22 Career Advancement Insights To Help You Get Ahead

Image Credit: Career Runway, Pixabay.com

Image Credit: Career Runway, Pixabay.com

Getting ahead doesn’t have to be a mystery. This spring, I conducted a survey of more than 100 project managers to understand their significant career goals, resources and achievements. Some of the findings surprised me while other points confirmed what I already knew. In today’s post, you will learn about career development resources, getting into consulting and hot skills to get ahead.

Earning A $100,000 Income: Insights From PMI’s Salary Survey

For the broader context of success in this profession, let’s review a few key insights from the Project Management Salary Survey, Eighth Edition (published 2013) survey conducted by the Project Management Institute. The data below is based on the USA (the survey covers many other countries including Canada, China, the United Kingdom and Australia).

  1. Median Salary for Project Managers: $108,000
  2. Project Managers with a PMI Credential (e.g. Project Management Professional certification) reported earning over $100,000
  3. Learn To Earn: Respondents who spend 5 to 9 days of time per year taking training reported a median salary of $110,000
  4. A Longer Work Week: The majority of respondents reported working 40-50 hours per week.

Today’s research findings are intended to supplement and push deeper into the qualitative aspect of career advancement. If you’re looking for robust statistical data, then I suggest reviewing the survey. The survey results report is available free to Project Management Institute members.

Learn To Earn: Books and Resources Used By Top Profesionals

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” – Benjamin Franklin

Getting ahead requires additional knowledge and skills so I made sure to ask about that point in the survey. As a committed lifelong learner myself, I found it interesting to compare notes with other people. Here are a few of the resources and books survey respondents reported using to reach their goals:

  1. Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras
  2. Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters
  3. Agile Project Management with Scrum by Ken Schwaber
  4. Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the World by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler
  5. Leading Change by John P. Kotter
  6. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
  7. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
  8. The Virgin Way: Everything I Know About Leadership by Richard Branson
  9. O’Reilly Media: Publisher of Business and Technology Books
  10. Forecast Scheduling with Microsoft Project 2010 by Eric Uyttewaal and Doc (Mark) Dochtermann
  11. Judgment Calls: Twelve Stories of Big Decisions and the Teams That Got Them Right by Thomas H. Davenport and Brook Manville
  12. ProjectManagement.com Webinars – I’m a regular presenter at ProjectManagement.com
  13. Project Management Institute: Standards and publications
  14. IT Metrics and Productivity Institute Webinars

As these examples show, there is a strong interest in interpersonal and leadership skills. This emphasis reflects the profession’s maturity and a realization that technical skill is often less important in management roles. The other advantage to leadership skill development is that these skills are relatively immune to technological change. To add my own suggestions to the list above, I would include “Getting Things Done” by David Allen and “The Effective Executive” by Peter Drucker.

With reference to webinars, I agree that they are a valuable way to learn and earn continuing education credits. Most webinars are sixty minutes in length, so that means limits on the depth of coverage. Like any continuing education resource, there are advantages and disadvantages to consider.

Money, Money, Money: Results on Income Goals

It’s not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It’s the customer who pays the wages. –Henry Ford

In addition to contribution and satisfaction, earning an income is one of the most important reasons to pursue a challenging career. While the respondents were pleased with their accomplishments, there was a clear desire for increased income. Rather than becoming frustrated over increased prices, motivated professionals focus their effort on increased income.

  1. $5,000: The median income increase sought by survey respondents (a significant number of people are working to earn increases of $10,000 and more)
  2. $300: The median amount of money survey respondents spent on professional development resources in 2014 (there were a significant number of people who spent over $1,000)
  3. 3%: The average salary increase paid to employees in the United States in 2014 according to a survey reported in USA Today (i.e. On a $70,000 salary, that amounts to a $2100 increase; on a $100,000 salary, that amounts to a $3000 increase)
  4. 5-10%: The pay increase maximum that many companies set for promotions according to a 2014 CBS News report.

Based on my research and general trends in the marketplace, it looks like there is a significant disconnect between employers and employees. Many project managers and related professionals are hungry to earn more money, given the value they produce. Unfortunately, typical pay increases are unlikely to help you make reach an income growth goal of adding $5,000 or more to your income. Bottom line? Simply hoping for a big raise or promotion to appear is unlikely to help you achieve your income growth goals.

What options do you have to significantly increase your income?

  • Change companies more often to win pay increases. Forbes reports that switching companies every 2-3 years can yield significantly increase your income.
  • Consider switching from a full time employee role to a self-employer contractor/consultant arrangement. This represents a significant change in mindset and different responsibilities (e.g. requirement to pay for benefits out of pocket and the potential for greater taxes)

Taking Command Of Your Career

In working to get ahead and advance our careers, it is no longer enough to wait to be recognized. Growing professionals dedicate their own time and money to expand their job and increase their income. For example, many professionals allocate a certain amount of time each month to networking and helping people they know. Another approach is to budget money to buy books, conferences and other resources.

Question For The Comments:

What is your career advancement goal and what resources are you using to achieve that goal?

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2 thoughts on “22 Career Advancement Insights To Help You Get Ahead

  1. I am a successful PM in Biopharma, looking to eventually move into an expert consultant role. I’m interested to hear the experiences of others who have made a similar change, and what helped them make the transition.

    Any recommendations?

    • Jennifer, thanks for commenting.

      Here are a few suggestions:
      1) decide what type of consulting arrangement you are interested in (e.g. do you want to join a consulting firm as an employee or operate on your own)

      2) the consultant project managers I know often obtain their first (and ongoing) contracts via recruiters

      3) contact your local PMI chapter leaders and ask for an introduction to someone who is performing this type of role