Career Promises Are Dangerous

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting S.A., a Roatan, Honduras-based management consulting firm with a comprehensive project management practice. Andy always appreciates feedback and discussion on the issues raised in his articles and can be reached at andy.jordan@roffensian.com. Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

I’ll never forget the first time someone came up to me looking for career advice. It was a member of the team on one of the first projects I was managing—and it was the first project they were working on. The individual was really enjoying project work and was looking for advice on how they could work on more projects in the future.

In reality, they weren’t much less experienced than I was; but because I was the project manager, they viewed me as someone who could guide them. Critically, they also saw me as someone who could help them achieve their goals. It’s a privilege to be perceived in this way by your team, but it’s also dangerous—and new PMs don’t always recognize those dangers.

Why is it dangerous? Well, careers are obviously very personal, so any advice given is taken to heart. Something that might seem like a casual comment to you may be the basis of an entire change in career focus for the individual you are talking to, and that’s a huge responsibility. But the real danger comes from making promises—or perhaps more accurately, being perceived as making promises. Let me give you an example that happened to me.

That person who was the first to ask me for advice wanted to be given opportunities to work on more projects. So, they asked me if I could make sure they were part of the next project I would be …


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