Working on assignment five days a week means it’s not always easy for project managers to 'reach back' to their own organization – but it’s something you should always make time for if you don’t want to risk falling under the radar.
As a consultant, I’ve found that it takes a conscious effort to stay connected with your “home” and not get completely sucked into the client-side role. While delivering against objectives is, of course, your primary goal, this should not be to the detriment of your standing within your own organization – particularly if you are seeking recognition, challenging future projects or promotion.
So how do you reach back?
It’s a question of setting aside time to spend back on home turf. Put regular dates in your diary, meet new people and find out what other assignments they’re working on. This interaction can be hugely beneficial and it gives you the opportunity to tap into a wider knowledge base which you might not otherwise have known about. Also, you are able to share your experience which may be of value to your organization for other projects and so help position yourself as an expert.
And why lean in?
Equally important is the need to 'lean in'. By this, I mean gaining senior management support and ensuring they are fully aware of your achievements. This can be difficult for people who are not natural cheerleaders or comfortable with self-promotion. But you can – and should – learn to do more of it. After all, it’s very difficult to stand out if no-one knows what you are doing.
This means putting yourself forward to present the update at the directors meeting. It means making sure your voice is heard, particularly women working in a male-dominated environment. In this scenario, it’s even more important not to fall into traditional stereotype roles.
Rules of the game
There are a number of different ways you can raise your profile and positively influence perceptions within your organization:
- Communication: Maintain strong visibility in your organization, even when you are on assignment. Keep going back to build relationships, share your story and ensure the “powers-that-be” understand the value and level of experience you are delivering.
- Do your own PR: While I wouldn’t go to the extreme of our American neighbours, I do believe that some of their confidence can be very useful in this type of environment. Those that shout the loudest may be doing the same job as those that don’t but, in my experience, they are likely to climb the career ladder faster.
- Adopt a different mindset: Doing a good job should be more than enough to be recognized, but often it’s simply not. If you want those senior roles, you have to push yourself forward.
- Create your own opportunities: Be proactive and think about how you can contribute in your organization. Leverage your experience, engage with senior managers to give them confidence in your abilities.
Read Marsha's previous AXELOS blog post, A Programme Management Office for the real world.