Managing Your Career in Difficult Times

project managers sometimes need to manage the project of finding employment as skillfully as they would a job

You should have seen it coming, but you missed all the signs. Now you’ve been out of work for three months without even a single bite on your resume. How could you have not seen what was happening in front of your very eyes? All the symptoms were there that the company was in trouble, you just weren’t tuned into what to look for. You continued to focus on what was there and missed out on what was not there.

You were (and are) a great project manager. It had nothing to do with your performance. You had systems and process and controls in place for work management and time reporting. Procurement was a breeze and you rarely had projects that went over budget due to your attentiveness and scrutiny on expenses.Things just changed.

You remember when you started 6 years ago. The place was buzzing with activity. Sure, work management was a challenge because there was so much going on, but everyone was positive and upbeat. Every new project that came in offered an exciting challenge, opportunity to learn and feel a sense of accomplishment from doing what had never been done before.

People came and went over the years, but it was always for family responsibilities or a position opening up elsewhere that furthered the career path that person was on. They hated to leave the company and everyone was sad to see them go. But something changed, and here you are orphaned at your house alone and disconnected from the rest of the work world. What did you miss?

Recognizing What’s Not There

It’s pretty easy to see when the company got into trouble. There were some bad business decisions that were made and some big clients were lost. “No worries”, you thought, “we have plenty of work and projects to manage and we’ll be just fine”. But that ended up not being the case. You can see the pattern that occurred now that you look back:

1. Good Salespeople Left

It’s one thing for people to leave for other opportunities, but when you see good (and best) salespeople start walking out the door, it’s time to start asking why. the loss of a project member may be an opportunity for a smart managerThis is usually a harbinger of things to come. If a salesperson for your company loves what they are doing, makes plenty of money off what they are selling, and has no problem selling it then there really is no reason for them to leave.On the other hand, if they do find that changes to the product, pricing, or work management policies are negatively impacting their ability to sell, then they will leave. Now that you look back, you did notice the best of the best start moving on to other opportunities.

2. Members of the Core Group Left

There was always the group of people that kept things running. These were the pivotal employees with a plethora of institutional knowledge that had been around since the beginning. They architected much of what the company is built on and were influential in many of the major business decisions that were made. Looking back, you saw that over time this core group of people began to dissipate as well. There was always someone there that was willing to try and step into their shoes, but it just wasn’t the same.Some even left with no other place to go! Definitely a sign of turmoil and shifting that is underway.

3.Things Start to Disappear

an observant manager notices trendsYou remember walking into the conference room one day and noticed the monitors that were used for video conferencing between your multiple offices had disappeared. You used these all the time as a project manager that was responsible for work management across multiple locations. Now they are gone. This struck you as a bit strange, but you really didn’t put too much thought into it. Looking back you probably should have. You remember a friend of yours who worked for an Internet company back in heyday of the .COM era. He told you about the catered lunches that were brought in for everybody 4 days every week (every day except Wednesday). Then, the lunches stopped. Then the layoffs started. Then the company shut down.

It’s hard to see what is NOT there. But, if you’re observant and start to notice trends, you may start to see patterns emerge that mean it’s time for you to be prepared for a change.

Recognizing a Change in Rhythm

Something else occurred that should have been a sign that things were changing. There was a definite change to the rhythm or cadence of your day. Work management will typically settle into some type of routine. The routine may be long, grinding and out of control, but it’s a routine nonetheless. For example, when you started with this company in just a matter of weeks you had to plow through 140-150 emails every day. Meetings were back-to-back and you would rarely have any time to yourself.

Looking back, you realize you dwindled down to maybe a couple dozen emails each day. Your calendar had a smattering of standing meetings on it each week and you had plenty of time to yourself. Nobody had any questions that needed to be answered, there were no problems that needed to be solved, and no issues were forthcoming. Your daily work management rhythm was coming to a grinding halt. This fact, coupled with what “was not there”, should have triggered red flags in your head that your company, and you, could be in trouble.

See the Signs and Do Something About It

Looking back, you could have done things differently if you had more carefully tuned in to what was happening around you.

Associate Yourself with the Right Group

Just because a company is in trouble, it’s not a foregone conclusion that it will all go away. be proactive when managing your career as you would in a projectFind those pockets of resistance that would be considered as part of the “going-forward” team and make sure you are associated with them. Look for those areas that are bringing in revenue or working on the next great thing that will help turn the company around. You need to associate yourself with these groups sooner rather than later, so you can provide value to them, then when decisions are being made for layoffs, you’re name doesn’t come up on the table.

Prepare your Resume

As a rule of thumb, you should update your resume at least one time per year whether you need to or not. Then, in an emergency situation, it’s one less thing you have to worry about. Not sure what to put on your resume? What you can do is send yourself a quick email whenever you have accomplished something that is noteworthy. Apply a business rule to it in your email program to automatically store that email in a folder called “Resume”. Then, when the time comes, all you need to do is scroll through the list of emails to jog your memory of all the accomplishments and projects you completed.


Network like crazy! This is again something you need to do ahead of time. It’s like an insurance policy. You pay into that insurance policy month after month with the hopes of never having to use it. You may not be thrilled with the monthly premium you have to pay, but you sure are glad you made that investment when you need it. a network of professionals is a way to manage opportunity It’s the same with networking. You may not be thrilled with the time necessary to keep up with everyone each month, but you will be glad you took that time when you need it.

All you know at this time is that you need to do something different. Start now. Work on your resume. Start networking. Offer some volunteer work management assistance to your favorite charity. You’ll find in no time at all you’ll be back at work and paying attention to “what is not there”.

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