Career Development Lessons From Fortune 500 Executives

Climb The Ladder

At the executive level, you have a broad view of the organization. You contribute to the strategy. You also lead challenging projects and improvements. In my research and writing this year, I have had the pleasure to interview a number of leading executives. Here are some of the principles and insights I have learned from that work.

Career Development: The Long Path To The Executive Suite

Becoming an executive at a Fortune 500 company takes years of effort, ambition and talent. In my interviews with leading executives, I have learned several key lessons and questions to ask. As you plan goals for 2016 and beyond, consider these points.

  • Building A Technical Reputation. As you start your career journey, your technical reputation (or “subject matter expertise”) is essential to getting started. If you are interested in becoming a Chief Information Officer, you will probably want to start your career in engineering or software development. Building your credibility as an individual contributor is vital as you begin. Later in your career, your ability to understand details will continue to matter. For example, Bill Gates often asked detailed technical questions about products at Microsoft in the 1990s (source: Quora). It is important to note that he was the CEO of global company by that point. Yet, he continued to draw on his early expertise in programming and technology to build better products.
  • Saying Yes To New Assignments. At first glance, you might think that a given job has firm limits. For example, you might think that a mail clerk role has limited advancement potential. Yet, there are creative ways to stretch that role. Brian Glazer, author of A Curious Mind and known for his work in film and television production, started his career in the entertainment industry delivering documents, scripts and other materials. Why did he find it valuable? Simply put, he viewed the role as an opportunity to meet and connect with influential people in his industry. What if you are an IT manager? How can you apply this principle to your career development? You can volunteer for new projects such as building an employee onboarding program. Or you can be the first to volunteer to work on a new assignment in staff meetings with your manager. This strategy is easy to do and easy not to do. You can think “I’m busy and I don’t want to get loaded up with more random work tasks.” If you are keen to grow, saying yes to new assignments is a time tested strategy.

Becoming A Leader At The Organization

The desire to grow and contribute matters. Yet it is not enough for you to reach the executive level. In my research with executives, several of them emphasized the importance of leading and working with people. Leadership is a broad term that covers many different activities. I pressed for deeper explanations and came up with the following three lessons.

Develop A Customer Focus

A focus on the customer came up several times in my research. This focus may mean the end customer who ultimately pays the bills for the company as a whole. Or it may mean an internal customer – the internal customer definition often matters for IT leaders. In either case, successful executives know that systems, processes, IT and work of all kinds are only undertaken to serve a customer. Learning how to serve those customers is an essential skill for you to master. Take these tips in hand to improve your customer service.

  • Discover the end customer. Let’s say that you are in an IT department that supports a call centre. At first glance, your customer is the call centre (or more likely, the manager of the call centre). However, it may be more helpful to think about the customer of the customer. In the case of the call centre, think about the people who are calling in with service requests. What can you do to make their lives easier? That might mean analyzing call logs and trouble tickets for ideas to improve the company’s product or website.
  • Learn how the customer determine success. Learning what exactly your customer wants may be difficult in some cases. Start with the basics such as providing polite service. For complex and long term relationships, look for other motivations that matter to the customer. If you have a customer in the financial industry, they may be very interested to know more about your risk management and internal audit capabilities. Such considerations may be a higher priority than price. Those are the insights you can develop with time.

 

Learn A New Business

Did you ever hear about the “Grade 9 effect”? It describes the frustration that graduating elementary students feel when they start at a new school. Likewise, over the course of a career, executives will have to start over several times. If you join a new organization, your need to learn and study the new company will be apparent. However, learning a new business also matters in the case of promotions and internal transfers. Here are a few methods that executives use when they are learning a new business.

  • Go on a listening tour. When you start in a new organization, there is great value in simply listening to the people who are already there. There are different approaches. You can request a tour, give a short presentation or simply go on a series of Q&A sessions. During the first few weeks in a new role, listening to your
  • Read about the industry. For those changing industries, it is essential to apply yourself to read about the company. You can read annual reports, create a Google News alert and set up meetings with people in your network.

Of course, it is also important to develop your people. That’s a whole other area that deserves to be explored in depth. As a starting point, I refer you to two of my previous articles: The Truth About Employee Engagement and 3 Ways To Become A Strategic Project Manager.

Further Reading For Aspiring Executives

How the CIOs of 4 Fortune 500 companies got their jobs. Lead how four executives found their way into the Chief Information Officer role.

How CIOs can ensure M&A projects pay off. Few activities attract more interest in the corporate world than M&A deals. Find out how technology executives contribute to these projects.

Fortune Zoom: Surprising Ways to Supercharge Your Career by Daniel Roberts. The book emphasizes entrepreneurs rather than career professionals. That said, there is plenty to be learned from the excellent profiles of up and coming people in a variety of professions.

 

3 Strategies To Earn The Right To Influence

Image Credit: Rodin's The Thinker by alexandria (Pixabay.com)

Image Credit: Rodin’s The Thinker by alexandria (Pixabay.com)

Everyone on your project team is a volunteer. They may leave or disengage at any time. Then your project fails.

