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Project Management


Raymond Cano Sylmar, CA

I'm seeking project management opportunities in the areas surrounding Los Angeles. My applications have resulted in phone interviews but fail to progress any further due to a lack of industry specific experience. How do I overcome that barrier to entry?

4 December 2019 21 replies Interviews



Ed Jasper Salem, VA

Sorry to hear about your experience, I know that can be frustrating!
I think there are a few key messages that you want to get across in a phone screening that would apply to almost any position, but for jobs in Program Management, you want to ensure they understand these key points.

1. Demonstrate Program Manager Expertise - Can you translate the projects/deployments/day-to-day operations of your military background into how that would fit into their organization. I would think as a Gunnery Sergeant, you have the right background to show how you have taken a task, with a group of people, and accomplished something bigger than you could have as an individual. In a nut shell, this is what Program Managers do. Examples to consider discussing might include times where the tasks in the military were not clear, or you have freedom to define the plan and complete the job. Ensure you use specific examples where you provided leadership and how the project/event turned out.

2. Professional Certification - If you are interested in Program Management roles, have you had the opportunity to seek one of the many professional certifications? If not, I would consider joining PMI and seeing what they have to offer. There is probably a local chapter not far from where you live and they can be a great source of networking.

3. Program Manager Tools and Language - During phone interviews, try to use the language and tools of a successful program manager. The intent is to help the interviewer understand your level of expertise in program management tools and techniques. The more you can connect those terms to the work you did in the Marine Corp the more likely they are to see you as a good fit.

4. Seek Feedback - Finally, If you have not done this already - ask some of the people that did the phone screening interviews in the past, if they have 15 minutes for a phone call. You should ask if they are willing to give you some feedback about the call. I would limit your questions to 3-4 items that can be addressed in a short call. Examples might include
"Were there gaps in my background that you were concerned about"?
"What else might I do to prepare myself for another opportunity with your firm"?
"Do you have any general feedback you would be willing to provide"?

Some firms are not willing to provide you this feedback, but some are and you might be surprised what you learn. All you can do is ask for the call. By the way, if they do grant you the call, make sure to send a follow up and thank them for the time. You never know when they have another opening and remember the time you spent to work on your own development.

Good luck with the job hunt.
I hope some of this is useful - Ed

5 December 2019 Helpful answer


Jeff Martin Ashburn, VA

Try to tailor your resume to the specific role and company more than to your previous work. Try to network within the target companies and get someone to refer you for an open role. Getting help and insight form an internal reference about the process and the role can be a key difference maker.

Good luck, hope this helps.

3 January 2020 Helpful answer


John Nance Murfreesboro, TN

Thank you for your service, Raymond! Check out this web site from AT&T:

AT&T is specifically targeting veterans for employment and has many opportunities for project management type positions all across the country. There are also many support groups and other veteran specific programs to help you. You can get all the info at this web site and even search for currently open positions in your area.

Good luck & Godspeed!

2 January 2020 Helpful answer


Robert C Lawrenceville, GA

Ed: I had a very similar experience. Over qualified and new to the industry. So I found an entry level job just to get my foot in the door. "Document Control" they called it. Within a few weeks I had gotten the filing system under control and began pushing for more to do. Within a month I was a project manager. How? Easy - I was professional, polite, I showed up on time, I did whatever was needed, I was friendly.... The reality is that the character traits you have learned in the service of your country is what will fast track your career development. Just show up and be you. You'll get where you want to be faster than you have imagined.

10 December 2019 Helpful answer


Vivek Vadakkuppattu Seattle, WA

+1 on seeking feedback though many companies have policies that might limit how much actionable feedback you get.

Many companies do open houses where hiring managers, recruiters pitch the company, roles to candidates. As a hiring manager I really like this since they give an opportunity to meet people F2F. For someone looking for role, this is a great opportunity to meet hiring managers. often times the hiring manager has a much better grasp of the role than others, and by connecting with them you are probably Increasing your odds of landing an on-site. Strategies vary but many companies send messages to those following them on LinkedIn with the job title they are looking for.
Lastly, many big companies like amazon, Microsoft have dedicated programs to hire military talent. It might be good to look at those as well.

Good luck!

9 December 2019 Helpful answer


Doug Hill Kearneysville, WV


Thank you for your service. Retired Navy and I only worked with good Marines. I will enter this in the conversation about phone interviews. I was a safety manager for years (35+) and my resume was impressive. I had "great" phone interviews that went nowhere. Then I found out the truth. Companies that are bidding on large construction jobs have to show the owner of the contract that they can fill the organizational chart of positions important to the owner. I found that on the occasions I didn't get a call back was these companies use MY RESUME on the bid with the idea that if they get the contract then they offer me the job.
The other thing I will add is that the hiring managers are not excited about a degree but take notice at "Keywords" that relate to the position. I teach in a Health Safety and Environmental Technology degree program. I put that as a bullet point on my 4 page resume. AND this question is always asked, "Will your teaching job take away from your work for us?" Great people at the Project Management level in Construction but they see things in a concrete manner. My son when he left the Air Force got caught up in that cycle of great phone interview and then nothing. I explained it to him. So he got a CDL and runs back and forth across America. But he is in control of his fate. Good Luck, Gunny.
Doug Hill
Master-at-Arms Retired

