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Are you trying to get your first break on a Scrum Team and getting sick and tired of being rejected? Not because you lack the ability but because you lack the experience? Would you like some tips from someone who has trained, coached, and observed thousands of Scrum Practitioners and interviewed hundreds of candidates for Scrum Roles? If the answer is yes, read on…

My life coach – Joy Perkins often reminded me that “The Quality of life is determined by the quality of questions we ask.” So here are some questions that might help you get that first break. You need not explore these questions sequentially. Follow whatever question calls you the loudest and feel free to zig-zag through the trail.

  1. WHO WILL YOU SERVE? If you could pick any job in the world, that lets you serve anyone in the world, who’s call to serve do you hear the loudest? Laser focus on serving those people who’s goals are aligned with your mission in life.
  2. WHAT DO THEY NEED? What are their biggest unmet needs? Test your assumptions by talking to real people. Consider using techniques like the Empathy Map or Proto Personas. If you could fulfill any unmet need, which one would you focus on?
  3. WHAT MUST YOU LEARN? What do you need to know, what do you need to do and who do you need to be to fulfill that unmet need? Make a check-list.
  4. WHERE IS THE INDUSTRY? Now master that industry – the top challenges, the emerging trends, understand the leaders and the laggards, and what makes them different. Master what it feels like to be in the shoes of those you are want to serve. Reach a point where you can prove to your hiring manager that you have more domain knowledge than other job seekers. Convince hiring managers that you have key domain knowledge that employers are dying to find in candidates. Go over the investor presentations from publicly traded companies that are the leaders and laggards. Get industry certifications. Publish blogs/videos that demonstrate your mastery.
  5. WHERE WOULD YOU WORK? Create a list of 5 target companies in that industry you would love to work at. My friend Tim Dickey also suggests that once you have your list, research those companies, study them like a scientist. Find out if their culture and values aligns to you and do they align to the Scrum values. Don’t be afraid to ask people in your network who work in those companies for their unvarnished assessment of the organization. Feedback is a key to focusing your effort on companies where culture and values align. 
  6. WHO DO YOU KNOW? Look at your network and find as many people as you can who either work in those companies or who can introduce you to someone in those companies. Conduct informational interviews with those people. Read this book to learn more about what that means and also use other techniques from this book to guide you –
  7. WHO CAN YOU HELP? Start volunteering or pro-bono internship in a company in the same industry or related industry so you can come up with real-world examples of how you helped a real-world company solve real-world problems to convince future hiring managers to take a risk on you. If needed, work free or at a throwaway price for a startup that is desperate for help.
  8. WHO WILL YOU BE? Now that you have clarity about the industry you want to focus on, let’s focus on the role that you want to play. Look back at the people you have chosen to serve and their unmet need that you want to fulfill. How would you like to fulfill that unmet need? What role would you like to play?
    • Would you like to define the solution? Then you might enjoy the role of a Professional Scrum Product Owner.
    • Would you like to deliver the solution? Then you might enjoy the role of a Professional Scrum Developer.
    • Would you like to create an environment in which inspired teams work together to define and deliver the solution? Then maybe you will enjoy the role of a Professional Scrum Master.
    • Are you unclear? That’s OK. You are on the path to reinventing yourself and the solution has not yet emerged. That’s OK. When the time is right, the solution will reveal itself. “Miracles happen. Be available.” – Mike Sutter’s Oncologist.
  9. HOW WILL YOU MASTER YOUR ROLE? If you have chosen your role on the Scrum Team, master what it takes to play that role. Start by mastering the underlying theory…
  10. HOW WILL YOU EXPRESS YOURSELF? Each day, create at least one valuable post on LinkedIn sharing something that you learned about your target industry or scrum that might help the people you have chosen to serve. Create valuable, unique content at the intersection of the unmet needs of those you have chosen to serve, the trends in their industry, and the Scrum Role you have chosen to play. Explain how you would apply Scrum to solve their pain. Curate valuable content – follow thought leaders in your industry and scrum and share at least one post each day that might help those you have chosen to serve.

The days of sending your resume to a mailbox and waiting with bated breath for an interview are long gone. It probably still happens, but the chances of heartbreak are greater. Try that and the steps that I have recommended and you might increase your chances of getting that first break.

Let me know what you think and how we can improve these questions. Good luck!