That’s a scary prospect! Responding to that reality is the mission of project management professionals. In this article, I will share my notes and reflections on Bill Richardson’s excellent presentation at the 2015 PMI Global Congress on the topic of Earning The Right To Influence. I will also share a few resources to help you continue your skill development in this area.

Addressing The Charisma Myth

Before we go further, let’s address the charisma myth. We have all seen leaders and influencers who have that natural charm and ability to connect with people. Yet, there are often significant preparations behind the scenes. For example, Steve Jobs was known for rehearsing and organizing a venue in detail before delivering his presentations. Theodore Roosevelt’s ability to present at length was founded, in part, on his extensive reading and study of history, politics, military affairs and other topics.

The fundamental message is this – leaders prepare to influence. You can use these strategies and concepts to enhance your influence and reach project success faster.

1. The Personal Brand Strategy: Make A Promise Based On Your Brand

The value and importance of building a personal brand has never been more important. In fact, my friend Bobby Umar  runs an annual conference dedicated to the topic. In Richardson’s view, the promise you make with your brand is made up of several components including character, capability and commitment. In today’s article, let’s focus on the importance of character.

Character. In recent years, character has retaken centre stage in our culture after being neglected for a period of time. Much of the resurgence of interest in character can be attributed to the steady stream of scandals and misconduct we have in seen in business and political circles (e.g. the Enron scandal, misuse of expense accounts, and much more).

What character traits can you develop and commit to in order to become a more successful project manager? One large bank I’m familiar with encourages positive behavior by promoting the following actions: “Make it your problem” (i.e. personal responsibility), “Admit when you don’t have the answers (i.e. humility) and “Speak up and be candid” (i.e. avoid sweeping important matters under the rug).

2. Use the WAKE Principle To Support Your Team

We all  know that projects are designed to create unique results, products, services and change the world. However, it is easy to lose track of that vision when you are deep in the weeds of working through change requests, bug reports and meetings.

As a fan of the 5 am Miracle and the Miracle Morning, I love the power of early mornings (though I admit I have room to improve) to start the day on a positive note. Given that point, I was pleased to read about Richardson’s WAKE principle to help teams. It is a four part model to equip people to reach success.

Want to!

Start by showing that you value the person and the work they do. If you skip this step, your project team members may start to feel undervalued (and hold back their full engagement)

Able to!

Projects are full of new tasks and challenges. Given that situation, it makes sense to pause and ask your team members, “do you have the knowledge, skills and abilities to be successful?” If the answer is no, additional training can help. You can use my article 51 Training Resources For Project Managers to get started.

Know to!

Fuzzy expectations mean a high chance of failure and frustration. For the best results, define both general expectations (e.g. timely attendence at team meetings) and task expectations (e.g. quality levels required on deliverables).

Equipped to!

In order to achieve success, your staff need access to tools, resources and processes. In my experience, I have seen failure and near misses occur over and over again because someone did not have have an active user account for an important system or application. For the best results, ask your team members to TEST their applications.

The WAKE model is a good supplement to the How To Lead Virtual Teams article I wrote earlier this year.

3. Manage Your Psychology: Thinking Fast and Slow

The human mind is powerful. We have created computers, navigated the world and much more. Even more impressive, researchers have discovered various traps and systematic problems – collectively known as cognitive biases – that prevent us from achieving our goals. As project managers working in stressful environments with numerous deadlines, it pays to think about our thinking. According to Nobel Prize winner researcher Daniel Kahneman, we use two types of thinking: System 1 and System 2.

System 1 (the autopilot)

Imagine someone throws a baseball in your direction and you manage to catch it seconds later. That’s an example of System 1 thinking. It is fast and it keeps us safe from harm in many situations. We use system 1 thinking for the vast majority of situations we encounter each day including walking down the street and responding to threats. System 1 thinking also requires little effort or energy to use. However, research has found that system 1 is prone to errors. For example, system 1 thinking is poor at using data, statistics and numbers to assess risk (e.g. that a commercial flight is objectively safer than driving a car).

System 2 (the Thinker)

System 2 thinking is the slower, rational process we use to make big decisions. Unlike System 1, we have decide to use System 2 and it uses more energy. System 2 is much better at using numbers and data to consider a problem. System 2 thinking is also fantastic at creating thinking tools (e.g. How To Build A Checklist In 6 Steps). Unfortunately, anger and stress tend to suppress System 2 thinking.

Here are a few ways you can manage your psychology to increase your influence:

Manage your physical condition. As The Power of Full Engagement showed, lack of sleep, food, and water impair our ability to function well. If you are about to scream at someone, ask yourself whether your physical needs are neglected.

Revisit your goal. When problems and frustrations hit you in the face on a quiet Friday morning, scoring a quick victory seems like a good idea. A better approach is to remind yourself what you are trying to achieve. My favorite example of this principle is train travel and air travel. If the airline is having a problem that impacts me, I remind myself that my goal is to complete my travel rather than “venting.”

