By Cyndee Miller
Project leaders are no strangers to change. But between a massive shift to remote work and a global recession looming, many wonder what it all means for their careers.
These are unprecedented times, no doubt—but previous downturns can help point to a path forward, explains PM Network® columnist Lindsay Scott on a recent episode of Projectified™. She predicts an “extremely competitive” job market, “just as it was back then in 2008 to ’11,” following the economic meltdown known as the Great Recession.
That makes networking a must, Scott says, even if it has to be adjusted to the realities of today. With happy hour mixers and conferences IRL likely not happening anytime soon, she offers up a nice hack for virtual events in a recent PM Network® digital exclusive: “Open the chat functionality on the video conferencing software to join real-time conversations during presentations. If you like what you’re reading from others, hop onto conference messaging to let them know and make more formal introductions.” The same goes for speakers: Reach out with a thank you, noting what you enjoyed most about their presentation. “It’s an easy way to warm up the introduction you’ll make later via email or LinkedIn,” Scott says.
Here’s where I add a blatant plug for PMI’s Virtual Experience Series and point you to my post about the last event—and remind you there’s another one on 25 August on the theme of The Community: Together We Rise.
Beyond virtual networking, now’s the time to take advantage of any extra pockets of downtime to sharpen skills. During the last downturn, Scott said, many project leaders neglected their professional development and were unpleasantly surprised by the underwhelming response they got from HR. So whether it’s checking out free learning resources from PMI or devoting an hour each day to keeping up with trends or prepping for a certification exam, putting in some work now can give you a real career edge.
“When it comes to a crowded marketplace with lots of people suddenly looking for work … you want to find some way that you’re going to be able to stand out,” Scott says on Projectified™.
And it’s not just about technical chops. The COVID-19 crisis is bringing communication to the fore, she says. It’s always been “a massive part of project management,” but with so many people managing dispersed virtual teams, there are new areas to learn about: “How do we keep people motivated and engaged? How do I make sure that their well-being’s all right? How do I make sure that they’re on track with their deliverables and they’re checking in and all that kind of stuff?”
Given the current climate, perhaps the most valuable skill of all will simply be the ability to embrace unrelenting change. “I believe black swan incidents, like Brexit or COVID-19, might become a new normal phenomenon in the future,” says Stephen Xu, PhD, PMP, head of the project management office for business unit infrastructure at Alibaba Group, Hangzhou, China. “That will make strategic agility even more important,” the PMI Future 50 leader told PM Network®.
For project leaders with the right skills and the right mindset, career prospects remain bright. “Organizations are still hiring,” Scott told Projectified™. “It’s about understanding what those organizations are and what their particular opportunities are.”
How are you making adjustments to your career development during the COVID-19 crisis? Share in the comments below.