You may notice that I have some fancy letters after my name. They stand for Project Management Professional (PMP) and Professional Career Manager (PCM). People often ask me what these two things have to do with one another—like it’s a strange combination. But to me, it makes perfect sense!
Your career is one of the most important projects in your life.
Take that in for a minute. Consider the amount of time, energy, and attention you devote to projects at work.
Now, compare that to the amount of time, energy, and attention you devote to your career. Is it comparable?
Most people commit a lot of resources to work projects, but neglect their life projects. They plan, prepare, organize, and strategize about work projects, and then leave their career to chance.
In fact, most people don’t even consider their career to be a project. But it is. And I assure you: when you apply a project management mindset and project management strategies to it, you’ll achieve much more!
Here are some project management strategies you can apply to your career immediately.
1. Clearly Define Success
One of the most fundamental principles in project management is that you must know the destination before you start the journey. If you don’t know what you’re trying to achieve, you can’t manage the project effectively.
Admittedly, this can be incredibly challenging in the workplace. To clearly define what success looks like for your work projects requires sophisticated communication, collaboration, and investigation skills.
For your career, you need only consult with yourself! Get curious. Allow yourself to daydream. At the end of your career, what do you want to have accomplished? What legacy do you want to leave behind? What life goals do you want your career to support?
Your vision may be somewhat foggy…that’s okay. The more intention you bring to the process, the clearer things will become. And your vision may change! That’s okay too! You can always adjust (just like you do for work projects). But you must keep your eye on the prize whatever that is.
If you don’t know where you want to go, you simply can’t make intelligent decisions. You won’t know how to apply your resources. You won’t know when you’ve made progress in the right direction or when you’re off track.
This is true for all projects, both work and life.
2. Break Goals Down
All projects are a series of interconnected tasks. As David Allen famously said: You can’t actually sit down and “do” a project. Instead, you “do” tasks within the project. Those tasks accumulate and eventually, they create a completed project.
Project management requires patience. Projects can take days, weeks, months and even years to complete. Your career is a long-term project with a lot of interconnected tasks. In fact, your career project probably has a lot of smaller projects contained within it! (But we won’t go there…let’s keep this discussion simple for now).
Here’s the point: To manage any project, you have to break it down into its bite-sized pieces—the tasks. What’s the first step that needs to be accomplished? What’s next? What needs to be done after that? And after that? Work backwards from the destination and build your roadmap.
The breakdown of work is the essence of your project plan. That’s how you keep things moving forward one small step at a time. Without it, any project will stall out.
3. Manage Limited Resources
This final strategy is a biggie: project managers are always trying to optimize their resources. We all have limited time, energy, money, and attention. Any project, whether work or life, requires the use of these resources. It’s our job, as “project managers” (official or unofficial) to vigilantly monitor how resources are used and stay within the defined constraints, while still achieving the defined goal.
A constraint is a limitation. Maybe you only have two weeks to complete a project or a $5000 budget. Those are resource constraints that you must operate within.
Your career project has constraints too, but you get to define what they are. How much time can you commit? How much money? How much energy and attention? How can you reach your goals and still stay within these parameters? That’s one of the hardest parts of project management!
The fun thing about project management is that it can be applied to so many different areas of life! PM skills are useful in managing finances, organizing family vacations, homemaking, planning for retirement and more. Developing PM expertise can truly enhance your life as well as your career.
If you’re interested in learning project management strategies you can apply at work and in life, consider joining the upcoming Project Management Learning Lab. Learn more here.