Something I’ve been asked about a lot recently by my clients, is how they can improve their chances of securing new work opportunities in projects.
I’m certainly not a recruitment specialist anymore (although I used to be one), but my experience as a project manager and project lead has given me insight into how you can use the right opportunities to grow your project management career.
So, in this article, I’m going to share what my experience has been and what I’ve witnessed with my project management colleagues, in the hope that it will help you land more aligned opportunities on your project journey.
When I was starting out, about 2 to 5 years into my career, I was very open to discovering opportunities that would propel my development and experience.
But was never sure how to go about making them actually happen.
Truth be told I’ve always been driven to know more than what I already knew and discover what’s over the fence and am still this way inclined.
I would speak to lots of experienced people, ask for many opinions on how to progress my career and find out how others did it so I could do the same. Even when I followed their advice to the tee, I never achieved the same result.
And a lot of the reason was because I never felt like I could ‘pull it off’.
I questioned my capabilities and my experiences (or lack thereof). I told myself I needed more experience. I needed a degree on the topic for anyone to take me seriously. I needed to complete the leadership training and then go on the most common or recognised training certificates.
In short, I never saw what I already possessed as ever being enough.
I don’t want you to make the same mistake.
Today, I realise that opportunities are actually all around us whether we acknowledge it or not.
And as I write this, I know what I’m about to say is somewhat controversial.
But hear me out.
Opportunity doesn’t always need to mean being given a more senior role.
For example, in my very first office job I was a collections officer (yep that’s probably a whole article in itself!).
I became increasingly curious about why accounts got to the point that they required collection needs. So, mostly to satisfy my curiosity, I asked for the opportunity to shadow customer care staff for 1 hour 3 times a week before my shift officially started.
My mission was to find out if customers were being properly informed so that collections could be avoided. At the time my driver was curiosity, but it didn’t take me long to realise that this was an incredibly beneficial career move creating several growth, learning and work opportunities.
One of the most important lessons from the above example was that I was the driver of this opportunity.
Because it was based on my interests and tapped into what I was good at.
Don’t get me wrong, asking for help and learning from other people is still the right thing to do but it shouldn’t be the first thing we do to decide what opportunities we want.
You don’t need someone to give you a project management opportunity
When we doubt if we’re good enough to take the next step, we often also think someone we look up to will have all of the answers for us.
The reality is, that there is never just one way of receiving opportunities and no one else will ever know what you love or hate doing, what skills you already possess from your background, and what you actually want.
There will be multiple ways to arrive at the same point of success, you just need to find the ones that are right for you.
Let’s look at three of the most important things to do if you want to be in the running for project management and project delivery job opportunities:
I find job titles to be limiting because they cause you to try and fit into an existing job.
The reality is that most job titles are not a true indication of what people actually do.
Instead of worrying about the job title, start with what you’d love to be doing.
For example, if you had thought that you want to be a Project Manager, think about the reasons you think you’d love Project Management. Is it leading a vision, is it getting the best out of people, is it guiding people to solve problems and discover solutions, is it setting boundaries around a vision?
Then seek opportunities where you get to practice these skillsets.
Have a think about the things you naturally just always do.
It might be creating plans for things that need to be done, or championing the team to work through problems, or extracting concise information and commitments from stakeholders.
These may be things you often do both in your work and personal life because they are intrinsic skills to you. Doing things we are naturally good at makes our work and life far easier. In fact, we often don’t even realise we do these things because we do them without thinking.
Weaving these skills into your work will make you much more efficient and extremely successful at what you do. Make sure you give them plenty of airplay when looking for project opportunities.
Once you know what you’d like to do and what you’re good at doing, let others know you’re on the lookout and what it is you’d like to be considered for.
Increase your options by being open to try out skills and be recognised in multiple ways. For example:
Once you have been selected for an opportunity, remember; not all that sparkles is gold!
Sometimes you’ll be offered opportunities that don’t feel quite right and you should always consider if there is a valid reason behind this feeling.
Being uncomfortable about being out of your comfort zone is a good reason for taking on new opportunities. If, however the opportunities compromise your values, then you may want to consider if it’s right for you and wait for something more aligned.
When you’re considering opportunities that will advance your project management career, here are some dos and don’ts to help you consider whether the opportunity is right for you.
What You Should Do
What You Shouldn’t Do
If you haven’t yet found the right opportunity to grow your project management career, don’t give up.
Forget about the job title, list your superpowers and promote your interests to those around you and you’ll find that the right opportunity will present itself.
It’s definitely closer than you think.
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