Three Ways to Stand Out as a Project Manager in Today’s Economy

With the current economic conditions, an increasing number of people are either afraid of losing their jobs or desperately searching for work. Just like it’s a buyer’s market for housing, it also seems to be a buyer’s market for employers. Those who are hiring can be extremely selective in whom they choose. That’s why smart Project Managers plan today for tomorrow’s “what if.” We need to be smart about managing our own career “risks” and have a mitigation plan firmly in place now. There are three simple, cheap, and super smart things you can start doing now to avoid any unneeded worry and panic if you do, in fact, find yourself looking for other career opportunities.

1. Invest in yourself. First, make time to invest in yourself. No more excuses! If you do not currently have your PMP® certification, now is the time. You don’t have to spend a lot of money. A PMP exam prep course can range from about $800 for a PMI® chapter sponsored course up to $3,000 for a professional training course. All told, your total required investment is small compared to the rewards (significantly better pay and more visibility as a job candidate). Further, if your current company pays for training, you really have no excuse; that’s a benefit you can’t afford to pass up. Nothing in life is guaranteed, and that includes the job you have today. Take the time to invest in your career now, so you do not end up having to scramble if things take a turn for the worse.

If you already have PMP certification, look into some advanced training that is complementary to project management. There are a number of niche areas that employers are starting to look for (i.e. Six Sigma, ITIL, CMMI, Agile/Scrum, etc.). There is a strong emphasis on “doing more with less” these days, and employers are looking for people who can help improve how they run as a business. Broaden your skills, and differentiate yourself by being a project manager who understands the world outside of just managing projects.

2. Create a buzz. Now is the to start making a name for yourself! Start a course of action to position yourself as an expert in your field. One way to create a buzz is to write articles on what you know. You can do this a number of ways. First, try submitting articles to your local chapter of PMI or another local professional organization. Groups like this are always looking for new content and will often be more than happy to publish your work in an online newsletter.

Another way to get your ideas out there is to start a blog (or post here!). Also, WordPress offers free blogs that take only a few minutes to set up. You can write as often or as little as you like. Write about whatever you are passionate about, and you may be surprised at how many readers you end up with!

Consider joining a local Toastmasters club in your area. If you’re feeling adventurous, book a speaking engagement or two! This will provide you with credibility in your industry, and you will undoubtedly become a better speaker as a result. Plus, it’s a great way to meet influential people in your industry.

Demonstrating your communication skills, both written and verbal, is a good way to make you a better project manager and get the word out that you are an expert in your field. Start building your reputation by putting your thoughts and ideas out there.

3. Make a difference. If you are busy making a positive difference in this world, you will be rewarded. Volunteer your time! If you are not doing so already, get involved as a volunteer with your local PMI chapter, or work with another non-profit organization in your area. By giving of your time and talents, you will likely find you get tremendous satisfaction in mentoring others around you. You will also strengthen your own skills and maybe even pick up a few new ones. It’s also another great way to meet good people in your area. I personally know a lot of people who have found wonderful new jobs as a result of becoming a volunteer. Make a difference in the lives of others, and your life will positively benefit as well.

If you focus on developing these three areas, you will undoubtedly have an amazing road ahead of you, both personally and professionally, regardless of the ups and downs of our economy.

Erika Flora, PMP, ITIL Expert
Principal Consultant, Beyond20