The best ways to break into the Change world

Tom Hughes 23.11.2018

One of the most common questions we receive from job seekers is “how do I get into Change?” An apparently simple question, with anything but a simple answer...

No substitute for proper experience

One myth I would like to dispel immediately is that by doing a project management course, a whole new world of job opportunities will open up for you. Unfortunately, it’s just not accurate in today’s market. YES – it is useful to have a formal qualification such as PRINCE2 or MSP to go alongside your industry experience, however simply having the qualification alone will rarely secure you a role.

So if studying and taking additional courses isn’t the route in, what can you do? Traditionally there are 2 main routes into the Change world as a contractor.

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Shift your career in the direction of consultancy

A tried and tested route, a solid career at a consultancy will provide the tools, training and experience needed to go it alone as a Change contractor. 5-10 years is the ideal duration of experience generally required before an individual is equipped to head out into the market. It would also be advisable to think about the specifics; if you can gain a niche specialism, that will put you in a much stronger position. Big 4 experience is the most desirable but by no means the only route - there are many smaller consultancies out there which could provide similar opportunities and training.

Quite often when starting out with a consultancy, you will have a lower base salary than the equivalent role in industry. This reduced level of pay is somewhat compensated for by the training and longer term career progression. In addition to formal training and industry experience, you will also gain a range of valuable skills that encompass presenting, managing stakeholders at all levels and, most crucially, flexibility/adaptability.

Internal progression from Operations into Change

If you are already an experienced banker, whether front office or operations based, taking on some project work internally could be the first step towards a new career. Actively seek out opportunities to get involved in Change. If you are seen as an SME in your field who can take on the additional responsibilities, then often you will have the opportunity to make a switch. Don’t be concerned if initially this is just to support a project for a few hours a week, if you do well you will soon get the chance to take on a bigger role.

I would highly advise building out a couple of years of Change experience in your organisation before looking externally for the next role and aim to continue in your specialism as this will give you the strongest chance of securing a role – demonstrating a track record of successful delivery is much more powerful and we often find the Line based candidates with a small part within Change the hardest to transfer.

The current market is highly competitive with less opportunities available. This means clients are looking for more specialised skills than ever before. As you are developing your Change career, it’s important to consider what your offering is and how that will fit into clients’ programmes. You can focus on Analysis or Project/Programme Management - having some experience across both disciplines will give you a stronger chance of securing the next role.

Steps to take:

  • Figure out where you can add the most value in the Change world – discipline as well as role
  • Focus on gaining exposure to Change programmes or assume a consultancy role
  • Refine your market offering in line with the changing market and clearly define your specialism
  • Be proactive in gaining experience across the change skill set (Business Analysis/Project Management)
  • Keep up with market changes on methodologies – we’re currently seeing a strong shift to Agile as the preferred methodology over Waterfall
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