16 January 2020 Helpful answer


Jim Rohrbach Evanston, IL

Hi Raymond! I'll be happy to review your resume and share some job search ideas. Email me:

5 January 2020 Helpful answer


Cleve Arrington Stafford, VA


In addition to the great advice already stated, I would recommend that you:

1) Seek out a few mentors, preferably folks that are serving as PMs;
2) Begin with the end in mind, specifically and for clearly define what industry you want to work in, such as: IT, logistics, healthcare, etc.; and
3) Although a repeat here: join your local PMI chapter. They may have a Veteran's group that can assist you. The folks in the chapter are very helpful and resourceful. Besides - it's a save place to be vulnerable.

Gunny - you were successful in the Corps and you will be equally successful in the next chapter of your life.

If I can assist you, please reach out.

Semper Fi,

22 December 2019 Helpful answer


Chuck Burger King Of Prussia, PA

Great input from all. To expand on what Ed suggested about translating youR day-to-day into PM skills, think about something called the "S.T.A.R." method of feedback where you first describe the Situation and/or Task, the Action you took that Result in what. Google Star method of feedback for details.

Also, if you are interested in pursuing a career in Aerospace & Defense, the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) Integrated Program Management Division (IPMD) portal is worth some attention. Their mission is to “lead the advancement of integrated program management through industry and government partnership”.
There are certainly many candidate companies in your area to choose from.

Good luck! Leave no stone unturned!

18 December 2019 Helpful answer


Martha Boer Berkley, MI

Good Day Raymond and thank you for your service.

I suggest finding the local PMI chapter and go to the monthly meeting. A peer of mine did that and got hooked up rather quickly to a company that was hiring just by chatting with the other attendees.

17 December 2019 Helpful answer


Deanna Corbett Winter Garden, FL

Hi Raymond,

It's great that you've reached out for some guidance on this transition. In addition to the thoughtful advice above, I'd like to offer a couple more resources for your consideration.

If you need assistance updating your resume to translate your military experience to PM language, Vet Stone is a great resource:

If you are looking to get PMP certified, Vets2PM can help with the process and training:

If you're interested in having someone review your resume, I'd be happy to help.

Best of luck!

16 December 2019 Helpful answer


David Daugerdas Palatine, IL

Thank you for your service. In addition, seeking out volunteer opportunities to work as a project manager or even a project assistant may be helpful. Obviously as a volunteer, these would not be paid positions but would help you build the experience needed.

16 December 2019 Helpful answer


Scott Papenfus Enon, OH

A lot of great advice. One key item is always spend a great deal of time researching the company and the role. When you interview, they want to know that you understand what the company does, how you'd fit in - and why they'd want you in the role. Look at Glassdoor for info on the company culture, and of course research the company website, social media (their Facebook page, etc.) and check Google for press releases and industry articles. Learn about the people and company mission - and have specific ideas in mind for your new role. It will also make you more confident and that will help a great deal. You'd be surprised at how many candidates don't do the research. They know what the company does and not much more. Dig deeper and show them your knowledge!


Ed Haugh Westminster, MD

Agreeing with Robert. Most of the Project Managers I have hired over the years, were team members that I brought in for specific tasks and I understood where they wanted their career to go and made sure I guided their experience to meet those objectives. It is easier to create a PM from someone who you have worked closely with and you know them, then to take the risk of an outside applicant.


Richard Lowery Clarksville, TN


I am having similar trials and tribulations my friend. I have no advice of how to get out of this "rut" but I can tell you to network your butt off. Every single time I have had a phone or in-person interview, I made a lasting impression on the people, enough to add them to my LinkedIn and get referrals from but apparently, not enough to be hired. Keep your head up and follow all of the outstanding recommendations on your thread! All the best my friend.



James Payne Camas, WA


Your service is greatly appreciated - THANK YOU!

I am more than happy to discuss any insights on how to navigate Project and/or Program Management in tech.

I have over 20 years of experience in a variety of software development and more than happy to hear what types of opportunities that you are interested in as well as provide recommendations.

Please feel free to email at: and we further connect!

Thank you again,


David Alhadeff Buffalo Grove, IL

Thanks so much for your service. Keep in mind that there are many consulting firms out there that specialize in project management or source project managers as a core competency; in other words, they are industry-agnostic. Either as a W-2 or as an independent, you might be able to connect with firms that will not assume or require any particular depth in an industry. This strategy can become even more compelling if you secure a PMP or a related license.
Best of luck to you,
Dave Alhadeff


Raymond Cano Sylmar, CA

Thank you all for the advice and support. I am excited to announce I have accepted an offer at Collins Aerospace as a program manager.


Raymond Cano Sylmar, CA

Thank you all for the support and feedback!


Raymond Cano Sylmar, CA

Wow. So much great advice. Thank you all!


Raymond Cano Sylmar, CA


Wow! Thank you for the straight forward advice. I'll certainly be asking for feedback in the future.

Ray Cano

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