Further Reading On Influence

To continue your influence education, use these resources. In my studies, I have found that people tend to approach influence from two perspectives: marketing and leadership. Even if your job title does not include those dimensions, it pays to develop those skills now rather than attempt to develop them quickly.

Influence Through Verbal Commitments by Manager Tools. This podcast explains how the technique of building influence by asking for verbal commitments. The words you use and how you say them significantly impact your influence success.

Becoming a Person of Influence: How to Positively Impact the Lives of Others by John C. Maxwell and Jim Dornan. I have learned a great deal from Maxwell’s books and audio programs over the years. One of my greatest insights is that a job title power (e.g. “CEO”) is only part of the story of influence. This book shows how anyone can build their influence in various positive ways.

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini. With over 900 Amazon reviews, this book is the widely respected as one of the best books on influence you can read. I have seen many marketing experts and copywriting professionals recommend this book to help them to sell. The actual purpose of the book was to help people understand how influence works (e.g. how sales professionals, fundraisers and authority figures influence the rest of us).

Thinking, Fast and Slow Paperback by Daniel Kahneman. This award winning book is one of the best and most useful books on psychology you could read. Even more impressive, the book has attracted close to 2,000 Amazon reviews. I will see that I found the book somewhat difficult to read. It is well worth the effort though!

 

Who Gets Promoted: An Interview with Career Expert Donald Asher

Have you ever wondered why your friends get promoted and you’re left working away in obscurity? Promotions are a key way to grow your career and yet they often seem like a black box.

Today’s guest is Donald Asher, author of “Who Gets Promoted, Who Doesn’t, and Why.” Donald has consulted with executives and other professionals on career matters for over 20 years. Donald Asher’s books on careers include The Overnight Resume, Cracking the Hidden Job Market and How To Get Any Job. He has some thoughtful answers to help project managers climb the corporate ladder. His articles have appeared in various publications including the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) and the National Association of Graduate Admissions Professionals (NAGAP).

PHoto of Donald Asher

PHoto of Donald Asher

Introduction

1. Why did you write a book called “Who Gets Promoted, Who Doesn’t, and Why” and who is it for?

The book is based on my experience of advising clients on their careers for the past twenty years. If you are an ambitious careerist on the fast track – getting promoted every year – this is the perfect book for you. If you’re smart and ambitious to grow your career, you can benefit from reading Who Gets Promoted, Who Doesn’t, and Why.

What is the most significant misconception you encounter regarding promotions?

The major misconception is that promotion is a reward for past performance. Instead, promotion is about your potential to deliver in the future. Simply waiting to be recognized and given a promotion is not a good strategy.

2. What is your perspective on designing a career plan vs maintaining openness to new opportunities?

Above all, here is my advice: go to the meeting, take the call and check out any offer or interview you are offered.

In the investment world, we can’t predict the future though we can make reasonable plans based on our risk tolerance. Understanding your risk tolerance and willingness to stretch for new roles are key components to designing your career plan.

Getting Promoted To Management

4. A number of my readers are interested in seeking a promotion to their first project management role. What is the first step on the road to promotion?

The first question to ask is whether your formal credentials are in order. If you are seeking a project manager role, the question will be whether or not you have the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification.

To break out of an individual contributor role, there are a few approaches. First, talk to your boss about your career goals – they can’t read your mind. Next, look for stretch assignments that give you the opportunity to build new skills and deliver results. In addition, look for task forces and special committees where you can achieve results and work with people from a variety of departments.

5. What are your recommendations for accessing the “hidden job market” (i.e jobs that are not advertised publicly), especially for management and project management roles?

Research shows that 50-80% of all jobs go to someone who did not respond to a posted opening. In fact, there are hidden job markets inside large companies. To access the hidden job market, constantly seek out new people and opportunities (rather than waiting until you are desperate for a new opportunity). Recommendations from current staff are a key factor in hearing about new jobs.

Editor’s Note: For additional insight on the hidden job market, look into Donald Asher’s book Cracking the Hidden Job Market.

6. What resources – courses, books and so on – would you recommend to new managers?

For technical skills, there are many great courses offered through Lynda and Udemy. The great advantage of those platforms is that you can obtain targeted information for a specific skill you need. Professionals that can direct their own learning have an advantage over those who wait to be put into a training course.

Getting Promoted To The Executive Ranks

7. What skills are particularly important for project managers and middle managers seeking to move to executive roles?

To be a successful executive, you have be comfortable making decisions with data. In most cases, executives achieve results by working through structure and making data-based decisions. If you do not have an affinity for making significant decisions, stay away from executive roles.

8. Many project managers work with executives on their projects. How can they make the most of these relationships to grow their careers?

When you have contact with an executive, you have the opportunity to demonstrate your skillset to the executive. You may initially come into contact with the executive during a project – that’s only the beginning. If you’re also skilled in foreign languages, graphic design, sales or another skill set, share that information. In addition, be clear about your career interests. Executives are busy people and can’t be expected to read your mind.

Career Repair and Crisis

9. In your book, you discuss the concept of career repair. Can you define the term?

Recovering from any kind of career setback or delay is the focus of career repair. Situations you face include being out of the workforce for an extended period of time (e.g. taking care of children) or coming back from a layoff.

