Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Projects, project management and careers – 17: a second look at project work as a career path

Posted in career development, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on October 13, 2012

This is my seventeenth installment in a series on projects and project management as a career path (see my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2, postings 250-265 for Parts 1-16.) And my goal here is to step back and consider careers and career paths, and project work.

This posting can, from one perspective, be seen as a continuation of my series on consulting Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2, postings 225-249) and certainly for those who would work on and help manage projects and project-oriented work for client businesses as an outside provider. Here, this can mean project management insofar as consultants frequently find themselves both working with, and for task-specific purposes supervising the work of others: more junior consultants and in-house employees. But more senior management and administrative authority is generally retained in-house by client businesses worked for. So consultants who work on projects primarily develop hands-on task completion-oriented careers in this.

This, of course is also a continuation of the flow of discussion presented here in this series, and that is where the full range of career development from hands-on project-oriented employee, through project manager and on to senior project administrator might apply – for in-house project work and its staffing.

A first point I would make here, coming from those points is that project work can be a part and even a small part of an overall career path, and with this carried out on the side or intensively and even exclusively for periods of a career. For the later, willingness to step in and manage a key, high priority project can be seen as paying dues forward, and of loyalty to a business – and be considered favorably as promotions and career advancements are considered. But for some businesses working on projects can also be seen as a way of stepping out of the main focus of that business and can be less than helpful in advancing a career there. Know the business you work for and participate or not in project work accordingly, and according to your own long-term plans and needs.

But setting aside the issues and decisions that part time project work involves, in-house project work can become a full and rich career path in and of itself. And I focus on that in the balance of this posting.

• How is the business you work for doing, competitively and as a revenue and profit-generating enterprise?
• Is project work central to this and to what the business does? Or is this something that might be considered more dispensable and certainly if activities and staff are to be prioritized for need and value created, with cuts made when business drops off?
• These are questions about the long term stability of, and prospects for a projects oriented career path with your current employer.
• If you really seek this type of career, look for potential employers that value this type of work on an ongoing, sustained, high priority basis.

If you seek work opportunities at nonprofits or other organizations that maintain minimal staff sizes and with everyone wearing multiple hats there, be aware of the fact that advancement might only be possible when moving to a new business: a new employer. Whether you would advance through the ranks within one organization or by moving between employers, work to develop a solid reputation and solid skills and experience to back that up at every position you hold – follow through on the basics of being a great employee and for building an effective, viable career in general. And do so with that next career step in mind as a working target, whether that means:

• Taking on more senior hands-on project work, or
• Moving into project management,
• Advancing to more senior project management roles where you take on and run larger, higher profile projects, or
• Move into the management of suites of projects and overall project administration.

In this, a project work oriented career holds much in common with a career oriented more around ongoing operational processes and tasks. As a final thought here I add that if you do take on a projects-oriented career path, really learn and understand the operational side of the business too, as ultimately, every project you would work on has to support that as a goal. This point is all about keeping your work and your career path relevant and valued.

This is my last installment in this series, at least for now. You can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2. I have also posted extensively on jobs and careers-related topics in my first Guide directory page on Job Search and Career Development.

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