Over the course of my work with thousands of transitioning military service members and veterans, many of whom have significant amounts of military project management experience, a common question I get is “How am I going to do this Doc, I don’t’ have any commercial project management in X field?”
My answer is simple and has two parts.
Develop some commercial project management experience by joining your local PMI chapter.
Doing so connects you with opportunities to:
- Volunteer for any one of several projects they have in their portfolio; many chapters have more projects than they have experienced, credentialed PMs to perform them, which impedes chapter leadership’s ability to do all the great things for their chapter they’d like to.
- Deliver the project using the most popular project scheduling and management software in your area/market/companies you want to work for, all while under executive sponsor and officer leadership!
- Network with local PMs in your area, many of whom are either hiring, or know peers who are, and you are demonstrating your chops!
This provides you with real-world project management experience; and executive oversight and interaction; using contemporary automated tools; to enhance the organization; through commercial PMI-supporting projects; for your resume and LinkedIn profile! Win, win, win, win, win, win all day long!
Second Part of Answer.
Learn the language of the new context, i.e. the field in which you want to manage projects, by forming mentor relationships with experts and project managers in that field.
Here is a simple, effective way to form the relationships you’ll need to help you learn your new field’s language, i.e. “I’ve delivered hundreds of projects in the military-industrial complex, and I now want to deliver projects in [INSERT YOUR NEW FIELD HERE]”:
- Follow companies you want to work for or companies you want to work in on LinkedIn.
- Begin connecting with active employees, i.e. those that post on LinkedIn. You’ll send personal greetings requesting connection, and why. That’s really important! It provides commonality; a foundation.
- Begin Liking and Commenting on company posts and articles and on their employee’s posts and articles.
- Begin asking simple professional questions such as:
- “How do you estimate and control project [COSTS, RISKS, DURATIONS] here/in your company”?
- “How do you establish and control [RISKS, PROCUREMENTS, DELIVERABLES] here/in your company”?
- “How do you/does your company select and/or on-board new [PMS, VETERANS, CUSTOMERS, PROJECTS, VENDORS]”?
- “What documents, policy and regulation manuals, and laws govern your field?”
- “What books, videos, TEDx talks, etc. would you recommend to help me learn how to describe your company and industry and/or help me learn how to deliver projects successful your company and industry”?
This helps you learn concepts and terms in the field, i.e. the language of the new context; increases your LinkedIn profile’s visibility to others in the company; it increases your professional stock price by demonstrating coach-ability, initiative, drive, tenacity, and vision; and it increases your prowess using one of today’s most powerful post-military Service networking tools: LinkedIn. Speaking of which, you can contact LinkedIn’s customer service desk, tell them you’re a military Veteran, and receive a 1-year ‘premium’ account.
In summary, the benefits of answering the question “How will I get a job managing projects in that field?” by: delivering project success in volunteer capacity at your local PMI chapter and forming mentor relationships with people in the industry-know to help you develop an understanding of your new project environment, are:
- Commercial project management experience development.
- Project management and networking tools experience development.
- Exposure to a new context you can use to frame your experience in.
- Extensive networking opportunities, growth, and mentorship.
- PDU generation.
- Volunteer leadership development and contributions, which shows hiring managers initiative, drive, professionalism, and dedication to a profession.