Delegates taking our PRINCE2 courses are often unemployed. Some are switching careers or have been made redundant. Some are fresh graduates. Others might be returning to work after a career break, having taken time out to raise children or travel.
Whatever the reasons for being out of work, getting PRINCE2 qualified is a smart move if you want a project management role. This is because PRINCE2 is the industry standard and many organisations around the world ask for PRINCE2 certification on job adverts.
However, getting certified is not always enough. This is especially true for those who’ve been unemployed for a while. So, to help you get back into work, we’ve created this helpful checklist of things you can do to boost your employability and get the job you deserve.
1. Mull over your options
You cannot formulate a plan until you have properly assessed your situation. Ask yourself what type of role you really want. Don’t forget - as someone returning to work, you will want to appear serious and keen. If an employer thinks you lack enthusiasm, they might get the impression you are likely to take another break.
If you are running low on money, you might want any job. However, as someone who has just earned PRINCE2 certification, we think you’re a bit more ambitious! Perhaps you were previously in a job you hated, so want to find your dream job. Alternatively, you might want a role that was like your last. Have a good think and formulate an idea of the exact job you want. Ensure you: ‘don’t just start applying in a panic, think about the hours, location and sector of your next employment.[i]’
2. Boost your confidence
Being unemployed can play havoc with your self-esteem. This is especially true if you have received a lot of rejections or have been through tough interviews. However, you can do a lot to boost your confidence. Ask friends and family for a list of your skills and positive traits. Or, assess yourself by writing down five achievements and the skills you demonstrated. Finally, if you feel some of your skills are lacking, why not take a course, read a book or watch some motivational Ted Talks?
3. Life skills matter too!
When writing job applications, CVs and covering letters, or even talking in interviews, many people make the mistake of only mentioning ‘work’ skills. However, it can be difficult to talk about work, especially if your last role was months or years ago.
It is important to remember that life skills matter too. Important skills such as budgeting, organization, timekeeping and communication can all be learned during a career break. For example, raising children requires serious budgeting. You’ll also plan family events and take your kids to school on time. Such skills can be learned through volunteering, travel and your hobbies too!
4. Re-brand yourself
Being unemployed gives you the opportunity to change how people perceive you. This is especially important for people switching careers or returning to work after redundancy. By changing how people see you, you stand a much higher chance of being taken seriously.
There are many ways to re-brand. You could change your style, especially your interview clothes, to show you mean business. If you don’t have business cards, now would be an appropriate time to create some, making sure to include your new PRINCE2 qualification. Similarly, to re-brand yourself as someone confident or a good communicator, soft skills courses are the way to go.
You might want to amend your social media accounts by deleting embarrassing photos and putting a professional profile photo up. In fact, now is the perfect time to clean up all your social media accounts, so if anyone searches for you, nothing negative comes up.
5. Create a LinkedIn profile
Speaking of social media, have you got a LinkedIn account? If the answer is no, you really should get one. Some companies only recruit via LinkedIn and many employers will do a quick search for you on there before considering you for interview.
LinkedIn is free and works a bit like Facebook, enabling you to connect with employers, friends and former colleagues, as well as take part in industry discussions and search for jobs. The profile you create is like an online CV. You can add a photo and list your experience, education, qualifications, achievements and skills.
6. Jazz up your CV
It goes without saying that getting your CV up to scratch is vital. As an unemployed person, you must explain what you have been doing whilst out of work. Your CV shouldn’t have large gaps – don’t hide your unemployment. Whether you have been raising children, travelling, volunteering or doing unpaid work experience, make sure you mention it and describe the skills you gained.
Remember to emphasise your previous jobs and experience though, as these are important achievements. Mention successful projects you worked on, budgets and think about project management skills. Did you show good leadership, achieve goals or work well in a team? Lastly, don’t forget to include your new PRINCE2 qualification!
7. Careful with those cover letters
We all hate writing cover letters. But they are important and are a good opportunity to show-off and present yourself in an articulate manner. As you are out of work, you must mention the fact you are unemployed in the opening sentences of the letter. Explain why you are out of work, what type of role you want and most of all, show you are keen to return to work.
It doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. You can also mention any volunteering or other relevant experience you have gained whilst unemployed. Do this early on in your letter. Finally - always remember to tailor each cover letter to suit the role you are applying for. Don’t just write up a letter and send it out to everyone.
8. Network like a pro
Networking is essential when you are unemployed and looking for work. Industry events are a great chance to get talking to decision makers and hiring managers. If you’re not a fan of networking events, you can stick to LinkedIn and telling friends or family you are looking for opportunities.
Whether you’re networking online or in-person, remember to talk about: ‘your pre-break work experience and qualifications. Give a brief explanation for your break. Don’t apologize or justify. Mention relevant study or voluntary work. Describe what you want to do now’[ii]. What are your aims? Where do you want to be? Lastly, research market trends, new product launches or other positive news in the sector you are interested in. This shows interest and won’t fail to impress.
9. Impress interviewers
Reaching the interview stage is an excellent sign. It shows the effort you put in to improve yourself has really paid off! But don’t relax just because you have an interview lined up. There is still some work to be done.
You will need to prove to the interviewer that you are committed and ready to work. Don’t emphasize how long you have been unemployed, or talk about your previous roles as though they are fond memories from the good old days. Remember to talk about skills learned whilst you have been out of work. Volunteering, caring for a sick relative, looking after your kids, travelling and work placements are all events in your life that equip you with skills and experiences.
The interview stage is also where your research will come in useful. Remember those market trends you researched when networking? Use them to your advantage in the interview too. Similarly, you must research the company you are interviewing for. Try to find out if the company has any new products or interesting news you can mention. Are they performing particularly well? Any major clients they have done projects for?
10. Think outside the box
If you’re really struggling to get the job you want, it is time to start thinking outside the box. It may be that employers think your career break was too long or that you lack skills/experience. You must act now to fill that career gap, increase your skills and have something to talk about at interviews.
Volunteering is an excellent way to fill your free time. It gets you back into the working mindset and habit, because you must be somewhere at a certain time, perform tasks and work in a team. You can also investigate ‘returnships’, freelance work, temporary contracts or a work placement. Similarly, contact former colleagues, friends or family to see if you could do work experience with them. You never know who might be willing to lend a hand.
sup>[i] Unknown. (2017). How to go back to work after a career break. Available: https://www.totaljobs.com/careers-advice/unemployment-advice/how-to-go-back-to-work. Last accessed 21st November 2017.
sup>[ii] Julianne Miles and Katerina Gould. (29 Aug 2014). How to return to work after a long career break. Available: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-business/11063870/Returning-to-work-after-a-long-career-break-tips-and-advice.html. Last accessed 29 Nov 2017.