The PM in perpetual career transition

The PM in perpetual career transition

I previously wrote about the importance of being able to sell as a core competency of the project manager.  Some recent news about the prolonged jobless recovery indicates that this skill will become ever more important going forward.  For example, an article titled “Recovery in U.S. Is Lifting Profits, but Not Adding Jobs” published back on March 3, 2013 by the Wall Street Journal’s online Business Daily in the Economics section, discusses how corporate profits keep growing, yet are doing so by adding very few to no jobs:

With the Dow Jones industrial average flirting with a record high, the split between American workers and the companies that employ them is widening and could worsen in the next few months as federal budget cuts take hold.

That gulf helps explain why stock markets are thriving even as the economy is barely growing and unemployment remains stubbornly high.

With millions still out of work, companies face little pressure to raise salaries, while productivity gains allow them to increase sales without adding workers…

The result has been a golden age for corporate profits, especially among multinational giants that are also benefiting from faster growth in emerging economies like China and India.

These factors, along with the Federal Reserve’s efforts to keep interest rates ultralow and encourage investors to put more money into riskier assets, prompted traders to send the Dow past 14,000 to within 75 points of a record high last week.

While buoyant earnings are rewarded by investors and make American companies more competitive globally, they have not translated into additional jobs at home.

This should be a worrying prospect for all of us who work as project managers or for that manner, anyone who works for any large corporation.  This graphic below from the article highlights the steady rise of corporate profits that is in stark contrast to the gradual decline of personal income for the average worker:

I have had the good fortune this year of being voted in to participate in my role as VP of Marketing for PMI-LA which has allowed me to network and meet with other project managers working or in transition in the Los Angeles area more than I ever had in the past.

And it is the fact that about more than half of the individuals I have met, are “in transition” that I want to write about.  Because even those are not out of work seem to be constantly worried that they will be out of work and/or feel very stuck in the position they are in and want to transition out of it.  This is due to many factors, but the most prevalent are pay that is not keeping up with the rising cost of living expenses, being stuck in a rut with their current job title or area of expertise, working with demoralized and unmotivated teams due to the constant layoffs and career dissatisfaction, etc.


So for those of us who are project managers (as well as program and portfolio managers), you as well as your teams, stakeholders, project sponsors, or pretty much anyone whom you work with in your organization are in a state of perpetual transition whether it is consciously or unconsciously known or not.

For anyone who is a working project manager, I think the best thing to do is acknowledge that this is now the “new normal” and take proactive steps to mitigate and leverage this current and most likely future state of affairs.

I think it can be done if the following manner:

    1. Education – Learning should never stop after graduating for HS, college or graduate school.  Read boat loads of books related and even unrelated to project management.  Take continuing educational classes offered by numerous reputable colleges and universities or better yet, find a highly experienced and knowledgeable co-worker or mentor and discuss and trade ideas that you have read about, learned in school or experienced on the job
    2. Personal Branding – Go about creating a personal brand both online and offline.  This could be like I am doing by setting up a blog or content portal particular to your industry, participating in online discussion groups such as LinkedIn as well as creating a highly visible and captivating profile on LinkedIn.  Offline options include joining a local chapter like PMI-LA or any other of the numerous chapters for other related areas.  If you can, speak at as many events as you can which will build your personal brand as well as build your presentation and speaking abilities.  And of course, network, network, network!
    3. Build Your Platform – In Michael Hyatt’s best selling book “Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World” he popularizes the idea of having a virtual platform (like standing on top of a wooden crate to get noticed) to stand on top of so that you get noticed for your skills and expertise.  The technological advances of the past couple decades has allowed one to communicate your expertise and stand out more easier than at any other time in history.  But this ease has also made it very crowded lately, so you will have to put in much more effort to build this platform.  The benefits are that it will allow you to create a vehicle and data repository of your unique selling position and expert skills to be recognized outside of where you work so that you become indispensable or “So Good They Can’t Ignore You” so that you can start to cash in on your career capital.

I know what your thinking, I have a full time job (or if out of work, working full time to get another job) as well as family and friends that I want to spend time with as well, and I now have to take on another full-time job building a personal brand and platform while keeping up all the latest and greatest in my industry and beyond?!

I’m afraid I see not other way to thrive in our highly volatile and transitory state of affairs.  Of course your inclinations, abilities and time available is going to dictate how much you can do, but I would suggest you incorporate what you can.  But like anything else, your results will vary, but if you put the time and effort in and get to the point where you are well known for your expertise within your industry or industry niche, the opportunities should start coming your way instead of you constantly having to seek them.

More importantly, you may be one of the individuals who sets the stage for the next big transition!

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