To repair your career, you have to be willing to make changes quickly. Your first job may be far below your capabilities but you take it to get back in the game. Continue the job hunting process and take advantage of new job offers that come around. During this process, you may have to resign from a position after a few months when a better opportunity comes along.

Resource: To help people going through a career crisis, I provide the Career Repair chapter from “Who Gets Promoted, Who Doesn’t, and Why” for free on my website.

Getting in touch

10. What is the best way for readers to get in touch with you and find out more about your work?

The best way for readers to contact me is through my website: DonaldAsher.com. I am also open to receiving email directly from readers. My email address is don AT  donaldasher DOT com.

 

From Software Developer To Management Consultant: An Interview with Lynne Harrison, PMP

Earlier this year, I conducted a career advancement survey to find out how project managers get ahead. Earlier, I shared some of the findings from the research in this post: 22 Career Advancement Insights To Help You Get Ahead. Today, you will read a profile of one of the respondents and the lucky winner of the free draw – a premium subscription to the Project Management Podcast.

Enter Lynne Harrison, PMP. Lynne is a management consultant with the Atum Group in Portland, Oregon.

Lynne Harrison, PMP.

Lynne Harrison, PMP.

Introduction

1. How did you get started in project management?

I started my career in software development. Over time, I started to create work breakdowns and schedules for the team. In effect, I was acting as the team lead and performing project management tasks. In these early roles, I took work from the drawing board to end delivery.

In 2006, I was looking to develop my career further and began interviewing for engineering management roles. During that time, I was offered a project manager role instead and decided to give that a try. Since that time, I have worked in project management and related roles.

2. What was your most challenging project management experience and what did you learn from that experience?

I was working on a project to implement Software as a Service (SaaS) in an organization when SaaS products were still fairly new. There were many unknowns in the project such as how do we educate the marketing and sales staff on the product so that they can sell it? As the project manager, I also had to obtain sign-off from five Vice-Presidents to start the work.

I learned a number of lessons from this project. I learned how to handle the management of change in an organization. I also learned how to work effectively with senior management. Finally, I learned how to change to my focus from the details of the product to the big picture and the importance of understanding how the business operates.

3. What is the best project management advice you’ve ever received?

When I accepted the offer to start my first project manager role, I was matched with an excellent mentor. He gave me great advice on several aspects of the job. He stressed the importance of spending time and energy on relationship building. He also told me about the importance of setting the tone for the team and avoiding unrealistic “fantasy schedules.” Those lessons served as an excellent foundation for my early work in project management.

Project Management Certification

4. Why did you decide to study for the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification?

Early in my career, I did not see a need for certifications. As I moved into project management, I began to see more and more project managers pursue the certification. When I looked into the requirements, I found out that I already met the requirements regarding work experience and education.

In 2012, I went through a career transition. During that time, I found that a large number of job postings I reviewed stated the PMP was preferred (or in a few cases, required). Given the market demand for the certification, I decided to move forward. I earned my PMP in July 2013, right before Independence Day.

5. What did you find most valuable about earning the PMP certification?

The job market in Portland, Oregon expressed strong demand for the PMP. Earning the certification made me more competitive: It was easier to get on the ‘short list’ of candidates to be interviewed. I recall several cases where interviewers would breathe a sigh of relief when I confirmed that I held the certification.

In my current role in the consulting industry, I find that holding the PMP gives me enhanced credibility with clients.

 6. What advice would you give to other people considering studying for the PMP?

You have to be very realistic about the time commitment required to earn the certification. The application itself requires significant effort to document your experience. I also found it valuable to draw on multiple study resources to learn the concepts – reading different perspectives and examples on a given concept helped me.

Here are a few of the resources I used to study for the PMP Exam:

  • The PM Prepcast and PM Exam Simulator from OSP International (editor’s note: I used both resources myself – they are excellent!)
  • The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) Guide (editor’s note: a digital copy of the PMBOK Guide is available to members of the Project Management Institute)
  • PMP Exam Prep by Rita Mulcahy
  • my own flash cards and “brain dump” sheets

I would also add that attending a high price boot camp training program is not necessary. If you are motivated and disciplined, you can successfully earn the PMP through self-study.

Resource: For more insight on earning the PMP certification, read 5 Lessons Learned From Becoming A PMP.

Continuing Education

 

7. Maintaining the PMP requires ongoing continuing education. What continuing education activities have you found most valuable?

I enjoy learning and quickly earned the 60 required Professional Development Units (PDUs) in my first 2 years. My approach for continuing education is to look for material and resources that relate to my current projects.

For example, I was contracted to manage a project that was in serious trouble.  I listened to an excellent interview with Todd Williams (listen to the interview here – Episode 205: Rescue The Problem Project) on Cornelius Fichtner’s Project Management Podcast. Following that interview, I bought the book Rescue The Problem Project and read it cover to cover. Soon afterwards, I applied those ideas to rescue the project and was successful in completing the project. For an upcoming assignment, I am reading up on scope definition.

