Should the PMO Be Your Next Career Move?

Lindsay Scott also gives tips on interview presentations and networking at chapter events.

I’m a program manager and was offered a new position: head of PMO. Is it the right career move? 

Any role in a project management office (PMO) can be fulfilling. But it’s time for a gut-check: Do you prefer to stick with project delivery or would more of a portfolio and enterprise role have greater appeal?   

Leading a PMO often means engaging with the C-suite and the opportunity to work at a more strategic level. Many former project and program managers enjoy working in PMOs because it gives them an opportunity to make a wider impact within the business—to change the way projects and programs get delivered for the better. Leading a PMO is also an opportunity to manage a defined team, something which doesn’t typically happen in your existing role. You’ll likely need to focus on improving skills if you transition to a PMO—namely, leadership, coaching, mentoring and business management.  

Are you ready to move away from being the person who delivers change and step into a role where you empower others to do it? And if a resourcing emergency pops up, would you be comfortable filling in as a program manager while still leading the PMO? (Yes, these triage scenarios happen.)  

If the prospect of having more responsibility, accountability and influence is professionally appealing, leading a PMO is something you should pursue.

For my next job interview, I need to give a 10-minute presentation about how I manage stakeholders. Any tips?

  • Use no more than three slides. For such a short presentation, you could go without slides, but I suspect the interviewers will want to see how you synthesize information. Presenting slides is also an opportunity to show your visual skills and assure them that navigating basic tech is easy for you. 
  • Tell them a story. Rather than rattling off a bunch of good practices, share a personal anecdote from a recent project. Illustrate how your stakeholder management actions solved a problem and boosted outcomes—and let them ask questions about the experience. Doing this shows you can communicate, engage and think on your feet.  
  • Flex your time management skills. Plan to deliver nine minutes of content so you’ve got an extra minute for contingency and breathing space.  
  • Practice your presentation. I’ve found that memorizing the first few minutes ensures a good start. Having short bullet-point summaries to refer to will keep you focused.  
  • Leave an impression. Share printed or digital versions of your presentation, so interviewers have a tangible artifact to review. It’s more than a gesture—it’s also a subtle way to show you understand the need to engage with stakeholders in different ways. 

I’m joining a PMI chapter. What’s the best way to build a network through in-person events? 

These are my top four suggestions: 

  1. Always try to arrive early. This ensures that there will be just a few other people, which makes introductions less daunting. Then, as others arrive, you’ll already be part of the crowd. 
  2. Make your name badge prominent, readable, and accurate. Too obvious? Maybe. But conversations can advance much more quickly when there are no distractions—like repeating your name. 
  3. Too shy to talk to strangers? Consider volunteering to help organize the event—or offer to help prep for the next event. Being part of the organizing team means people will need to approach you, which makes it easier to network. 
  4. Practice active listening. In such a short period of time, you need to show genuine interest in people to truly connect. Show empathy by talking about shared experiences. Those types of details will spark deeper conversations or give you a natural reason to follow up via email or with a LinkedIn connection request.  


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