Is Project Management a Career or a Core-Competency?

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I was working with a young project management professional recently who was having difficulty deciding what career path to take going forward. She loved being a project manager and she was very good at it. But she seemed ready to move on, to take the next step.

David Barrett photo
David Barrett

The hardest part of a decision like this for her was reconciling all the effort, training and certification she had been through to get to where she is today and the idea that she would move on to another career.

If this was 15 years ago, I would agree with the conflict. Why would you go so far down this road and give it all up? But today is different, very different.

Today, project management is still a great career – but it is also an awesome core competency for anything you might want to do. With what we learn in our journey as project managers, project directors, PMO leads and more – we are so well positioned to take on any number of roles beyond project management.

The finance sector considers project management to be one of the top five competencies required by all senior manager and directors. Most other industries see project management in the same light: we understand scheduling, budgets, time management, stakeholder management, vendor management, risk management along with managing people, teams and more. Our ‘business core’ is solid.

But what are we missing? What else do we need to address if we want to leave this wonderful career for something else?

In my discussions with senior leaders and HR professionals there are three primary areas that we need to address in order to makes a strike to senior leadership in any industry.

  1. Business Acumen. We need to work on our understanding of how the business works. Our project work was a key element to this but there is so much more to learn: budgeting, operations, finance, accounting and more.
  2. Strategic Thinking, Planning and Execution. Strategy is the core to any leader’s work and we, as project professionals, never really had to deal with this. It is a big gap in our professional careers and one that needs to be addressed if we want to move on up.
  3. Communicating like a Leader. Communicating has always been a part of what we do but, if we want to move up and out, we need to communicate better, use different tools and be much more structured and processed about the way we communicate.

So, taking all of this into consideration, I created this new program at the Schulich Executive Education Centre called Beyond Project Management – Taking our Careers to the Next Level. The purpose of these three days is to introduce all of us to these three critical areas and kick start the next stage of our careers.

Delivered by three seasoned professionals, it promises to be interactive, challenging, stimulating and even a little fun. It also promises to get us all thinking about where we are today, where we want to be tomorrow and how we are going to get there.

David Barrett specializes in helping people and organizations to get stuff done: strategies, goals, objectives, plans and project work. He is a National Program Director at the Schulich Executive Education Centre, Schulich School of Business at York University in Toronto, author of five books, a weekly blogger and the author of “The Weekly One-Minute Video Series”.

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