 8. What are your favorite business resources, books and resources?

The Project Management Podcast is an excellent resource – I have learned a great deal from all the various guests and from the host, Cornelius Fichtner. I have also benefited from reading ProjectManagementHacks.com . Finally, I have also benefited from reviewing the discussions in the Linkedin Group: PMI Project, Program and Portfolio Management.

9. What habits and practices do you use to make the most of your continuing education efforts?

I take notes on what I read and study and store that material in Evernote. I then make a practice to review those notes periodically to refresh my memory. I find Evernote is an excellent resource to support my lifelong learning.

Looking forward

10. What are your career goals in the future?

At this stage, I’m interested in pursuing work life balance. As a consultant at the Atum Group, I have excellent opportunities to work with clients and greater flexibility to grow. I’m also interested in exploring philosophy, traveling, and doing a hike through the Grand Canyon.

On a different note, I would also like to stress the value of flexibility in career development. My career goals have evolved over time. A key to my success is keeping an open mind about new opportunities – such as when I received the opportunity to move into project management or more recently when I transitioned from being an employee, to being a contractor, to being a consultant at a boutique management consulting firm.

Today, I use two criteria to decide which projects to work on. First, can I make a good contribution to achieving results? Second, how can I grow and learn from this work?

11. What’s the best way for readers to contact you?

You can contact me through my Linkedin Profile. Potential clients can contact me through the Atum Group.

 

How To Improve Productivity With Personal Projects

Image Credit: Artist by Counselling, Pixabay.com

Image Credit: Artist by Counselling, Pixabay.com

A personal summer project, unrelated to your career, is a great way to become happier and more productive. In today’s post, you will discover the productivity benefits of personal projects and practical suggestions for what areas to get started in. For today’s post, I define a personal project as a project undertaken for satisfaction, enjoyment and personal growth rather than career or business reasons.

Why Personal Projects Matter To Your Productivity

Personal projects are an excellent way to enrich your life beyond the office. Here are some of the benefits we receive by embarking on a personal project.

  • Creativity. Daniel Pink explains that new information and experiences are essential to growing our creative capacity in his book “A Whole New Mind.” For example, a financial analyst might take up rowing or explore the art world to expand her horizons.
  • Satisfaction Diversification. Diversification is a long established principle in the investment world (a key reason why index investing has become popular). The dark side of being dedicated to our work is that we can pin all of our hopes and dreams for satisfaction on professional success. Taking on personal projects gives us more sources of satisfaction.
  • Networking. Meeting and learning from new people is one of the greatest benefits of a launching a personal project. Many leisure activities have associations, meetups and other groups of people that get together to share their interests. Meeting new people through a personal project is a great way to grow your weak ties, a key aspect of your network.
  • Pass The “Airport Test” In Job Interviews.  In job interviews, many interviewers use the “airport test” to assess a candidate’s cultural fit with the company. This test simply means whether or not the interviewer thinks she could spend a few hours with you in an airport during a business trip. If you can only speak about work and have no other interests, you may be perceived as boring and fail the Airport Test.

The above points make it clear that developing a personal project and interests outside of the office are good for your career and outlook on life. Let’s explore the possibilities for what you can start this summer.

Project Option 1: Learn A New Sport And Develop Your Athletic Ability

For many years, sports and athletic activities were not an area of interest for me. That started to change in the past few years as I participated in races, including the Toronto Yonge Street 10 KM Race. Training for an athletic event such as a race or competition is a great project. There are clear measures to success, other people to meet and the satisfaction of crossing the finishing line.

  • For added impact, consider registering for an athletic event that involves charitable fundraising. To start the research process, do a Google search such as “fundraising races in [city”] (i.e. if you live in Chicago, the search term you enter into Google would be “fundraising races in Chicago“)

Project Option 2: Explore The World Through Travel

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.” – Saint Augustine

Travel is an item that many of us have on our bucket lists, yet many of us fail to get started. In part, the high cost of travel poses a challenge. However, there are many ways to experience the benefits of travel. For example, you can play the part of a tourist in your own town or region. How many great museums, galleries and interesting restaurants in your area have you never tried? That said, I find that visiting a city or country that is brand new to you is well worth the time and money.

Project Option 3: Art and Culture Creation

Creating drawings, music and other pieces of culture is an excellent personal project to prompt you to think in new ways. You can start by taking an art course or studying with an artist, as many of the great artists of the past have done. There are two approaches to take in creating art: going deeper with an existing interest or experimenting with something entirely new. To expand your horizons socially, look for ways to explore these activities in courses or meetups.

  • Tip. Many cities offer summer art schools and other creative programs. For example, the University of Toronto offers a creative writing program through the School of Continuing Studies. Students can take courses in historical fiction, genre fiction and other aspects of writing.
  • Looking to include writing on a vacation?: You might read this article right before a vacation and not have time to adjust all of your plans to take on a project. In that case, look into getting a book such as The 642 Things to Draw Journal or 104 Things to Photograph.

