Calling Project Managers – Is Your Career on Track

I am not intending to provoke smart comments such as “track, what track? I thought that light was a train coming at me.” — even though that may be tempting. However, the train track is a good metaphor for your career, especially when you consider that there are many routes to a final destination. Therefore, as 2009 moves to close, I wanted to talk a bit about project management career planning to all of you project managers (I assume there are some reading this Blog!).

As busy as you may be keeping your project(s) on budget, schedule, and quality, it is important that you take some time—and the upcoming holidays provide that opportunity—to see how your career is doing. First, think about what you want to be doing in two, five, and ten years. Don’t think about job titles, but rather desired tasks and responsibilities (including salary goals).

If you get stuck on this step, reflect on what you like about your current job, what you do not like, what you find appealing in the responsibilities of others in your profession, and lines in the sand you might draw that prohibit taking advantage of certain opportunities. Here are some quick bullet points to consider:

  • Would you move to improve your career
  • How much travel are you willing to do—many senior management jobs require extensive travel
  • Do you enjoy getting new business for your company—a big part of a senior manager’s responsibility involves building the business including using personal time for business-related socializing
  • Are you willing to make less money initially or take greater risks to become an entrepreneur
  • Do you really enjoy managing people
  • Do you prefer the technology of your job more than the people management part

Next, think about your options. Do not limit yourself to positions in your current organizational structure, although that is a good place to begin (especially if you have a great role model or mentor). Be willing to think about other types of organizations and jobs that your skills and interests complement such as teaching, training, business start-ups, consulting, as well as ever-increasing management responsibility. Think about the skills, duties, and compensation of the people doing those jobs.

Steps one and two are about who you are, what you want, and how much you are willing to trade to achieve your goals. Once you have honestly thought about some desirable interim and end results, your practical career plan should identify the requisite skills and experience needed to get from where you are now to where you want to be. You may need additional education, certification, more responsibility, or experience in other aspects of the business such as marketing, finance, training, or research.

For next year, pick two things you need to do to move forward in your career and do them. One final thought: everyone does not always have to move up or out to be successful and happy.

In my next post I will give some of my favorite resources (Books, articles, web sites) that can help you with your career planning.

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