The days of starting your project management career in one company, working there your entire life, and then retiring from that same company after becoming a master of their enterprise portfolio systems disappeared many years ago. Some studies indicate that after the age of 25, a person will hold anywhere from five to fifteen jobs in their lifetime!
That is a lot of starting and stopping over and over again. What does that mean for you and your project management career? The nature of project management in general prepares us well for these transitions; however, there are certain things you can do to make these transitions even easier.
The trick is to take the necessary steps to make your project management skills transferable.
What it Means to Have Transferable Project Management Skills
Bus transfers and money transfers may be two things that come to mind when you hear of something that is transferable. The goal for any transfer is to seamlessly move people or things from one place to the next without losing anything. You wouldn’t imagine transferring money if you knew you would lose some on the other end. Or, a bus company would not be in business long if people were lost every time a transfer was made.
How about your project management skills? Are they transferable? Can you move from one place to the next without losing your value or having your performance degrade? Your goal should be to have the ability to move from department to department, company to company, and even industry to industry while not only maintaining your worth, but adding value immediately.
3 Ways to Make Your Project Management Skills Transferable
How can this be done? Below are three suggestions on what you can do to meet the objective of being transferable…whether this is by choice or circumstance:
1. Work on Different Types of Projects
You may find over time that you become pigeon-holed on the types of projects you are assigned or you choose to work on. That is a common experience. You become good at a certain type of project and it is easy for you to execute and obtain results. It also becomes a no-brainer for your superiors to assign you to these types of projects because they have confidence you will be able to complete them on-time and within budget.
To make your skills transferable, you will need to break out of this trend and get out of your comfort zone. Projects are (or can be) everywhere within your organization. Dig into a Marketing project, IT, Finance, Human Resources or any other department you are not typically assigned to. It doesn’t need to be a year-long endeavor and may even require minimal involvement or effort on your part. However, this new group will appreciate your involvement, you will learn how to apply your skills to an entirely new set of variables, and you are one step closer to becoming transferable.
2. ALWAYS Improve the Process
There is generally some debate over how much a project manager owns when it comes to process improvement. That argument can be left to the academics, because the reality is…if it’s broken, fix it! People, systems and technology are a recipe for confusion no matter where you go. Spend time on unraveling broken processes during your day-to-day project management work and you will be able to fit in anywhere.This is easy to do, requires minimal effort on your part, and brings with it great returns.
Gather the group of stakeholders who are bumping into each other and document the as-is process. Then, query everyone as to what is causing the problems and what should change. The next step is to document the to-be process and record it in a Flow Chart or Swim Lane diagram. Finally, incorporate the necessary elements of this new and improved process into the relevant project plans until everyone gets used to the new way of completing a task. Improving your ability to improve the process can be applied to any group of people you work with from here on out. This is a highly transferable skill.
3. Create a Cross-Functional Network of Experts
What does your current list of contacts look like? Do all of your contacts fall into the exact same industry and field in which you work? In order to make your skills transferable, it is important to make sure you have a diverse set of experts you can call upon. There is no better time to build this diverse set of experts than the present.Think about some of the benefits of being connected with this varied set of people and talent. First, you will be able to find out what they do in their respective fields or companies and bring back some of those best practices to your organization. This cross-pollination of ideas is something that may set off some “A-ha” moments for you as you discover how they solved problems that may be similar in nature to what you are experiencing.
Next, if circumstances dictate that you find another job or industry or you make that choice yourself, you can rely upon this network of experts to help you ramp up quick. They can provide a crash-course into what you would need to know to make a success in a new company or industry. Knowing what the common pitfalls are, which associations to join, which publications to subscribe to, and what things can waste your time are all invaluable as you move into a new employment frontier.
Finally, they may provide an inside track into some opportunities that are opening up that others may not even be aware of yet. Remember, you should be mindful to provide this same invaluable level of assistance and support to anyone who has you as part of their network of experts.
Are your project management skills transferable? Can you pick up from one department, company or industry and immediately bring value to another department, company or industry? Following the three steps above will not only make your skills transferable, but also your earning potential will be that much higher. Don’t delay. Work on different types of projects now, improve the process and expand your network to prevent yourself from becoming pigeon-holed!
One thing you can take with you no matter where you go is ProjectManager.com. This powerful Web Project Management system can help you view project status online, report on progress across the web, allow suppliers and customers to login and access it anywhere, anytime. Try us free for 30 days.