Project Option 4: Learn The Art of Appreciation

Have you ever walked through a museum and been inspired by the paintings and other artifacts? You can deepen your appreciation for the world’s culture through study. There are many fields of life that become more rewarding and interesting with study and learning – wine, fine art, movies and much more. For me, the best approach has been to take a course with other people (e.g. taking wine appreciation courses through George Brown College).

What does learning the art of appreciation do for you? It helps you focus on the present, rather than moving back and forth between different thoughts. In addition, appreciation encourages us to discover the rewards of exploring a subject in depth. There’s no need to be an expert in everything, yet it is worthwhile to develop a few areas of specialized knowledge.

  • Udemy Courses. Udemy is a learning platform that offers many different topics. For this project, you may find it interesting to browse the Lifestyle Section and the Personal Development Section. Online courses are highly flexible and you can go through them at your own pace.
  • Learning Through Your Local Museum. Did you know that many museums offer courses, guided tours and other programs to the public? For example, the Royal Ontario Museum offers walking tours exploring Toronto’s history. In New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art offers art making programs, workshops and more for adults and children.

Question For The Comments:

What kind of personal project are you interested in starting this summer?

 

Your Guide To Starting A Summer Project At Work

Image Credit: Start By Geralt (Pixabay.com)

Image Credit: Start By Geralt (Pixabay.com)

Last week, you learned about the value of starting a summer project. Today, we continue that theme with a focus on starting a summer project at the office. Our work context carries some restrictions and other considerations to consider when we design a project. Today’s post will help you identify opportunities and provide a list of ideas.

Where To Find Summer Projects At Work

Many of us are under pressure at the office with a constantly growing task list. If you lead yourself with Getting Things Done, it’s possible to retain perspective and control even with the heaviest workload. In any case, simply delivering on your stated responsibilities is not enough to win distinction. It is vital to set yourself apart. Look for summer project ideas in these five places.

  • Provide Vacation Coverage For Someone In Your Department. In many companies, a significant number of people take vacations in July and August. What happens to their work while they are away? You can offer to do this work for them and learn new skills in the process. Before you commit, make sure you receive the training and guidance you need to be successful.
  • Organize a Volunteer Day. Many large companies and organizations have an annual volunteer day where employees leave the office for half a day to assist the local community. For example, I recently volunteered with First Book Canada and a Toronto school to read books with students and share my passion for reading. Planning and organizing the event is a great way to demonstrate your organization skills and build your internal network.
  • Write a Procedure. In many jobs, there are certain activities that recurr every week, every month or some other frequency. After you have done the activity numerous times, you will forget how difficult it was to learn. What if you leave the department for a vacation (or for a promotion)? You may be expected to train your replacement. That exercise will be much easier if you have a written procedure for certain aspects of your job. Start small by writing a one page summary of the activity, resources required and the people involved in the activity.
  • Address An Audit Finding. Governments and large companies have internal audit departments. These professionals specialize in controls and risk management. In most cases, auditor will discover some problem – hopefully minor – in how your department operates. Leading a project to address an audit finding is another summer project possibility.

The “Developing Your Network” Project

Developing and maintaining a thriving professional network is one of the most important assets for you to develop. You can look at your network in different ways. One helpful distinction: you need an internal network (i.e. people you know and trust within your organization) and an external network (i.e. people you know and trust outside your current organization). Use these ideas to develop both aspects of your network.

  • Study effective networking methods. We are fortunate to live in a time when many of the best networking experts have shared their wisdom (e.g. the outstanding Manager Tools podcast – Building a Network) on networking. If building and expanding your network is a new challenge for you, I recommend reading “Never Eat Alone, Expanded and Updated: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time,” by Keith Ferrazzi and Tahl Raz. A good general tip – look for ways you can help other people with their problems before you ask for a favor.
  • Do the 4×4 Networking Challenge. I first discovered this networking challenge concept several years ago from Anna Runyan, founder of Classy Career Girl. In essence, you commit to two types of networking activity for a month. First, you commit to meet 4 new people. Second, you commit to spend time getting to know 4 people who are already in your network. Runyan is one of the few people I have encountered who gives equal emphasis to maintaining your existing network, a critical reminder.
  • Join An Internal Committee. Did you know that participating in a certain committes are a great way to expand your network and gain new skills? For example, I know somebody who has earned Red Cross training through his participation in the Life & Safety Committee. In my own case, I have joined the employee engagement committee in order to make a difference, meet people from other departments and connect with senior management. Offer to give a presentation or take on the task of organizing the committee’s meetings is a great way to get started.

The value of developing your network of relationships cannot be overstated. The importance of these relationships become even more vital as you rise to higher levels of management. After all, senior managers and executives rely on other people to provide information and get work done. Without a great network, it is difficult to be effective.

The “Earn A Certification” Project

Earning a certification is an excellent way to demonstrate your professional committment and expertise. Despite those benefits, it is important to be thoughtful in selecting a certification. Some certifications – like the PMP and CFA – are widely respected by employers around the world because they have been established for decades and are backed up by professional organizations. Other certifications have significantly less value in the marketplace. Use the following principles to decide if a certification is the right move for you.

