The Key to Career Success? Relationships.

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Categories: Career Help

I heard it over and over again: "Not you! No way. It can't happen to you! Impossible!" It was a nice thought, but the fact of the matter was that it was happening, and it was happening to me.

I was one of the most connected and well-known project managers in the company. I had a huge variety of experience and a sterling reputation. I was coming off of a wonderful two-year international assignment and was just getting ready to start back to work in the United States when I was told that my position was being eliminated.

While I had been away, my entire management chain had changed and my organization's mission had shifted out from under me. The company was laying people off in droves. A father of five, I was staring unemployment in the face.

The first order of business was to try to find another position within the company. It took a mad five-month scramble, but I managed to hang on.

During that period, I was very busy. Still, I took the time to reflect--not just on what to do about the situation, but what I might have done differently, and what I might do in the future to prevent it and how to be better prepared if it should happen again. In retrospect, it's easy to recognize this as textbook risk management.

I also considered the things I had done well (that in the end made it possible for me to find another position) and reflected on what I might do to ensure that I continued to do those same things in the future--textbook lessons learned.

I collected my thoughts, my resolutions, my lessons learned, in a one-page document titled simply, "I wish I had." I review it periodically to keep it at top of mind and I will tell you honestly that often enough, it's painful to re-read it. Some lessons are only learned painfully.

I'm happy to say that I have been given the opportunity to put those resolutions into practice, and so I would like to comment on them in this space with the sincere hope that perhaps you might find value in the lessons I've learned.

In our business, a certain level of technical prowess is necessary but not sufficient. Beyond technical skills, we need to develop people skills, and the essence of people skills is relationships.

As I look over my one-page document, I note that there are some things that I don't see:
•    I wish I had been better at making Gantt charts.
•    I wish I had been a better software developer.
•    I wish I had cultivated deeper skills in earned value analysis.

On the contrary, my list is filled with resolutions about relationships. It's about people skills and how I need to further cultivate and employ them to not only ensure continued career success but also appropriate work/life balance.

I'm looking forward to sharing more reflections around these career lessons learned--and hearing your thoughts as well.
Posted by Jim De Piante on: March 19, 2010 01:44 PM | Permalink

Comments (26)

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Can you share your "one page wish list"?

Shirley Esterly
Hi Jim,
I am conducting research on the needs of PMs in today's downsized work place. I really liked your blog post today.

I would welcome an opportunity to interview you for my market research. If you are interested, please contact me via email.

Thanks...S. Esterly

I would appreciate if you would be willing to share the "one page wish list".

Jim De Piante
Shirley, Thank you kindly for your nice comment. I'll be happy to contact you via email. Something simple is certainly eluding me though. Should/do I have an email address for you already? Jim

Jim De Piante
Steve, Sure. I can share it with you. Can you contact me offline? Find me on LinkedIn (Choose: We’ve done business together (at Jim's Presentations)). Jim

Ratnam Rao
Dear Jim, Please share your one page wish list, especially about relationships.

Jim, Being a PM that was recently downsized, I now also am seeing the value to relationships. I wished that I would have been better at networking while I was employed. I also wish that I kept my resume updated. I would like to see your list, to see if it matches with my experiences as well. Thanks, Erik

Shahin Kheradparvardeh
Hi Jim Is it possible for you to share your "one page share list" ? Thanks, Shahin

Hi Jim, Great Topic. In today market we all worry about that happening to us. I would love to receive your "one page wish list"? I struggle with getting well connected into the political world of management, to strengthen my connections. YOur lesson learn and tips will be most helpful I'm sure. D.

Jim De Piante
Hello, everyone. Over the coming weeks, I plan to share several of the "resolutions" from my "one-page document" and comment on them. I don't plan to "publish" the entire list, but if you would like to see it, please provide me with an eMail address. You can find me on LinkedIn or FaceBook. Jim

Srikanth Potala
Hi Jim, Your article is very close to my situation. Can I get a copy of your list? Thanks, Srikanth

Dina Maxwell
Hi Jim, I am putting together that exact same list right now. I would love it if you would share your "I wish I had" list. Thank you...

Randy Stepp

I applaud you for doing this, especially at this time when we are witnessing dramatic structural change in the world economy and the worst of corporate behavior. There is a general feeling of vulnerability. Those who have not experienced a resource action are expecting to.

Relevance is a key issue for everyone, on both personal and professional levels, and "What do I want to be when I grow up?" a key question. We must all realize that our greatest asset is ourselves, what we become as a result of our experiences, our personal and social capital.

Nobody can take this from us and it is completely transferable; we carry it with us forever. As your friend and colleague, I know that you have a deep appreciation for this. Thank you for sharing it here.


Rajesh Sharma
You are absolutely right. For the situation like the one you described, relationships are the best solution. I am also in the same situation as you described, but I am confident on my relations developed in last few years. One among the new is you now. Please be in touch.

Rajesh Sharma

Srikanth Prabhala
Hi Jim,

I completely agree with you. I have faced the same situation earlier, and thus, learned it the hard way. Managing relationships is a "soft skill", which people usually tend to ignore. Such soft skills are as important as those required to perform the job.


Thank you, Jim, for sharing your experience. Like others who have posted, my first thought was that I’d love to see your list. Then I realized that I had missed a key point. I need to take the time to reflect on my own “risks” and “lessons” and develop a list for myself. I suspect that, like you, relationships rather than Gantt charts will top off my list. I look forward to reading more of your reflections in the coming weeks.

Count me in for a copy of the wish list as well. Thanks very much

Aliyu Abdullahi
Great thoughts. You are right, relationships are the key to sustainable work life. Tied to this is the issue of emotional intelligence, which is required for making, sustaining/retaining and enjoying such relationship.

In the case of survival at work, it is always better to know what you are passionate about and to horn the associated skills for it. Which ever way though, it is always difficult, though not impossible to manage your relationships. Like I said earlier EI provides some insight.



Hi Jim, I'd love to see your list, please email to me. Thanks! Rob

Stu H

Thanks for your comments and sharing your experience. I like your one page lessons tool and think it is a great concept that I may use.

I have been reflecting on some areas for development in my skills and the issues that are coming up for me in interpersonal interaction and relationships. It is important to identify, build and retain those relationships and not let time become the barrier between relationships.



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