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Project management careers - 7 ways to makes yours better

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Lindsay Scott, Director of Arras People, spoke about the latest careers thinking designed to give members of the Midlands Branch ‘food for thought’, at the Hilton Garden Hotel in Birmingham.

Lindsay outlined 7 ways to think about taking steps to a better career.

Comparing the ‘Intrepreneur’ role within a large organisation to that of an ‘Entrepreneur’, Lindsay suggested taking a high-level approach - ‘what does my business need from me?

Assuming entrepreneurial characteristics will help to build your intrepreneurial profile:
• Don’t be scared to fail
• Be able to spot an opportunity
• Be in the right place to do it

Lindsay suggested that you decide whether you’re happy with ‘Paternalism’ (the company becomes your career caretaker) or if you’d take an ‘Intentional’ career path - you own your career! One way of taking ownership is by following the APM competency framework.

Lindsay referenced the Richard Boyatzis (2006) book ‘Intentional Change (Self-directed learning)’, calling it ‘your personal stocktake’.

Taking stock involves exploring which values you embrace - culture/fit vs. where you work (do you want more money? If so, would contracting be more suitable?)

When thinking about goals, Lindsay advised keeping things simple:

  • Get better than the old version of you!
  • Think small – 3 maximum goals per year
  • Only pick 1 area of weakness (this will be more positive than picking all weaknesses)
  • Commit publicly, and
  • Keep perspective – when good is ‘good enough’.

Lindsay stated that a staggering 59% of project management professionals don’t have a clear development plan or aspirations!

In an attempt to design a more meaningful career for yourself, Lindsay provided several practical approaches:

1. Form hypothesis (what makes you happy? What make you frustrated?)
2. Run experiments in your own job (if you’re getting bored – try something else!)
3. Think long-term (what life do you want?)
4. Sort out finances (give yourself a 6-month cushion for starting contracting)

Lindsay also talked on thinking about your working relationships (‘or playing politics in a positive way’), in particular:

  • Social astuteness
  •  Interpersonal influence
  •  Networking ability (internal networking - others, boss, project team, etc), and
  •  Sincerity

Soft-skills are a differentiator at an interview - but are often in low figures for training compared to technical skills.

The latest trends suggest thinking of your career path in terms of ‘Forwards & towards’ (not onwards & upwards) - ‘A climbing wall, not a ladder’

Lindsay concluded by setting some questions to ask yourself:

1. How do you define career success?
2. What kind of work do you want to do?
3. What do you want to achieve?
4. What talents do you want to leverage?

Peter Hazlewood, Midland branch volunteer, commented “I learned a lot from Lindsay that will stand me in good stead in the future, particularly relating to 'paternalism' from my employer and how to develop my own intentional career.”

Matthew Game, MAPM, said: “I found the event informative and very relevant as there is a noticeable shift taking place at the moment in relation to ‘professionalisation’ of our project management discipline. The opportunities available to all at the moment are unprecedented and Lindsay drove home the need to be specific and clear with our own career paths if we want to succeed.”

Linday's presentation can be viewed below.


Adrian Turner, Midlands branch volunteer


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