Experience is (Often) Key
Unfortunately, while this may be very frustrating, your skills and the knowledge of project management that you acquired at university or during your previous projects appears insufficient to a lot of people; I know I would be cautious.
I can understand the frustration, but there's always the danger that, while you seem like a potentially good project manager for a "perfect situation", there's no way to assess how you'd react when facing difficult times - let alone a crisis.
And that's a doubt that, unfortunately, is only vanquished by the re-assurance that you've had enough years to break your teeth on these problems.
Your biggest problem is, quite simply and paradoxically, that you have never failed, yet!! We cannot evaluate what your limits are, what makes you run, what makes you tick, what throws you off.
It's Not You: It's Everybody
Programmers looking for graduate jobs have actually the same problem, and it applies to many other professions as well: our industry is not that special. Newly graduated programmers will have very good skills: in some areas, even a lot sharper than a lot of their seniors. Similarly, you may well be more up to date with modern management techniques than older managers. Yet again, those new programmers don't have the right gut feelings, the habit of listening to the wooshing sound of deadlines flying by (D. Adams) faster than you had expected and the right overview. And in your case, you probably would have situations that you would have a hard time dealing with. Or, at least, that's what people assume.
It's frustrating, but not much you can do.
Now the worrying part is more about interviewing. You say you had phone interviews, but how many face-to-face interviews? If you haven't had enough interviews, then that's a much bigger red-flag. It means there's really something going wrong during the phone interviews and you need to reflect on that.
You seem to assume about what went wrong and put them off. Did you ask for feedback? Did the recruiters have any recommendations? They're sharks who tick checkboxes (to HR-people reading this: not you. You're awesome. We love you. Keep it up...), but they do that for a living. They may not understand what you do, but they know what the companies want (or think they want...). Ask for their help.
About getting turned down during interviews because you mention that you want to become a PM... you should keep saying that! Maybe you'll get turned down but you won't end up in a place where you don't want to be. On the other hand, if you can accommodate with another role for a while, maybe you should bite the bullet and get some more experience there. Before becoming a PM, maybe being a development lead wouldn't be as bad. But ultimately, even from dev lead to PM, the switch is pretty difficult.
But First... Getting Those Interviews!
Also, if you didn't get that many phones interviews via other channels than Careers.SO, then here's what I'd recommend.
Certifications and Training
- Get a certification for a big, old fashioned boring methodology (I can hear angry comments coming in by waves... /me bracing for impact). For instance, look at governmental positions in your area and the kind of certifications they require, and take a course and get certified for those. Maybe you don't like them, but they'll get you more respect from those who have them or want them.
- Take training courses on other development methodologies, for instance in Agile development. Become a SCRUM Master, maybe.
- Take training courses more oriented towards actual business management, involving managing budgets and team resources. It's a bit (very?) scary that you'd think you can handle that part of the job if you've never done it before. You will be responsible for loads of money, and people's positions and lives. How their resumes will look in the future partly depends on you as well. Do not take that lightly.
Find a Good Ramp to Jump-Start your Career: Startups
- Find a startup or get some experience in a venture or something. A lot are less regarding on experience, because they often are started by young technologists and have limited budgets so they'll be OK with settling.
- Do examine it carefully before you join though, because nothing's worse for a young project manager than a first project that tanked. Even though that's common with startups, you want to be able to show that, after only a few years there, you have demonstrated your leadership skills. That it was your strategic guidance that was one of the keys to success.
- Do you have any acquaintances who work for local, relatively small not-for-profit organization or charity? These can be good starting points.
Recruitment Agencies, Job Sites and Alternatives
- Use different agencies.
- Online websites like Monster are fine, but your CV is harvested by everybody, or you apply to positions directly where 400 other people already applied. Use other channels. Did you try to...:
- Use Google Search/Bing/Other to land their "jobs" or "career" pages?
- Use Google Maps and appropriate keywords to find companies of interest and ?
- Target different industries. Some industries have more targeted recruitment techniques. For instance, the IT-for-finance market has for some reasons agencies that are very active. They tend to work for business people with deep pockets, so they try their best to really find the best. They follow up with you, they prepare you for interviews, they tear your resume apart and help you rebuild it if they think you're worth it. You may dislike what they suggest, but for their industry, consider they know best. And for other industries, you'd have picked up a few tricks.
