‘Growing your career is never just a matter of skill. It is always a matter of motivation’ Greg Savage
A project management professional has many different options to consider when it comes to career progression and career development. The key to progressing and developing is getting motivated to focus on it, staying engaged as you decide which paths to take and repeatedly taking a little time out to check you’re still heading where you want to head.
In recent times the market has been volatile and job security has moved further and further away from the old saying, ‘a job for life’. That means as a professional you should always be thinking about your career because you never know when it might be time to move on from your current position (through choice or otherwise!).
At a very basic level career progression and development thinking can start with just doing something differently. Planning changes in your career doesn’t have to be the start of any grand master plan to conquer the world; it can just be doing something differently and seeing where that leads you.
Consider these three easy options:
- What’s happening in project management? – Take more time to understand, research, get involve in or just read about what is happening in the project management profession. It is still an emerging profession with so many new or updated areas to take a look at. Make a pact with yourself that you will be more interested in your profession, after all if you class yourself as a project management professional, shouldn’t it be a given that you care about its development?
- Continuing Professional Development (CPD) – Think about where you need to develop as an individual and start taking the steps to address the areas of project management where you know there are skills gaps in your experiences and skills. Not sure where your gaps really are? Take a look at the competency frameworks for project management which include assessments for project managers to take to find out their skills gaps. PMI have the Competency Development Framework, APM have the Competence Framework and there is a free to request Project Manager Standard from GAPPS.
- Networking – Take time to get out and about away from your organization occasionally. There is nothing worse than that institutionalised feeling that you’re never quite sure what project management and projects means in other organizations and sectors. How does your career compare with other project management professionals? Is there something I should be aware of that our organization doesn’t do? How do I match up in the wider project management community? Getting out and meeting other project managers – through conference, seminars, breakfast meetings, industry forums, association branch meetings are just some of the ways to benchmark yourself. Networking of course is another way to expand your knowledge about what’s happening in project management and CPD.
Those are the easy options which you can start doing now to help you get motivated about your career. But that’s not enough, you also have to think about the bigger picture and ask the difficult question:
What do you want from your career?
Only you can decide on where your career is heading and what steps you want to take. As I said, project managers have a lot of options available to them. Consider these options:
- Different types of projects – different sector or business functions (IT, marketing, finance etc)
- More complex projects – programmes, larger budgets, larger teams, bigger solutions
- Moving to an organisational project management role – portfolio, PMO
- Moving out of project management completely and into executive management
- Moving out of project management to plan a return at a higher level (often the best way to ensure a larger jump in status and remuneration)
- Becoming a subject matter expert or industry leader in an aspect of project management
- A great leader – to your team and someone who is looked to as a shining example of a great leader in business
- Greater remuneration, rewards and promotion
- Better recognition within the organisation – you are called on to run the most high profile projects
- Becoming an independent – either becoming self-employed or setting up a consultancy to offer expertise in project management.
- Just becoming better at what you do – becoming a great all-round project manager.
When you take the time to consider your options it starts to become clearer where you need to focus your efforts. You can take the outcome from your own skills gap analysis and start to formulate a plan to address these gaps. You need to ensure that the gaps you’re going to work on are aligned to where you want your career to go, after all this precious energy and motivation needs to be on doing the right things.
Here are two tools, which might look familiar, which can help take your career planning to the next step.
Based on the strategic planning tool SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats ) we can use a SWOT tool to help us think about ourselves and where we want to get to in our career. Consider this project manager’s career plan below. She’s looking to improve her project management capability but ultimately wants to manage large programmes of work:
Now we can use the ‘urgent and important’ time management plan. It’s a simple plan that allows you to start looking at what’s really important to you to achieve your goals in the career plan. It also takes into account that we all have limited time available in our daily lives to make things happen and we need to prioritise:
The trick to growing your career is to stay motivated and frequently revisit your planning on a regular basis. Once you set a plan in motion you might find that your overall career goals might change, and that’s OK too. Just keep revisiting a planning activity like this to reaffirm that you’re on a track that you’re happy with.
Lindsay Scott is the Director of Programme and Project Management Recruitment at Arras People. Initially focusing purely on supplying programme and project office roles, Arras soon added to its services by becoming a Programme and Project Management recruitment agency in response to a growing demand of their clients. Lyndsay can be found on Twitter and the great insight provided by her and the Arras crew can be seen via their blog How To Manage A Camel