The Project Manager's Dilemma
Monday Jul 31st, 2017
If you are a practicing Project Manager, it is easy to get lost in all the activities you need to conduct to drive your organization’s project to the finish line. And while completing the project and realizing the benefits for your organization is extremely important, so too is your personal and ongoing professional development.
In my previous article, I mentioned the importance of being the ‘driver’ of your own career. I can’t believe how many times I have heard my PM colleagues complain after they closed a lengthy project of 3 to 4 years that they feel ‘caged’ into the industry they are now in. In today’s ever changing market, being in an industry for this long is enough to make you redundant in another industry. This is so ironic, considering that most PMs are PMs because of the flexibility to apply their skills across several industries. Therefore, be the driver of your career by keeping your skills sharp in other professional areas where you may want to be a PM next.
Below are a few ideas on professional development that can easily be built into your schedule on the side, after work or during weekends:
Join a local meet-up for a project management or industry related topic
Meetups are a great way to connect and network with people who share similar interests as you. There are all types of meetups; some for hobbies and some for professional. Joining and participating in a local meetup will help you stay current in an area of project management that you may not normally have a chance to keep up with. Secondly, it is a great way to network. For instance, if you are a PM in the Banking sector, joining a Technology PM Meetup could help you connect with someone in that industry who could take you on for you next exciting project.
If you Google ‘Project Management Meetups’ here is what I see when I click on the first result:
There are almost 500 PM meetup groups across the World, which is good, but I don’t even think that is a big enough number considering how BIG Project Management is as a profession. If there isn’t a group for the area of PM that you are interested in, you could even consider starting one and leading it!
Get a Certification to keep your skills relevant and updated
Professional accreditations or obtaining certification on the use of tools, techniques or systems to practice successfully in an industry, will keep you up to pace in that field. For instance, if you are a manufacturing PM but want to move into IT, try to get a certification on a popular or upcoming ERP system, or trying taking a basic programming course. This way, you develop background in an industry, keep your knowledge current and show potential employers that your PM skills are relevant and easily transferrable to the industry.
Volunteer with an organization to use skills you wouldn’t normally get to use in your day job
Professional volunteering is an excellent way to develop or maintain your skills in an area of interest to you. I can share a personal experience here: I have always been interested in the not-for-profit and social services sector. So when I came across an opportunity to provide pro-bono consulting to a local non-profit that provided assisted living to elders in the community, I jumped on it. Here, I used my Project Management skills to set the pace for the project. My team and I engaged our stakeholders, created a charter, created a plan and conducted the entire project life cycle for our final deliverable to the organization. Not only did I experience first-hand the opportunities and constraints faced in this sector and gave my time and knowledge to a good cause, I also added non-profit PM experience to my resume. You too can find some way to get involved. There are so many local organizations looking for help; from developing a marketing strategy to implementing a software – contact them to see if they could benefit from your PM skills to kick off the project, keep it on track, plan for risks or whatever else you are able to offer!
I will stop it here. But trust me on this: professional development opportunities are plenty these days. If you want more off-beat ideas on how to build a specific skill set or gain experience in a particular industry feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com.