Good question don’t you think?
There are lots of things we do in our everyday job that impact our careers. We make choices about how we manage a project, make decisions about how to approach something or put our heads above the parapet (or not) when a situation demands it.
Often we are not aware of how these choices and decisions impact our careers. Sometimes we’re not even aware that we had a choice or a decision to make.
We may look back and say, “that decision at that moment in time really helped my career”, or “I’m glad I did that because it has helped me to do what I’m doing today.” Sometimes we don’t do this because moving forward and looking ahead to the future is much more important than looking at the past.
A lot of what we do is just going along with the status quo. We are too busy “doing” our careers rather than having the time to really think about it.
As a result, a lot of career management and planning doesn’t even exist, we are just making unconscious decisions and choices as we work.
Perhaps we think it is too difficult to make more conscious and conscientious career plans?
Maybe we think that our careers are being taken care of already by the organisations we work for?
Don’t agree with this? Unconscious decisions we make about our careers are often done in work time as a direct result of the work we’re carrying out for the organisation that pays the monthly cheque. The choices you are exposed to are those that the organisation wants you to be exposed to.
Left unchecked, unconscious career decisions may be great for the organisation you work for today but not so great for you now and in the future.
Here’s an example of how unconscious career decisions could harm you as a project professional – and this scenario is something we’ve seen a lot of over the years with plenty of project managers.
Jack has been working for the last ten years as a Project Manager for an IT services company. He started out managing small, fairly uncomplicated projects with long-term client accounts. For the first few years he learnt a lot on the job about project management – mainly through trial and error with a few project management fundamentals courses run by the organisation’s learning and development department. The courses weren’t accredited but that didn’t matter, he learnt how to deliver projects the way the organisation wanted them run.
After five years, courses weren’t that important anymore. Has his confidence and experience grew, he worked on more complex projects with innovative solutions for a wide range of clients. He felt good about the job he was doing.
After eight years he was in line for a promotion to a programme manager role but was pipped to the post by someone who had more experience – especially in the business planning area that was crucial for client account management at a portfolio level. He was annoyed, thought he had everything they were looking for, knew the business inside and out but it was a guy who had been with them for just two years who got the job. Thinking about it, if it was business planning skills that he needed, where on earth was he going to gain that kind of experience in his current post?
For the next few years, Jack carried on working on the projects he was given. He was a safe pair of hands, a particular client group liked him, he always seemed to be asked to work on defence related projects. It felt comfortable, he was doing a good job. He was becoming pigeon-holed.
Business from the defence clients was easing off. They were missing out on major contracts, the need for IT services projects drastically reduced. Jack’s organisation needed to look at the future pipeline to see where there major accounts were. They were going to have to let some PMs go, there isn’t’ enough projects on the horizon to justify the headcount.
Jack was made redundant. For the first time in ten years he had to think about finding a new job.
On paper he is a project manager with ten years experience, the last few working within the defence sector for an IT services organisation. He has no recognised qualifications. The projects he has managed are uncomplicated, repeatable, easily managed by someone with a salary level £15K less than Jack. What he thought were complex projects were not, especially compared to those in the wider marketplace. It really does look like he’s worked in the defence sector for years, even though his employer wasn’t.
I’ll ask the question again, “What was the last conscious thing you did to benefit your PM career?”
photo credit: “lapolab”