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A Project Manager’s Personal Plan for Career Growth

career growth mentorship pm project management training soft skills May 29, 2023
A Project Manager’s Personal Plan for Career Growth

Someone was overheard saying she was just one lottery winner away from being the next VP. What did she mean? Her career growth plan was based on her boss winning the lottery so she could take his place! Now, that may not be the best career advice, but it does highlight the fact that nobody’s job is forever. People retire, win the lottery, move to other companies, or are overcome by life events, and somebody has to take their place. This begs the question, what are you doing as a project manager so that you are tapped on the shoulder when a position opens up? 

Let’s start with what NOT to do. One mistake that we’ve seen over the years is when project managers make themselves indispensable. “What? That’s a bad thing?” you may ask. Yes, it is, if you are the ONLY person that could possibly do your job. When you go home at night, you have to be the person that is called if there’s an issue. When you go on vacation, you constantly check your email to make sure things are moving forward. When you have a crisis in your family, you’re on the phone talking people through what steps they need to take to fix a problem. 

This is how the conversation goes if you are being considered for an opening: 

“What about <insert your name here> for this new position? They’ve been with the company for a long time and know what they are doing.”  

“True, but if we pull them out of the position they are in, everything on that project will come to a grinding halt. They are the single point of failure for so many things and are single threaded in so many areas. Let’s leave them where they are and consider <insert someone else’s name here>. 

Never do we want to put ourselves in that situation. Your goal should be to set your projects up to run as smoothly as possible with or without you, never be on the critical path, and have backup plans in place. This frees you up for promotion opportunities. Remember, you want to be indispensable to the company, not indispensable to your current position or to the project! 

Now, what SHOULD you do to make yourself worthy of promotion? 

  • Educate Yourself - First, understand what position you are looking to be promoted into and what it requires. Is it something within the PMO or somewhere else in the organization? What soft and hard skills does the job require? Is there some amount of formal education or certifications needed to qualify for the position? Answering these questions will allow you to come up with your own self-development plan, and be qualified for that new position should it open up. 
  • Find a Mentor - A mentor is a trusted counselor or guide, either within your company or from the outside. Most importantly, this person has “been there, done that” when it comes to where you want to go. They can talk you through the steps they took to get where they are (aka, where you want to be), the challenges along the way, and most importantly, how to overcome them. This person can map the uncharted territory ahead of you and set you up for success. 
  • Make Your Intentions Known - Share your goals and aspirations with your manager. They’ll have a lay of the land and know what positions would be opening up in the PMO and help you come up with a plan to get there. Look online for your company’s job postings and let those hiring managers know you would be interested. Or, get even further ahead of things and talk with HR or any recruiters in your company about what you want to do. They’ll have an early read on potential positions that may be opening up, and can put you at the front of the interviewing line. 

One more thing to remember is to take YOUR career development into your own hands. Don’t wait for someone else to come to you with a plan and say this is what you should do. Chances are they won’t, and you’ll be doing the same job for a very long time.  

Follow the suggestions above, and you’ll find yourself frequently tapped on the shoulder for promotions! 

Are you lost or struggling to gain traction on your Project Management Journey?

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