  • Research Your Company. Does your boss, department and company value certifications? For example, some IT organizations provide significant support to professionals who wish to earn technology certifications. In that case, there is clear value in earning a certification that will advance your standing within your organization.
  • Research Your Industry. What if you have your eye on a new role in the future? For example, you may be interested in working in Big Data – a great skill set for digital marketing professionals to learn. In that case, research how people learned about Big Data. You may find that many people come into the field with specialized university degrees while others are self-taught. In that case, earning a certification may or may not help you reach your goals.
  • Align Your Career Goals And Certification Decision. The type of certifications and courses you spend your time on influence how people perceive you. For example, if you are interested in management roles, it makes sense to focus your studies on leadership, communication and related skills (e.g. Dale Carnegie Course or ToastMasters programs).

Question For The Comments:

What summer project will you choose to grow yourself at work?

 

 

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?

How To Expand Your Job: The Pushing Boundaries Strategy

Image Credit: Pixabay.comExpanding your responsibility is one of the best moves to grow your career. It’s a proven strategy that many of the world’s top performers use to develop themselves. Adding new tasks and responsibilities to your role is a practical way to demonstrate your proactive approach. The organization benefits from the increased productivity. The individual benefits from the challenge of learning new skills in the short term and laying the groundwork for future growth (including compensation growth).

The “do more at your job” theme is a tried and true career development strategy. Consider the following insights from researchers and other career development experts.

  • Grow Your Engagement By Focusing On Your Strengths

Adding new activities to your work is one way to increase your engagement. Gallup research found that, “employees are most likely to be engaged — and stay with their companies — when they report that their managers understand them and give them the chance to do what they do best every day.” Unfortunately, Gallup’s research reports that few managers score well in engagement. Fortunately, you can be proactive by adopting the pushing boundaries strategy to grow your role.

  • The 150% Rule for Promotions

According to Manager Tools, the key to earning a promotion is the “150% rule.” This rule states that a person must demonstrate an ability to perform 100% of their role and 50% of the role above you (e.g. half of your manager’s job, if that is role you have in mind). It is an excellent guideline.

  • The Making Your Boss Smarter Rule

Jack Welch, the successful former CEO of General Electric, proposes two rules to win promotions. The first is delivering results in your role, i.e. doing your assigned job well. The second aspect is helping your boss become smarter and more effective. As Welch explains: “The other quality that makes you promotable is constantly working to make your boss smarter. So when your boss asks you to do something, don’t only do that, but expand your responsibilities and lay out a much bigger picture.”

Identify Opportunities To Grow

Taking on more work is only valuable if you take on high value activities that help the organization and grow your skills. In organizations, there are many boundaries one can push against. Before pounding against a brick wall, take the time to identify where you can achieve a win.

1. Analyze Your Strengths

There are two types of strengths to consider: personality strengths and skill strengths. For insight on personality strengths, read Why Knowing Yourself Is Essential To Leadership. For example, highly people oriented professionals would do well to grow and deepen relationships. The next step is to identify skill strengths: look for skills that you have used over and over (e.g. data analysis, business development, leadership and so forth) and strengths that have been praised by clients or management.

Action: Identify my professional strengths (personality and/or skills) using a personality profile and performance reviews.

2. Review Your Department’s Problems and Opportunities

Most well run departments feature team meetings where problems and other matters affecting the department are discussed. By paying close attention to these meetings, you can find new ways to contribute. Specifically, read through the minutes from the past three team meetings to look for problems or opportunities that have been mentioned several times. These repeated themes will give you ideas on where to push the boundaries of your job.

Action: Review my department’s priorities by reading through three department team meeting documents.

3. Consider The Organization’s Priorities

Going beyond your department and yourself is the core of this recommendation. Start with your organization’s financial measures: are revenues and profits growing or declining in the past year? How does your organization’s financial performance compare to peer companies? In addition, look for speeches or “all employee” communications that your organization’s leadership have recently distributed. Most leaders make problems and challenges clear in such messages so that investors, employees and others can take appropriate action.

Tip: If you are based at a public company, you can use Yahoo Finance to identify competitors. For example, for Bank of America, Yahoo Finance names Citigroup, Wells Fargo and JP Morgan Chase as competitors.

Prepare A Proposal

Armed with your research, it is now time to prepare a proposal to ask for more responsibility. This approach assumes you are in a larger organization that tends to rely on process. You may be able to skip some of these steps if you are in a small and highly fluid organization.

4. Start With A Small Addition

Incremental progress is the name of the game when it comes to building career success. For example, you may ask to take on responsibility for producing a weekly report or managing a small quality process. The following steps of the process will help you to document and present the value of the task you take on.

Tip: Remember that your added responsibility must not threaten your ability to deliver on your primary responsibilities.

5. Think Through Benefits

The benefits for the proposed expansion to you are obvious: new skills and experience. Instead, you need to think through the benefits from your manager’s perspective. For example, you may emphasize succession planning and vacation coverage. For example, by learning to how to do aspects of Jane’s role, then you will be able to perform those activities if Jane is away from the office.

