Fixing Flaws

Help Build a Better Organizational Framework, Rebound from Negative Feedback and Show Outside Interests

Voices | CAREER Q&A



By Lindsay Scott

I just started a new job, but the organization’s approach to projects is pretty chaotic. What should I do?

Just like any project, your career will be full of surprises and disappointments. How you proceed depends on your career goals, resilience and, of course, what else that organization has to offer. If you have minimal experience in projects (say, less than 5 years) and still need professional support and more experience running projects in an organization with a better framework, the job could do more harm than good to your career.

On the other hand, if you’re confident in your skills, it’s a tremendous opportunity. More than likely, the organization is starving for someone to step up and show others how it’s done. To seize the moment, first organize your own project—and control what you can control. You can instill maturity in your own tasks and team even if the wider delivery infrastructure doesn’t exist. Check in with your line manager to make sure your approach is not impacting others and your project is hitting all the milestones and metrics—and share those wins with your team to build buy-in for any new processes or practices you’ve introduced.

Being part of the journey to organizational maturity in projects, programs and portfolios is not only a chance to shape how the company will deliver all of its projects successfully in the future. It’s also a chance to build your own professional reputation as a change agent—experience that you can tout the next time you’re looking to land a new role. Bottom line: If you enjoy everything else the company has to offer, maybe it’s worth sticking around for now.

My first performance review didn’t go well, even though my project is on track. My confidence is starting to suffer. How can I recover?

It’s easy to feel angry, defensive or embarrassed about a negative performance review. But dwelling on those emotions won’t help. Instead, use it as a chance to grow. Rather than viewing the comments as criticism, look at them as a roadmap for how to become a better project manager. The feedback should have highlighted some skills gaps, revealed new expectations or provided specific details on how to improve.

Having a positive response to negative feedback shows that you’re a true professional who’s eager to learn. Even if some time has passed since the review, thank your manager for the feedback and ask any questions that can clarify how you can elevate your performance. Take it a step further by talking to your manager and human resources representative so you understand how the feedback fits in the organization’s big-picture context. Then seek the practical support and resources you need to start addressing where you fall short and erase those professional blind spots.

Also be sure to reread the review and highlight any positive feedback—no matter how nuanced or subtle it might be—to reinforce your confidence. The fact that the project you’re managing is still on track should give you confidence that you’re not a failure. You’re on a constant journey of professional development. One unfavorable review doesn’t make you a bad project manager; it just means that you can get better.

I’m applying for new jobs. Should I include outside interests on my résume?

Yes. Some organizations appreciate learning more about job candidates, because it helps them evaluate how they might fit with other team members or the overall culture. It’s particularly helpful if those outside interests involve the use of project management skills, such as volunteering, charity work or organizing activities for groups that you belong to. Still, it’s wise to avoid sharing political views or your affiliation with an extreme sporting organization (unless, of course, those interests are related to the role that you’re applying for). You’re looking for a balance that shows you’re a relatable person and not a workaholic. PM

Pro Tip: Share Pandemic Lessons

Anyone who has delivered projects throughout the global pandemic gained virtual team leadership skills during that time. Add those successes to your resume or CV, then prepare to elaborate on them during interviews. Virtual teams are here to stay. Show that you’ve learned what it takes to guide them—now and in the future.

Have a career question for Lindsay Scott?

Email [email protected].

img Lindsay Scott is the director of program and project management recruitment at Arras People in London.



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