Get Some Exposure and Contacts
- Use your Facebook, your Twitter, your carrier-pigeon. Everything!!
- Carry resumes around.
- Attend events, conferences.
- Attend job fairs.
- Build up a portfolio
- Get recommended on LinkedIn
- Be ultra active on Project Management.SE!
- Fine-tune and focus your resumes and cover letters for each job
- Prepare a visual presentation (powerpoint, video, funky website) of:
- your projects and achievements
- maybe even a fictional project to present
- If you're applying for a location where you're not already... That's even harder. You want to be a manager. Which means you need to be a people's person. You need to communicate, drive points through, be authoritative but also a good listener. I cannot evaluate that over the phone. So, if you cannot go where you're future money should be so you can be on-site for interviews, networking is even more important. You need recommendations.
Consider Other Positions/Roles
- Consider being a managing assistant first. You'll get first-hand mentoring, some connections, build up your experience and portfolio, and have the opportunity to both take initiatives and make mistakes, with a lesser degree of responsibility and liability.
- Consider Dev Lead or QA Lead positions.
- Consider a marketing-related position. You will be more in touch with business aspects.
- Basically, consider that any interview you get for a position, even if it's not the right one for you, gets you some contacts at recruitment agencies AND inside some companies. I often recommended candidates who weren't right for the role we were trying to fill to other departments, if I had a hunch they would be good candidates.
Don't Give Up
- 60 applications are nothing, if you don't spend a lot of time preparing them.
- Research and prepare each one. Follow up with the recruiters/employers on LinkedIn, Xing, Viadeo or other professional networks.
- Be creative!
Harsh Possibility: It Might Just NOT Happen (Right Now)
You are still very young and just graduated. That year is one of the first things people will see, right after noticing that you have almost 0 professional experience. Sell any previous PM-related experience as well as you can, but don't embellish: be prepared to defend everything you state on your resume.
I have to tell you, at the risk of demotivating you, that I think (because of the way you write and some of the things you wrote) that you don't have a clear vision of what PM really involves. Or maybe you do, but unfortunately that's not how you come across. You sound unaware and quite idealistic. And if that's also how you come across during the phone interviews, that's a big question mark for your interviewers that they write with a big red marker in the margin of your resume.
Sorry, I don't mean to sound judgmental or anything, but the recruitment dance is hard from both sides, and I know I would be very reluctant to hire someone with little experience for a PM position. And even worse, actually: I'd be afraid that the people who will then work under you will question my choice and question your abilities when at the first meeting or the first coffee break you start introducing your previous projects as only summer or university projects (because it seems that's all you have).
You even say in a comment to another answer that:
[you have leadership experience] both through project management
coursework (undergrad and grad level),
and managing ~20 newspaper
photographers (not SEng, but still
management). [You] do realize that doesn't
compare to doing it for 5 years at a
tech company, but it's not as though [you]
have nothing whatsoever under [your] belt
Yet it does sound like you don't have that much under your belt. There's nothing that really makes you stand out.
Coursework is not experience: it's coursework. And you know what coursework is in most universities (and even some good ones)? Horse-doodoo. That's pretty much it. It's a big fat pile of pointers and references to (often outdated) material, assembled by teachers who may not even be that knowledgeable in the first place or have the experience for the things they pretend to teach you.
Managing 20 photographers in a newspaper is something, alright. But what did YOU do? What were your responsibilities and tasks? What was your mission, your appointment? What successes did you achieve? You don't present your case very well here, so it might be that you present it under the same (diffuse) light when you advertise yourself. Did you (or a group you were a part of) found the paper, or were you taking over after a previous team? Did you set up new processes? Train people? Decice of the assignments of each of those?
Don't get me wrong. Those experiences are valuable: if you didn't have them on your resume, you probably wouldn't be considered at all. But they don't qualify to get that sort of position. As mentioned above: there might be hundreds of people trying to apply for the PM positions you look at. You may just well be in the upper half of the pile, and the ones without any sort of experience and who are just trying their luck are in the lower half. Now you get to really sell your way through to the top 5 for a face to face interview, and make damn good pitch and show that not only you are good at what you do, but you'll get better and won't get surprised by the things you don't even know.