6. Propose The Change To Management

Write up a one page proposal describing the change and meet with your manager to discuss it. After this meeting, you may have revise your plan to take account of your manager’s concerns.

Deliver and Report The Results

At this phase, we start to do the new work and report on our performance. Completing these steps demonstrate your attention to detail and professionalism.

7. Perform The Activity Three Times

Why three times? Completing an activity once may be an accident. Performing new activities (e.g. producing a financial report, making a presentation to an execution) is the beginning of a track record.

8. Collect Data On The Results

The data you collect to report on your work is critical to step 9 below. For example, you may take screenshots from a system to show an activity was successfully completed by the deadline. Alternately, your department may hav existing metrics that you can use. If there are no established measures, ask for a feedback email and then copy that response.

Tip: Create a file folder or an email folder relating to the new activity you are learning to store the data (e.g. “2015  Learning Financial Reporting”).

9. Report The Success To Management

Reporting your success underscores to your manager is the vital conclusion, especially if you tend to be shy about sharing your wins. In this short meeting, share the data on the results achieved (e.g. on time and met quality requirements) and how the company benefited. If you found the activity interesting, mention that point at the end.

Looking Ahead

Did you know that pushing boundaries once was enough? That’s not the case. Once you become capable at delivering thoses tasks, it is time to keep pushing.

10. Plan The Next Campaign

In planning your next campaign, you go through the steps 1-9 in this practice. Remember to connect your development activities to your medium and long term goals. Depending on opportunities and your confidence, consider taking on more challenging tasks in your second campaign.

Project Manager Salary: 4 Key Insights To Earn $100,000 Per Year

Project Manager Salary: Learn How To Improve Your Earning Ability With ProjectManagementHacks.com

Project Manager Salary $100,000 Per Year. That has a nice ring to it, doesn`t it?

It’s an impressive career accomplishment even in the 21st century. What if you haven’t reached that career milestone yet? You’re in the right place to find a path to that goal.

In this article, you will discover the insights – based on the best research – to help you reach that $100,000 salary. I’m going to focus on how you can achieve that level in a full time role as an employee ( consulting and entrepreneurship are other worthwhile pathways to that goal: those options are outside the scope of today’s article).

Why Earning $100,000 Matters

We all know that money is not everything in life. Yet, who can deny its central importance and influence on nearly every aspect of daily life? Assuming you live in the US, Canada, UK or another advanced country,

There’s something special about earning $100,000 per year. For years, it has been a signal of success and a sign that “you’ve arrived.” That’s true even today, despite inflation.

Consider the following facts about the significance of a six figure income that tap into this ambition:

1) Rites of Passage at $100,000 to $1 Million+: Your Insider’s Lifetime Guide to Executive Job-changing and Faster Career Progress in the 21st Century by John Lucht. This classic career book, recommended by Manager Tools, is focused at senior managers and executives. In the minds of many readers, a six figures income brings all the status of joining the executive suite.

2) The price of paying for “the American Dream” is $130,000 per year for a family of four in the United States according to USA Today.

3) An annual household income of $111,000 puts you in the top 20% (the top 1% starts at $360,000) of income earners in the United States in 2011 according to NPR.

4) If you saved $10,000 (10% of $100,000 income) for 25 years and earned a 7% return, your investments would reach $632,000 dollars (If you make invest and save for another 6 years, you would reach $1 million). Note: this calculation assumes you are starting from zero. If you have other investments, you can achieve much higher wealth.

Clearly, there’s a lot to be gained from reaching the $100,000 project manager salary level.

There are also career benefits to earning six figures that could beyond the personal benefits outlined above. We’re not just talking about bragging rights.

Once you reach the six figure income level, you are likely to have staff to manage. That means you have the challenge (and rewards) of developing people. Further, a six figure income means you have developed significant career capital. You will have more and more options to choose your projects and increase your satisfaction.

Now we understand the importance and value of obtaining a six figure income, how do we get there?

Success Leaves Clues: Lessons From Six Figure Project Managers

If you want to be healthy study health. If you want to be wealthy, study wealth. If you want to be happy, study happiness. – Jim Rohn

Once you decide on obtaining a six figure project manager salary, what’s your next step?

You could start by applying for new jobs that appear to be high paying. Or you could start by asking friends in your network if they know anybody who knows of six figure opportunities.

These approaches miss the mark. You need to start by discovering the best opportunities and capabilities of six figure project managers. Fortunately, the Project Management Institute (PMI) has taken the guess work out of earning a high income.

In the Project Management Salary Survey (8th Edition), PMI collected data from over 13,000 project managers in the United States. Out of those surveyed, the median salary reported was $108,000 per year. That’s encouraging! Yet, it doesn’t tell us very much on how to reach that level.

You need more details. I understand completely.

Let’s look at the top four factors that shape a high project manager salary.

  • Work Experience
  • Education
  • Industry
  • Project Complexity

Click “Read More” for all the data and detailed analysis!