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How Not to Become Obsolete as a Project Manager


It was a number of years ago when I purchased my iPhone. It was AWESOME to say the least. I jumped into the fray right around the time of iPhone 3GS and it was the latest and greatest in the iPhone family. It could take video, had colossal storage capacity, and scores of additional features that its predecessor did not have. I could use it for anything. Phone calls, pictures, music, videos, even project management apps. We all know the drill of how powerful and versatile these phones are and what they have done for our personal and professional lives.

To protect this valuable asset, I purchased the most expensive protective case I could find. I sealed this magnificent phone off from the very dangerous world in which we live. A world fraught with case-shattering 3-foot drops, screen-busting sharp corners, and the ever present short circuit hazards that potentially spilled beverages present at every meal. I would tether it to me securely so it would never leave my side and would never, ever contemplate leaving it on the seat of my car at the risk of being stolen.

I loved my iPhone.

But now my iPhone is lame and it makes me sad that I feel that way.

Don’t get me wrong. It still does all the neat, cool things described above. But, it’s a couple of years old and just a bit slower. Now the iPhone 4S is out. According to Apple, the iPhone 4S is the most amazing iPhone yet! It now has a dual-core A5 chip, all-new 8MP camera and optics, iOS 5 and iCloud and Siri! I’ve even been looking at a Droid phone out of the corner of my eyes just because of the awesomeness of their commercials.

My 3GS is outdated, outmoded, outperformed, and soon to be out the window.

What can we learn from this experience? Don’t become obsolete as a project manager! You could have your PMP certification, scores of successful enterprise projects under your belt, and great war stories to tell, but if you don’t constantly reinvent and retool yourself you could quickly find yourself outdated, outmoded, outperformed and out the window.

How Not to Become Obsolete as a Project Manager

Nobody ever intends to become obsolete as a project manager. It just happens with the passage of time. Think about the progression of events that occur in your project management career.

The Ascent

You may have started at an entry level position in a company and found that you had knack for project management and enjoyed it very much. You quickly moved up the ranks in the company and moved through being a project coordinator to project specialist to project manager in no time at all.

Your passion for the work and all the project management experience you have gained compel you to go for your pmp certification. You attended courses and studied for months until you mastered exactly what you needed to know to pass your pmp certification exam.

You pass the exam! You bring back this new found knowledge and insight to the company you are working for and implement dozens of best practices, processes, and procedures on the projects under your control. You may even be charged with setting up the PMO and taking oversight of all project related activities within your company. You are alive and kicking as a pmp certified project manager and are bringing value to your organization.

Your incessant networking activities as a project manager also begin to yield results. Your participation in project management associations and events has put your name and face in front of hundreds and even thousands of potential employers.

And a potential employers calls you one day…

The Departure

“Hey, I know you don’t know me, but I saw your presentation at the last project management event and really liked what I saw. We’re looking to expand our project management capabilities and think you would be a great fit. Would you be interested in talking with us a bit further?” says the voice on the other end of the phone. You hold back your delight and utter a muted “Sure, I think I could find some time to meet with you. Let me check my schedule and see what works.” The timing is perfect! You’ve been looking to do more within your company but the career path with your current employer is beginning to fade.

You meet with the potential new employer and the meeting goes great. Your experience, your pmp certification, the types of projects you have worked on the past and your similar values seem like this is a match made in heaven. You spend the next couple of weeks discussing the possible change with your trusted colleagues, friends and family and decided this is the right move to make at this point in your career. So, you go for it. You turn in your notice at your current employer, tie up all loose ends, burn no bridges, leave like a professional, take a couple of weeks off and then start your new job.

The Arrival

Your new employer rolls out the red carpet for you. They are so glad to have you on board. And you’re glad to be on board too. Even though you are exactly the same person with the same knowledge and skill set as you were just a few short weeks ago…you are now earning 20% more than your last gig! Plus, potential for advancement and opportunity abound. You enter into the glorious “honeymoon stage” where you get the chance to meet everyone and they all hang on your every word. You get the chance to tell your exciting project management stories to a new audience that has never heard them before. Life is good.

Your boss protects and cherishes you just like I did my 3GS iPhone when I first got it. They love the fact that you have your pmp certification and apply it to the department. You feel like everyone has your back, is there to protect you from harm, and keeps you close by their side at every opportunity they get.

But the honeymoon stage quickly wears off in a matter of months, if not weeks. You get pulled into the machine like everyone else and the “newness” wears off. You’ve done a lot of things right, but may have also made a couple of bad decisions that tarnish your image a bit. They may have even hired other project managers in the meantime that they begin comparing you against.

This is where you need to make some decisions and take some actions to not become obsolete or not longer relevant in the eyes of those around you. One of the best things you can do to increase your value at a company is to keep up your pmp certification. Why? Because this requires you to earn a certain number of professional development units over time and at the very least expose you to new ideas and concepts that can be applied. This forces you to get beyond any rut you may be stuck in and not become outdated, outmoded, outperformed, and out the window.

Keeping your pmp certification current also ensures you are challenged. Part of the fun of being a project manager is figuring out what you don’t know. Once you have it figured out, for some reason it’s not quite as fun anymore. Staying educated will always be a way that you can challenge yourself and benefit those that work with you.

I still love my iPhone. But, the nature of business today is that anything or anyone that does not evolve and become better, faster, smarter, more productive and efficient is soon left in the dust.  Make sure you are doing everything within your power to become better, faster, smarter, more productive and efficient as a project manager, Otherwise, you will find yourself defenestrated along with the other outmoded technologies of yesterday!

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