Making Your PM Career Plan

I want to discuss making your career. In many organizations there is no clear roadmap for a project manager. Many people fall into the role or are technical experts that get promoted. As the industry is emerging and growing in value it is important to manage your own career. Some companies will help let you know training and promotion path available but the majority don’t. You can never wait for someone else, you are are the CEO of You, Inc at all times and must push forward.

Explore. A good place to start is to talk to people in your industry or organization. Ask what opportuniities they are aware, what experience is required, what can you do to prepare for that role. Also, consider your strengths, weaknesses, goals and desires for what type of work you want to be engaged in.

Categorize skills. This is much like a company does in evaluating its core competencies. Take the time to really consider the different skills you have and what level you currently are. What skills do you have to get? What skills do you need to increase ability? How should you do that? Make a plan to get those skills – communication, persuasion, computer skills, problem solving, being a go getter are all musts. Make sure you make it a high priority to get those you need.

Get a Board. Well, you might think why do I need that. A board of advisors is a huge value add. You have people to bounce ideas off of, consult with, ask advice and help as you navigate your career. The many years of collective experience you get from working with others will save you mistakes and avoid emotional decisions. Each decisions is important. When you look back, in many cases people just fall into the next positions since it was available. When you have a plan and work it, you will advance much faster than being a pawn in someone else’s plan. I had the opportunity to take a promotion in current department but would not give me the added experiences beyond current so I declined. People’s reaction was confusion, but I was making a personal choice. I did not have another immediate choice but was pursuing a different focus of moving into team that was in revenue generating team rather than a staff function. By taking the easily offered p osition, I would have had a promotion but not the increased experience by waiting a few months to find something different. It can be tough to wrestle with the decision but you have make tough choices sometimes.

So you want to me a Program Manager? Some think that project management and program management are interchangeable. Some skills are shared and experiences will help you, though there are different skill sets (described in earlier post). In managing project managers or planning your own career it is important to consider how you will build the skills. Programs are more strategice in nature, longer duration, can contain developments and operational projects and work more with senior management to meet strategic goals. People can often fall from one role into another and be ill equiped to be successful. There is a shift and moving someone who is a technical expert into a project management roles requires careful consideration and support while they learn project management. The same applies if you want to move from project management into program management.

Defining the skills. In the next post, I will describe what I think are critical and valuable skills for each position. These skills are the “tools” that you should continue to learn, develop and strenthen in your business “toolbox”.


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