Advancing Your Project Management Career – Is it Time?
By Brad Egeland
When is the best time to start your move up the corporate ladder in PM? Can you make it happen on your own, or do you wait for lots of experience and hope someone notices you at the right time? The aggressive answer is ‘you go for it’ and we know that senior leadership usually wants to see aggressive pursuit. But what if you’re very new to the organization? Or what if you don’t feel ready? What if you are fairly new to project management and you know that you really need more experience? Do you go for it? Do you lay back and wait till next time? No question there are risks either way…what would you do?
This question recently came up in a project forum in which I participate. An individual who was posting is driven to advance their PM career, but they have only a few months on the job. What opened up is the perfect next step for them, but they were concerned that they may not be ready or may not be ‘deemed’ ready.
Here are my thoughts – and this applies, in my opinion to most positions except when a certain credential or class or certification is clearly needed before moving on…. Go for it.
I’m ready to move up. First, you need to let those with the power to advance your career know that you think you’re ready. If you never do that, they may never see that. Well, they will if you do some exceptional things, but even then you have to make sure they are paying attention. The best thing you can do is say, “I’m ready.” If you get it, and you’re on a little shaky ground, then find some experienced colleagues and learn from them. Ask questions and never be afraid to say, “I don’t know, but I want to find out.” The squeaky wheel gets the grease…and you can turn that into a good thing by actively seeking the career advancement even if it’s sooner than you might be comfortable with. When we work outside our comfort zone, that’s when we can truly learn and truly shine and that’s definitely when we challenge ourselves to be better leaders.
I’m experienced trained and certified. If you are pushing your career forward, your executive management will take note. They may not know what to do with you at first, but they will definitely take note and they will take you seriously. And if you are good at what you do, if you are showing good progress, putting successes under your belt and showing good promise, they’ll have no choice but to heap more responsibility on you. One thing you can do to express your readiness and show your dedication while at the same time increase your skills is to get trained and certified. There are many project management training and certification options – some with no risk of failure so you know you aren’t wasting your money. And some will not only make you better leaders and team members, but will also give you better overall life skills.
I’m the do-er the organization needs. No one really wants a meek employee who is satisfied with sitting at their desk 9 to 5 and heading out the door. If they do, then they really aren’t good managers to begin with. The best head coaches in college and professional sports are often graded on how many of their staff coaches have gone on to head coaching positions. You want movers and shakers on your team. You want do’ers. You want people who aspire to greater things. By actively trying to push your career forward – even if you truly aren’t quite ready – you are showing those with the power to help you get there that you want it and that you plan to eventually get it. If they are good managers, they will take note and help you get there.
Summary / call for input
Taking control of our careers takes confidence, the ability to take on the risks of potential failure, and the ability to communicate our capabilities and intentions to anyone who will listen. Not everyone has the confidence to do it, but those that do will advance the fastest. Failure may result, but that’s not always a bad thing as long as we learn from it and take it to our next project and not repeat the same behavior. We all start somewhere – and if we truly wait till we ‘know’ we’re ready we’ll never get there because we’ll likely lack the confidence or insight to ever know when we’re ready.
Readers – what are your thoughts? What tells you that a project manager, or any professional for that matter, is ready for advancement? How do you know when you’re ready?