The other day I was having a chat with a Project Manager who was considering their career options. They were a bit fed up with their current job and organisation and felt they were at a careers crossroad. They didn’t know what they wanted to do – anything, everything, nothing. They were just exasperated with themselves for not having a clue about what to do next.
It’s a common problem, sometimes you just need to talk to someone else and voice it all out before you can start to understand a few things a bit more clearly.
One of the things that came up in that conversation was about retraining. This Project Manager was getting so disillusioned with project management that they felt it was time to get out all together.
And yes, of course a Project Manager can retrain. They can retrain to be whatever they want.
But there has to be a recognition that retraining doesn’t necessarily mean a new and different job at the same level of wage and remuneration as before. Which is often a sticking point for people wanting to make a big change, especially at a certain age. There is a whole host of expenses and lifestyle costs that make a radical change difficult.
So if you really want to become a teacher, nurse, build bridges in Outer Mongolia there is nothing stopping you from finding out what you need to do to make that happen.
Digging a bit deeper then, I asked this Project Manager, “are you retraining to work as something else completely different to project management or are you wanting to retrain to work in a different industry sector as a project manager?”
Why throw all that project management experience away when the disillusion is being driven by your current circumstances i.e., the place where you’re working and the types of projects you’re managing?
The distinct difference here is a project manager can retrain to be anything they want – they just need the will and desire to do it, be prepared to earn nothing whilst they retrain and then be potentially on a much lower wage when they do start elsewhere.
Retraining to work in another sector as a project manager is an interesting one. The problem is, there is potentially already competition for those jobs from the project managers who already have experience in a particular sector.
Some organisations are also not very keen on seeing project practitioners with no prior experience in their sector.
Thinking about it, I don’t think project managers wanting to move from a different sector would actually see it as ‘retraining’.
Most project practitioners like to believe their skills are transferable, which can often be the case, however organisations don’t tend to agree with them.
For the project practitioners that want to move sector, they will often choose sectors that might be more open to them i.e., moving from finance to retail say. No retraining is needed, just a very good interview technique to convince them you’ve got what it takes.
And then there another option to consider.
Could a Project Manager retrain to be something else that is related to project management?
Yes absolutely. I’ve seen hundreds, if not thousands of CVs over the years at Arras People that show that Project Managers do choose other career paths within the realm of project management. These include Business Analysts, PMO Managers, Heads of Departments, Portfolio Managers and specialists in areas such as Risk Managers, Quality Managers and Benefits Managers.
The interesting thing is, they tend to do really well too because their delivery experience is always there – a Project Manager never forgets their project management skills – it’s a bit like riding a bike.
So can Project Managers retrain? Yes of course.
The only difficult part is taking the time to think about what you really want then at least you can start the practicalities of planning it.
Have you got any advice for this Project Manager? Why not share your thoughts and experiences too in the comment section below.