Let’s get one thing straight: the Project Management Office is not a dead end job. If you’ve heard that myth, then put it to one side now! PMOs are consistently gaining credibility in their organizations and they focus on maintaining standards and maximizing economies of scale. They are made up of experts in everything from enterprise project management tools to project management training, change management and measurement. In fact, the scope for a rewarding career in the PMO arena is only limited by your own desire to seek out suitable opportunities and achieve in them.
Here are four ways that you can grow your PMO career.
1. Move Up
When most people think of their next career move they think about getting a promotion. Taking a more senior job is often the logical career step for many people, regardless of where they are in their career right now. For example, a junior project manager would apply and take on a project management role, moving eventually to a senior project manager position. A PMO Coordinator may move to PMO Analyst or a managerial position. In time, they may take on line management responsibility for project managers or get promoted into a PMO Director role.
Many people believe that a project manager’s natural route of progression is into program management and then portfolio management. That doesn’t have to be the case. Aspects of large events like the Olympics and many national government and engineering projects are a single project – just on a huge scale. You can progress as a project manager by taking on more and more responsibility and larger projects.
2. Move Out
In smaller businesses the career path for PMO professionals is not always that clear. In fact, there might not be one – it may be a case of ‘dead man’s shoes’ where you have to wait for someone to leave in order to secure that job. If that is the situation in your business, moving out is probably the best chance you have of skipping up through the professional levels or finding a job that suits your evolving skills.
Managers are often sad to let employees go but realize that part of their role is to nurture talent. If they don’t have the opportunity to give you the challenges and stretching targets that you need to feel that you are fulfilling your professional capabilities, then helping you secure another job outside their company is the right thing to do.
For that reason, it’s good practice to let your boss know that you are looking for a new opportunity if you are serious about it. At some point, he or she will be asked for a reference so you might as well prepare them for that. And they may have useful contacts or know of someone who is recruiting for the perfect job for you.
3. Move Sideways
Moving sideways means taking a related post that will give you greater breadth of experience. For example, an IT PMO Executive might move to manage the same PMO elements in an enterprise PMO. This might not necessarily come with a different job title or more money but it will expose the individual to other people, a different set of objectives and related skills that give them a more rounded business experience. This can be really valuable for further career moves later on.
Equally, a project manager may move into the PMO, or a PMO Analyst into a project management role, in order to gain experience of what life is like in those positions. A project manager who is experienced at managing large projects could take on a program management role managing a collection of smaller initiatives. Think creatively about your skills and how these could be applied in other areas and you may find a sideways move is your next logical step.
4. Move To The Line
You don’t have to stay in project, program or portfolio management. Many PMO professionals opt to take line jobs such as in business operations. In fact, the skill set gained from working in the PMO is a perfect background for that kind of role. There are plenty of skills that transfer perfectly, such as managing people, performance reviews, budget tracking, managing results and metrics, reporting and so on. Plus project work tends to expose PMO professionals to a wide range of business areas and that gives you cross-functional knowledge which is useful in a line role.
While taking on profit and loss responsibilities for a department or team is a big change from managing multi-million Dollar project budgets, it is something that holds an attraction for many. And, of course, if you find that isn’t for you, you always have the opportunity to take a PMO role again in the future. You’ll only add to your professional experience by having taken a position outside of the project environment.
There is nothing wrong with staying where you are, but ultimately you are responsible for your own career and it’s up to you to plan out your personal future and take action to achieve your career goals. Don’t rely on your manager or PMO mentor to put you forward for new positions or opportunities. Think about where you want to be and go for it!