Are you looking for that next project management challenge in your career? Well, just about everyone else in the workplace is looking to do the same. So what's the key for you? To stand out from the crowd, of course. It's not always as easy as it sounds, but there are a few ways in your current position that you can go about getting started in that direction.
Like anything else, there are wrong ways and right ways...let's focus on three of what, in my opinion and from my experience, are the “right” ways to go about making you stand out and making this change happen sooner rather than later...
Get closer to your senior management. This one works two-fold. Getting to know your executive team will help your career going forward, and help you projects today, tomorrow, and beyond. It never hurts – or almost never hurts – to be on the tip of your CEO's tongue. It only hurts if he's called you into his office because your biggest project is tanking. But, in general, if he knows who you are, it's usually good. It will help you get the good projects. It will help you get the good resources. And the next time the PMO director position opens up or a new manager or director level position becomes available that could be a good fit for you, he may already be thinking of you for that job. And if you can get him involved a little in your projects by inviting him to attend periodic weekly project status meetings, that will help with your visibility and may even help get a roadblock or two taken care of down the road on one of your projects. Trust me, it can't hurt.
Look for and take on new challenges...even outside your comfort zone. This probably sounds overly logical, but I'm saying you need to be ready and open to accept new challenges. It's what I didn't say that is of utmost importance. Don't accept "all" challenges. Don't be the garbage collector of new projects - especially if you do have any say in what you take on for next projects. Analyze the landscape a little. Look at what you have on your plate right now. Will that next project they are asking you to take fit into your workload? Can you succeed at it - and what I really mean by that is do you have enough time/bandwidth to take it on? If you don't, then do not just say "yes" so that you don't look weak. All you'll end up doing is looking weak when you fail. Also, does that next new project you are offered give you any chance to expand your knowledge in a particular area of interest or technology?
Network, network, network. Network with likeminded professionals. When good positions open up in their organizations – they are likely to recommend you if they know you're open to such a move. You can do this by joining organizations like the Project Management Institute (PMI) and attending local chapter meetings or by joining online project management groups on Facebook and on LinkedIn just to name a couple of ways. The more you do this the more you'll be recognized as an expert in your field due to success and familiarity.
Summary / call for input
In everything we do as project managers we can be trying to gain ground on our future goals and ambitions. Regular success on our projects helps, but may not always get you noticed as much or as quickly as you had hoped. There are things that you can proactively be doing to help enhance and advance your career. And I mean beyond the practice of just applying to every job you can find that is different or higher than the one above the one you have now.
How about our readers? What tactics and strategies do you employ to try to set yourself up for that next project management job or increased responsibility?