Project Management Institute

Recovery Mode

Taking a Step Back Can Help You Bounce back from Failure; Also, Transitioning from Business Analyst, and Embracing Self-Promotion

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By Lindsay Scott

My most recent project failed for all sorts of reasons. As a contractor, how can I rebuild confidence for my next role?

At some point, everyone encounters failure, so realize that this is just part of the career experience. For freelancers and contractors, the first thing to do after project failure is take a step back and gain some perspective before jumping into another role. You need to give yourself permission to take time for reflection. In other words, evaluate lessons learned before moving forward.

It's easy to fall into the trap of overthinking what went wrong and how you could have managed things better. It's natural to have negative feelings. But we often forget that projects can have a habit of going wrong—and for reasons that many times are out of a project manager's control. By identifying the combination of factors that caused project failure, we can start to understand the bigger picture of what went wrong and how to rationalize it. Of course, you'll see that, in some cases, you could have chosen a different way to tackle an issue. But you'll also realize that some of the problems would have happened no matter what.

Writing down those personal reflections will help you remove the emotion from the equation and allow you to embrace the practical lessons learned from failure. You have to take something positive away from every assignment, regardless of how the project played out. Here are three actions I recommend in order to leave a bad assignment behind and rebuild your confidence:

1. Add knowledge. Spend time on your own professional development. Take a course you've been meaning to take for a while. New knowledge has the power to reenergize and reinvigorate us so we're ready to take on something new again.

2. Get selective. Be more discerning when choosing your next assignment. Make sure you don't take another assignment with all the same hallmarks of the one that failed. That means being selective with the roles you pursue. And when you land interviews, think about which questions need to be asked to uncover whether the assignment will help you get back on track—and ask them.

3. Talk it through. Many project managers find solace in getting help from a coach or mentor. More than likely, the people you confide in will have their own horror stories to tell—with hard-earned tips for pushing through the pain. Sharing your feelings with someone you trust can change your perspective and restore confidence. With a high-stress profession like project management, we need to remember to be kinder to ourselves and, when necessary, forgive ourselves.

How can I shift from a business analyst role to project manager role?

Actually, the transition is pretty natural. Your experience of working at the front end of projects means that you're already skilled in working with customers, good at understanding requirements and familiar with the project management processes. You might find it easier to transition to a combined business analyst/project manager role, which lots of organizations already have in place. With this approach, make sure your résumé clearly shows evidence of both roles, and be prepared for interview questions that will probe both experiences.

To narrow the gaps in your project management knowledge and experience, start by picking up a copy of PMI's The Project Manager Competency Development Framework – Second Edition. Completing this book's assessment will highlight your strengths and weaknesses. By identifying your weaknesses, you'll know what training options to pursue to get up to speed on your project management knowledge. Maybe it will encourage you to earn your Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification or explore opportunities to advance your knowledge of agile approaches.

Becoming a project manager is about taking control of the entire project life cycle, so you'll need to be ready to take on more responsibility and perform more team management and leadership. Managing people is always a work in progress, regardless of how experienced you are as a project manager. When it comes to people management, you can never invest too much in professional development.

How do I promote my professional brand without alienating my organization and team members?

There's absolutely no shame in wanting to share your knowledge and experience with the wider project management community. It should be perceived as a good thing for your organization and team members because it demonstrates to the community that your organization is doing good things worth talking about. Before you take on speaking gigs or presentations, it's best to gain permission from your employer—just follow the protocol of who needs to sign off. As for the team, as long as the preparation time for speeches or presentations doesn't distract from your everyday project tasks, there's little risk that you'll alienate the people around you. PM

img Lindsay Scott is the director of program and project management recruitment at Arras People in London, England.
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Have a career question for Lindsay Scott? Email 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.

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