The PMO has evolved from a mainly admin/support function into an exciting career space – so how can today’s practitioners successfully navigate the different opportunities on offer?
PMO is becoming increasingly popular as an organizational entity around project management.
Its upward trend is particularly interesting in light of recent industry conversations questioning the fundamental value of the PMO. Rather than encourage organizations to dispense with the function altogether, this has prompted a rethink and realignment with business needs. That, in turn, has created a dynamic new landscape with job opportunities at all levels, particularly the senior end of the scale.
So how should PMO practitioners – or those interested in making the move – assess current career opportunities and find the path that is right for them?
- Understand where your PMO career could go
The first thing to appreciate is the sheer variety of roles within PMO, each with its own set of objectives. It’s important to take the time to review what’s on offer and the different directions your career could potentially take.
Alongside the standard PMO titles you might expect – administrator, analyst, manager and director – there are also specialist roles to consider such as planning, finance or benefits realization. And across every category is the option of permanent, contract or part-time employment, again offering choices to suit different life stages and lifestyles.
Your choice of industries is also wide open and certainly not limited to current experience. In fact, the really interesting thing about a PMO career is that it doesn’t put you in a box. So if you work in the NHS, for example, it’s perfectly possible to move into technology and innovation – it’s your skillset that’s important.
- Identify knowledge gaps
PMO is essentially about providing services to an organization but the details of what this actually entails can vary hugely between roles and the context of the project, setting up, running or closing down. It’s a complex environment which makes it difficult to ensure your CV will tick every box.
This is why you need to get hold of AXELOS’ P3O manual which provides a unique run down of all the PMO services. You can use it to understand what services organizations look for and then highlight any gaps in your knowledge which you can address and improve.
- Keep levels of entry in mind
Generally speaking, there are four levels of entry to a PMO career, each requiring a certain level of experience. While there is a great deal of detail related to each one, the time you need to invest before moving on to the next stage is:
- Entry: 0-2 years’ experience.
- Working in a PMO team: usually for a number of years covering different roles and responsibilities.
- Managing PMO: spans many years.
- Directing PMO: senior level position.
- Build a self-development plan
There are a number of different ways to align your personal development with a PMO career. The key is to benchmark where you are now against where you want to be in the future, which means looking at:
- Knowledge: do your homework, attend relevant training courses, read around the subject and find out what you need to know in order to move onwards and upwards.
- Experience: can you get what you need in your current organization or do you need to move elsewhere?
- Skills: this is not just about what is required today, but also future-proofing yourself for new developments.
- Competency: how do you rate against expectations? Currently difficult to judge effectively, the first framework for PMO competency is due to be published by PMO Flashmob within the year.
- Formal training: P3O certification is one of the most recognized qualifications on the market and should be part of your development plan.
- Take control
Your career is not something that’s given to you – you need to proactively make a choice and own it. There is no enjoyment in being forced into a role just because it’s expected, so decide what you want and make it happen.
Networking, for example, can be an incredibly valuable source of information and leads. Take an active interest in what’s going on around you and you may find a new opportunity presents itself in the most unexpected way. The trick is to be prepared and ready to follow a new track.
h4>Read more AXELOS Blog Posts by Lindsay Scott
A 9-point career plan for project managers
Getting into project management
The risks of promoting Project Managers to Programme Managers.