to see examples where resilience has been crucial.

“Don’t stop ‘til you get enough” 

There are three roles that always appear to be in demand. I don’t see this changing.

1. Programme and Project Managers. We still see huge demand for both skills. Whilst the skills are similar, there are clearly different demands and expectations of those overseeing a programme activity rather than a single project. Clients want to see solid delivery success, exceptional stakeholder management and a good understanding of what makes projects and programmes different.

2. Business Analysts. We see that clients’ use of BAs has changed over the last few years. Whilst much of the BA role can still be requirements gathering and PMO support, increasingly we see clients stretching BA associates where they possess additional skills and experience. So, where you have broader experience of project management or other core skills, do make sure that these are highlighted in your CV.

3. Regulatory change experience. Many projects and programmes have a regulatory bent, and with the sheer number of new regulations coming over the horizon, do be sure to emphasize your regulatory change experience on your CV. Clients are crying out for individuals who can interpret the FCA rulebook and apply ‘business savvy’ to the implementation of new regulations.

“The way you make me feel” 

Clients give us feedback on associates’ CVs, on the interviews held and of course on the work once engaged. Below are the three most common gripes.

1. CVs. Clients have to filter many CVs as they seek resources. The most commonly heard feedback received from clients relates to CV style and length. Clients tell us that their biggest gripe is CVs that don’t clearly highlight core skills and deliverables. They want to see clearly the real processes and controls with which you have experience of working; they don’t want to read about high-level functions and teams. They want to see real examples of value-add - think money or time saved. Our Resource Manager Nikki and I can help and advise with CV presentation where necessary

2. “Going native”. Some contracts are longer than others. Clients are sometimes disappointed that associates appear to lose their voice over the weeks and months. Those that come in full of vim and ideas can settle in to a more passive way of working over time, clients say. Clients value associates for the outside views and experience they bring and they remain keen to hear this for the duration of engagement.

3. Timesheets. Whilst very much the low end of what you will be doing, nevertheless, clients frequently tell us that they are frustrated by (often their own!) timesheet process. And not being on time and keeping it simple, can give them internal challenges that they don’t need. So, when PEN chase for timely and accurate timesheets, approved by the client, don’t forget that the client – your client – may be the one who’s chasing!

So. Don’t be “bad”. Make the most of your experience, present it clearly in your CV, give clear examples of those sought-after skills during interviews and make sure your next role is a “thriller”!