Project Management Institute

Making your mark

CAREERTRACK

by Chauncey Hollingsworth

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Project managers have all been schooled in the importance of stakeholder management, but there's one key person they may not be accustomed to addressing: themselves.

Everyone likes to think their stellar work speaks for itself, but that's simply not the case in today's cutthroat market.

Project managers can build their reputation “by driving projects and applying best practices, demonstrating that these are helping to succeed in terms of finishing on time or earlier, and achieving the expected results for the stakeholders,” says Jean-Claude Dravet, PMP, a project management consultant based in La Colle sur Loup, France.

“Of course, this is not enough,” he adds, laughing.

Simply put, to stand out from the pack, you must create and market your personal brand. Companies have been doing it for decades. And although there's no need to create your own logo and big-budget ad blitz, it might not hurt to put some effort in crafting and honing your image as a project manager. Just as Apple has become synonymous with cutting-edge innovation and adaptability, a project manager can build a brand around anything from sustainability to scheduling.

“This is a good way to demonstrate knowledge, ability and also to be identified as a project manager people want to work with,” Mr. Dravet says.

the missing link

It's not just about your own brand. Project managers sometimes have to market the profession itself.

“You need to help the stakeholders understand that project management is a needed tool,” says R. Camper Bull, PMP, Armiger International, Madison, New Jersey, USA.

One way to do that is to identify the goals of a company from the vantage point of the boardroom.

“My favorite question to ask companies is, ‘What is the arm that executes your vision?’” says Mr. Bull. “And they look around like they're missing something.”

Maybe they are.

And it may be up to you to make that pitch for project management.

IF THE BRAND FITS…

Every project manager has his or her own way of applying best practices, and by embracing your own style and talents, your brand will emerge. Don't force it. If you're more like Microsoft, don't try to position yourself as the next Google.

“You have to be authentic to who you are,” says Bob McGannon, PMP, director of Mindavation, a project management training and consulting company in Canberra, Australia.

“We're all different. Believe in your own integrity and live with integrity as to who you are and what you think, and support others in doing the same thing,” he says. “If you're conservative and quiet and have a tendency to ponder things and work in a more introverted way, that's what you should do. Help people understand that's who you are. If you're more boisterous and extroverted, you should be that as well.”

Jill Steffey, PMP, has built her brand around her communication skills, playing off her strengths as a mediator in team member disputes.

“They call me the ‘Project Super-nanny,’” says Ms. Steffey, business systems analyst for the Office of Alumni Relations and Development at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, USA.

“I'm part of the old guard. I'm a little bit older than some of the other people on the teams who now only communicate by instant messaging and e-mail and don't want to spend any time with each other,” she says. “I will call people on the phone and have an actual conversation.”

Her self-described neutral role as “Switzerland” has fostered important relationships and helped advance her career.

“People come to me all the time. They want me to fix all their problems. I have this sort of counseling thing,” Ms. Steffey says. “People trust me and they feel like if they have an issue they can talk to me about it and get it worked out, without having it exposed to the entire project team or going to their own boss and feeling like the lightning rod of blame.”

SELL, SELL, SELL

With brand identity forged, project managers now must market that image. Yet if the whole idea of talking about yourself and your accomplishments makes you cringe, you're not alone.

“I'm actually very uncomfortable with self-promotion,” says R. Camper Bull, PMP, managing director, Armiger International, a consulting firm in Madison, New Jersey, USA. “But are people uncomfortable with self-promotion because they don't believe in it, or are they uncomfortable with self-promotion because they can't do it?”

It may not be as painful as you think.

“Do you have to dress up like a circus promoter and sit out there and hawk your wares? No. Do you need to plaster your name over everything and brand your name everywhere? No. Do you have to gain a reputation? Sure,” he says.

The good news is that there are plenty of options nowadays, including online, of course. Social media is an easy path for project managers to define and enlarge their footprints. Sites such as Plaxo or LinkedIn can help you connect with others in the project management community and in the executive suite, while blogs and Twitter can serve as forums for your expertise.

out of your hands

Given the vast sea of data on the Internet, it's not possible to completely control the information presented about you. What you can do is define your territory in cyberspace.

First off, type your name into a search engine and see what pops up. If more personal items come up than work references, you might have a problem.

“It's up to you to make sure that what's out there is what you want people to know about,” says Joelle Godfrey, PMP, Navteq, Chicago, Illinois, USA. “If you have a blog, you control it, as opposed to anything you might have posted previously elsewhere. If you continue to post or blog or tweet, those just might hit higher in search results than whatever else might be out there. I'm going to define me.”

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BLOGGING HER WAY TO A JOB

When Joelle Godfrey, PMP, was laid off, she was understandably upset. For a detail-oriented project manager who suddenly had no budget to mind, no team to engage with and no milestones to track, having entire days of nothing but free time was too much to handle.

So she created a blog. And like any good marketer, she realized all that exposure could help her build a brand.

“I started a blog to try to give people an idea as to who I was, to set myself apart,” says Ms. Godfrey, now a software project manager at digital map provider Navteq, Chicago, Illinois, USA.

Once her blog was up and running, she also started tweeting on Twitter as a means to embed A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) in her brain.

Regularly updating her blog with project management-related posts, Ms. Godfrey showcased the qualities that make her unique in the work force. By simply being herself, she developed and disseminated her personal trademark.

It was “a way for people to get an idea of who I am, my thinking process and what I find interesting about project management,” she says.

And she backed up the efforts with her own ad campaign. “I started to include a link to my blog at the bottom of my e-mails,” Ms. Godfrey says.

Although she's not sure if her blog helped her land a job, Ms. Godfrey said she did have people remark on it at interviews.

Still devoted to nurturing her brand, she continues to tweet every day and updates her blog once a week.

IN NETWORK

Even “old-fashioned” means can be used to promote your brand.

“Go write an article,” Mr. Bull advises. “Go out and volunteer for some project management symposiums.”

Mr. Dravet recommends sharing project management knowledge by teaching or mentoring and coaching junior project managers. Not only are you showing you can run a project, he says, “you are acknowledged as an expert if you are able to transfer this knowledge.”

It can't just all be hype, though. “When you talk about branding, you need to be able to execute,” says Mr. Bull.

But done right, branding will help you build a network of people who will in turn push your brand.

“The reputation you have with individuals is what gets you work,” Mr. Bull says.

“You want to come to the point where other people are speaking about you,” says Mr. Dravet. “It can be a team member, it can be the management of the company, it can be customers, it can be any kind of partners. Sometimes even when you are teaching or when you are consulting in the company, the next time they are aware of a need in the company, they are calling you to say, ‘I want you and nobody else!’”

Now that's what they call a killer brand identity. PM

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.

PM NETWORK MARCH 2010 WWW.PMI.ORG

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