BY LINDSAY SCOTT
Q: I’d like to take more control in actively managing my career in project management. How can I start?
Self-awareness is the most important part of career planning—and it's also the most difficult. Without understanding who you are and what you have to offer, taking steps to change or improve is impossible.
For a project management practitioner, the first step toward better self-awareness starts with assessing an inventory of business and personal traits: knowledge, skill set, values, personality, interests and motivations.
Self-evaluation may seem obvious, but my experience has shown that many project managers still find it difficult to look inward. They tend to focus more on the organization they work for or the subject of their projects rather than the personal skills and knowledge they use to deliver effectively.
Evaluating your knowledge and skill level in project management can be done through competency frameworks. The outcome can confirm what you might already know, but it will also highlight gaps in your knowledge. Take time to carry out this assessment throughout your career.
How to understand your personality and values in relation to your work in project management may not be immediately apparent, but it is a deeper understanding of this side of you that will determine how you work, where you work and ultimately what you work on in the future. Assessments of your leadership skills, communication style, team management, approach to conflict, attitude toward risk and how you influence stakeholders are all areas that will have an impact on your career going forward.
Continue your self-awareness by finding out what really motivates you—both at work and personally. These motivators help you understand the opportunities you will be presented with throughout your career or help you to proactively seek out new challenges.
All of this work on self-awareness goes hand-in-hand with a deeper knowledge of the profession and marketplace. Project management spans most industry sectors, and opportunities are vast. To effectively manage your career, you need to understand more about the marketplace that affects you. Look outside your current organization to understand where your profession and industry sector are going in the future. Keep up to date with resources such as PM Network, websites such as PMI’s Career Central and industry news from websites, journals and conferences. Learn where opportunities are being generated, and take an active part in making developments in the profession.
Pay attention to how you are marketing yourself. Although résumés, online profiles and samples of your work are important, marketing yourself is also about how you conduct yourself with peers and superiors, the rapport you build with all stakeholders, and how you establish and cultivate relationships.
It is not enough that you are good at your job, able to take on new challenges and deliver successfully if no one else knows these things. Within your current role, it's about being noticed and visible for all the right reasons—being the one that senior management thinks about when a new opportunity calls for a successful project manager.
Actively managing yourself and your career is not an easy thing to do, but it can be learned if you're motivated enough to not just accept the status quo. PM
| ||Lindsay Scott is the director of program and project management at Arras People in London, England. Send career questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.|
FEBRUARY 2013 PM NETWORK