Project Management Institute

Fight or flight

CAREER Q&A
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Q: I’ve spent the first two months in my new project manager position wondering if taking this job was the wrong decision. How long should I ride out my uncertainty?

A: Several factors could make you wonder if you've made a bad choice:

■ Your depth of knowledge and experience is too limited for the role, and you are struggling to carry out the work.

■ You were attracted to the role for all the wrong reasons—money, prestige, boredom with your past post—but don't find the work engaging.

■ The company culture is at odds with your personality.

■ A lack of familiarity is increasing your anxiety and distracting you from your work.

But two months in a new position is not enough time to know if the job is a good fit. Most people start to feel comfortable around the six-month mark.

At two months, you are on a learning curve, and—depending on how different this role is from your previous one—it could be very steep. Instead of wasting energy and angst by debating whether or not to jump ship, make a mental commitment to hit your six-month mark. Here are a few strategies for approaching this position with an open mind.

FOCUS ON FACES

A new position at a new company requires skills beyond your technical project management ones. To gain more confidence in your role, you'll have to network with a new set of colleagues and familiarize yourself with the company's culture and processes.

If you're thrown into a project, schedule time to talk to department leaders, such as the finance director, who can provide insight on how project teams operate within the organization. Recognize that six months or a year from now, you might schedule only half as many meetings, but talking to as many stakeholders and team members as possible early on will help you acclimate to the new organization and feel less adrift.

SET NEW EXPECTATIONS

Even the best recruitment process can leave us with false expectations. Just as it is difficult for candidates to fully convey who they are and what they offer during an interview, organizations may paint a rushed and inaccurate portrait of the position.

Keep an open mind as your perception is replaced by the reality of your new role. It can sometimes help to remind yourself why you took the position and to keep track of the unexpected perks you discover as you settle into the job. Of course, if you feel there is a significant gap between the role you were hired for and the job you're in, schedule a meeting with your manager.

PAUSE BEFORE FAST-FORWARDING

Making the wrong move is an incredibly common career mistake, and it doesn't have to define your career—unless you fail to learn from your mistake. Before you leap into your next position— and potentially another wrong role—start with a self-assessment.

What have you loved and loathed from past jobs? Whether you thrived at a huge organization or relished managing technical projects, identifying those elements will make it easier to find a better fit in the future.

Once you're in the interview process, perform due diligence. Ask about the person you will report to, the company's culture and values, and how projects are managed. If you're offered a position but have lingering questions, ask to meet with the people who can give you answers.

Organizations, like you, want to find the best fit possible. Taking the time to explore can help ensure that, two months into your new role, you're happy to be there. PM

 

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Lindsay Scott is the director of program and project management at Arras People in London, England. Send career questions to pmnetwork@imaginepub.com.

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI.

MAY 2013 PM NETWORK

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