If you’ve been looking for jobs as a scrum master, you’re probably frustrated by the lack of enthusiasm in the hiring community. It isn’t as if there weren’t a real need for scrum masters out there. You know how effective agile can be, and you know that companies could really benefit from the skills you have to offer. But finding a job description and an open headcount seems like an uphill battle.
You’re not alone, and the problem isn’t you. Getting a job as a scrum master is not impossible, but it’s also not always a direct path. There are a few tricks to keep in mind, and knowing them will take you further than hours of scrubbing through job boards or making friends with recruiters and HR managers.
Here are some important points about the way companies get competent scrum masters, and how you can secure a position that will benefit you and your next employer.
Many Scrum Masters Are Grown, Not Hired
The position of scrum master is often one that gets filled by members of an existing team as they transition from a less agile process. Scrum doesn’t magically appear in an organization. It usually is birthed from the pain and suffering of a team that realizes it can’t get anything done without a significant shift in their process. That realization may come in the form of a natural servant-leader who heads the charge toward agile, and slides gracefully into the role of scrum master.
If you are looking to work for companies that are just transitioning to agile, you may have a tough time finding open listings for jobs as a scrum master. For many of these companies, the role of scrum master will be filled from within the ranks, and may have to prove its value before it gets funded to the point of hiring trained outside professionals.
The Job Title May Not Match the Role
Jobs are usually brought into existence by the managers who see a need on their teams, and who can justify the expense of hiring someone new. However, the actual job descriptions and titles are often dictated by Human Resources, where titles such as “Scrum Master” may not have an official designation that can be added to the database.
You may need to look for jobs with titles that sound more like traditional project management (or even product management). But scan the descriptions for hints that the company is actually looking for someone familiar with agile and scrum. Don’t let the fact that the title doesn’t match your idea of what you want to do stop you from applying. Once you talk with the company, you will get a sense of whether you are a good match for what they need.
You May Need to Introduce an Agile Process
Is there a particular company you want to work for, but you know that they are not currently following and agile process? Or are you currently working at a company where scrum could make a difference? Don’t let the status quo stop you if you have good reason to believe that the company you want to work for would be open to a change.
The question to ask yourself is whether you truly believe that shifting that company’s approach to be more agile is possible given what they are doing, and in the best interests of the team and the organization as a whole. If your research gives you the confidence to say that with convition, don’t hesitate to schedule an informational interview with a potential hiring manager, regardless of whether they currently have an open job listing for a scrum master.
Approaching a company that isn’t currently using scrum can be a bit of a gamble. Proposing a major change at a company you are already working for can also be challenging. But showing up to an informational interview with a full portfolio of tested processes and procedures, and offering your expertise, might just open doors for you.
Scrum Master May Not Be a Full Time Role
Once a company has a working agile process in place, the team and the organization can often support scrum with a single scrum master for multiple teams, or with a part-time scrum master who also holds other part-time roles. The good news can be that companies like this have already committed to scrum and the team is already well trained.
It’s fine to take on responsibility for more than one scrum team, as long as you have the opportunity to talk with the teams and see that their processes aren’t broken. If you interview for a role that is only part-time scrum master, and you get a sense that the company is just trying to cut corners with a low committment to scrum, you might want to keep looking.
Interview Companies While They’re Interviewing You
If you keep these issues in mind, your job search may be much more flexible. You must remember that you are interviewing your future employer just as much as they are interviewing you. Make sure you are in a place where scrum can survive and flourish. Without that, you might just be working against your own best interests and those of the people around you by trying to support an agile process.
I want to hear how your job search is going, and what obstacles and opportunities you’re finding at the companies you explore. The job market is constantly shifting. It’s invaluable to stay informed, and let your network know what you’re finding.
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