Mapping your career in modern project management
Project Management As I write this, news has just landed on my desk of a new survey conducted by AXELOS on how the PM sector will look by 2030.
The findings speak of a bright future, with 76 per cent of respondents agreeing that PM will become a core business skill in the next 15 years. It appears to be a lucrative one too, with APM’s 2016 salary survey reporting that a fully qualified project professional can expect to earn, on average, £50,000 a year - depending on the level of qualification.
There’s a caveat, though. In the same AXELOS survey, a whopping 90 per cent of participants believe that ongoing training will be vital to equip PMs to perform in an increasingly fast paced environment. But professional development can be a confusing landscape to navigate, since it forms a massive supply chain in itself. So how does today’s PM step up to the challenge of career progression that just won’t stand still?
Perhaps disappointingly, the simple answer is that there is no one answer. Your choices will depend in part on your sector, role and ambitions. If you’re dealing with heavy levels of regulation (for example, in financials or pharma), then formal professional certification could be crucial to climbing the ladder. If you’re focused on heavy infrastructure, then PRINCE2® is likely to be a required knowledge set. Those at the sharp end of new markets could do well to get with the Agile programme, whilst IT professionals may well be expected to be fully affiliated with ITIL.
Then there’s the question of how to pursue that training? The good news is that there’s an option to suit every PM’s working style. Master’s degrees, for example, are becoming increasingly specialised to the project space. Virtual and remote learning are no longer the poorer cousin of the classroom based qualifications. Even the more traditional courses tend to focus less on theory and much more on practical learning. That’s before we even enter the realms of iterative training courses, apprenticeships, secondments and the like: popular choices for PMs who need to work as they learn. Plus, with projects being increasingly recognised as a driver of business value, prospective employers won’t just want to see what you can do on paper. Your softer skills and personal development will undoubtedly be under scrutiny as well.
Confused? I know…but when you’re mapping your career progression there are certain tactics I would always recommend. Seek the support of a sponsor, mentor or coach (either via your employer or privately – yes, that’s another thriving market). Get advice from those who know the careers market – the recruiters, professional bodies, universities and training providers. They want your business, so they should be happy to help. And, even allowing for the point made above, I would always advocate developing sector-transferable skills, so that you can take your career where the demand is hottest.
Above all, though, don’t forget to keep your eye on your day job. Because ultimately, for most employers these days, your CV is not just about what you have learned. It’s about how you have applied that learning to deliver outstanding results.