Finding a job as a Scrum Master without Experience

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Finding a job as a Scrum Master without Experience

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I agreed to speak at a Scrum Masters of African Descent meetup group yesterday (Sunday, February 21st) in an Ask Me Anything / Fireside Chat format. One of the questions (and some of the reactions) has stayed with me. So, I thought I’d write this post to share some additional thoughts on one of the questions. Here’s the question—

 If you don’t have any prior Scrum experience on your resume, how can you show companies that you are capable of doing the job?

Let me start by saying this.

Finding and landing ANY job without direct experience is hard. Heck, looking for work WITH experience is hard. So, the first thing to think about in addressing this question is—it’s not going to be easy. And, you will get a lot of rejections. So,  

Because it will be a bumpy ride. I’m not joking or trying to make it seem unattainable. It isn’t. It IS attainable, but it won’t be EASY!

I wrote a blog post quite a while ago called The 3 A’s of Agile Interviewing. In it we explore what I think are the three key focus areas for any interview, but particularly important for an agile interview. They are, in order of importance—

  1. Attitude

  2. Aptitude

  3. Ability

Your skills and experience map to #3. Are they important? Sure! But attitude and aptitude are much more important and valuable hiring factors, at least as far as I’m concerned. So, if you lack experience, you need to amplify your ability to communicate your attitude and aptitude as it relates to the position you are interviewing for.

Please note

Of course, not every company prioritizes the skill areas in this way. Many lead with ability, experience, and more experience. Ok, that’s their prerogative. So, try to detect and avoid them because you won’t pass muster in their applicant filtering processes.

But my experience is that many companies (smaller, entrepreneurial, modern thinking, diverse, open-minded, etc.) do look at the world with my priorities in mind.

I certainly do when I’m hiring Scrum Masters or anyone for that matter.

But you do need stories to tell. Stories where you map your experience to the role you’re interviewing for. The key is the mapping and, depending on how your experience maps to the Scrum Master role, you’ll have to get creative in translating.

In the Meetup session, I shared the story of my daughter Rhiannon. She has a social work background, so no—

  • IT or software development experience;

  • Technology product domain experience;

  • or direct agile experience.

Did I say she’s a social worker? So some of the skills she does have AND practices with an Agile Mindset, include—

  • Facilitation experience;

  • Empathy building;

  • Team Building, especially in the area of safety;

  • Diversity and Equity work;

  • Training;

  • and Strategic Planning.

Actions that she has taken to build her stories in this space, include— 

  • She does have CSM and CSPO certifications.

  • She’s become a student of Agile, Scrum, and Business Agility by reading books, blogs, and articles.

  • She’s co-taught several CAL classes with me; learning to share her social work leadership experience with agile leaders.

  • She actively attends a variety of Meetup groups to learn more and extend her network.

  • She’s attended several additional classes (TFTBOTR and Liberating Structures) to continue to sharpen her facilitation and training skills.

  • She’s participated in several agile coach camps to sharpen her coaching chops.

Which has all helped her to create a depth of understanding and experience so that she can explore stories with prospective employers.

Stories where she can—

  • Expose her Attitude (and passion) around agile.

  • Expose her Aptitude (initiative, effort, curiosity, and continuous learning) to learn everything there is to know about agility.

  • Expose her Ability (where she has practiced, volunteer efforts, mini-projects in the workplace) where she has explored and more deeply learned.

While I’m clearly biased towards my daughter ;-), I don’t think her story is unique. I shared it to inspired you to try continuously building your experience, connecting the dots, and developing your stories.

I do think it’s possible to land a Scrum Master job with little-no direct experience in the role. However, it’s not easy.

And it requires you to find the right company cultures that value Attitude and Aptitude as much as Ability.

And it requires you to work really hard to explore agility in sufficient breadth and depth so that you have stories to tell about how you can map to the Scrum Master role.

A final point I’d like to make is that you need to practice your interview skills in mock interviews. Especially when you lack direct experience. Practice your stories. And good luck on your journey!

Stay agile my friends,

Bob.

As a bonus, Josh Anderson and I explored this topic more deeply in a Meta-cast episode you can listen to here – https://player.captivate.fm/episode/92c0b064-2293-47d3-9453-9f77ff0c8a9a

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