This article is inspired and published on Mountain Goat Software by amazing Mike Cohn.
“Greatness can’t be imposed; it has to come from within. But it does live within all of us.”
― Jeff Sutherland
Hello, future Scrum Masters!
Being a Scrum Master can be a fun, exciting and very rewarding career. Being able to look back on a successful project and thinking, “Look at what I helped the team create” is very satisfying. But, how do you get the first job as a Scrum Master if you don’t yet have experience?
Try with these tips:
#1 Look for opportunities with your current employer first
In many cases, an excellent first step is to find opportunities to practice at least small parts of agility within your current employer. For example, on a project that isn’t fully ready for agile or isn’t interested in such a big change, try some of the following:
- Introduce the idea of iterations or sprints
- Begin conducting daily scrums
- Periodically demonstrate finished functionality to stakeholders
- Conduct periodic meetings (retrospectives) to find ways to improve collaboration and teamwork
Introducing small changes like this benefits those projects and gives you the opportunity to call out those experiences on your resume and LinkedIn profile.
#2 Know that most resumes are computer screened first
To find a job as a Scrum Master, you need to make sure your resume gets read. Most employers these days will use software to screen applications. To get past those filters, you want to use all reasonable variations of words and phrases.
For example, if you are applying for a “Scrum Master” position be sure your resume uses the phrases “Scrum Master” but also “ScrumMaster,” both with and without space so you maximize chances of clearing a computer screening that includes only one of those words.
Good writing would normally call for consistency. And many years ago employers would have looked at a resume that used both Scrum Master and ScrumMaster as being a bit sloppy and in need of better proofreading. But when they see that today, I think, “Aha, here’s someone who’s on the ball. They know the trick.”
#3 Look for Volunteer opportunities
If you can’t find opportunities to introduce small bits of agility within your current employer, consider looking for volunteer opportunities to do so.
This could be a regional, national or international non-profit whose cause you care about. Or it could be as close by as a child’s school, youth sports team, or your church. Get creative and find ways to gain experience anywhere in any way you can. We believe you know at least a handful of people who struggled to get that first position who sought out volunteer opportunities and then leveraged that experience into a full-time Scrum Master position.
#4 Get Certified
Earning a credential that is recognized does indicate two things: a certain base level of knowledge and, more importantly, a willingness to learn and invest in oneself. Be careful of other certifying bodies—many could actually harm your chances of getting a job. A resume claiming a certification from the agile equivalent of a diploma mill could be a red flag to many employers, as it could indicate a lack of judgment on the part of the applicant.
#5 Network even more than normal
It’s often said that most jobs are found through one’s personal networking. And certainly, part of a successful job search (especially when changing into a new field) requires a good dose of luck — being in the right place at the right time.
If networking is necessary when searching for a job like the one you already have, it’s even more important when changing into a completely new role like that of a Scrum Master.
Be sure all your friends and former colleagues know the type of position you’re looking for. But also, do as much networking as you can in local interest or user groups.
#6 Go out of your way to highlight your other relevant experience
If everything else is equal, an employer seeking to fill a Scrum Master role will prefer to hire someone with experience as a Scrum Master. Since you don’t have that experience, you need to call out whatever else you can in your background that makes you a good fit for the position.
If you are applying for a Scrum Master job in the financial services industry, for example, do whatever you can to highlight and demonstrate your experience in that industry. Your cover letter and resume should be peppered with vocabulary from that domain.
Without the desirable attribute of prior Scrum experience, you need to do something to make yourself stand out. If you have prior experience in the industry, be sure to call it out. Even if you don’t have the experience, demonstrate that you’ve done your research on the industry and company by using the vocabulary in your cover letter.
…and the most important:
#7 Be patient
Shifting your career in a new direction will probably take longer than finding your same position in another organization. So, be persistent. It may take time.
What’s helped you land a position as a Scrum Master? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, especially if you were once an inexperienced Scrum Master seeking a first position. ☺️