Contract Project Manager? What you need to know! – Part 1

Contract Project Manager? What you need to know! – Part 1

The following polling results were from my Managing Your Career: What Your Boss Won’t Tell You presentation to the PMI Canadian West Coast Chapter this month in Vancouver.

Career Polling 2015 1

Having conducted this poll many times, I have observed that the younger the audience, the greater perceived value of the Master’s Degree. Time and experience indicate that although qualifications count, nothing is more important than relationships. As this polling indicates, because that is essentially the opportunity the country club membership provides with 82 percent of those surveyed stating it was more beneficial than a Masters Degree for long term career advancement.

Consider the following quote from Hugh MacLeod, “Your job is probably worth 50 percent of what it was in real terms ten years ago. And who knows? It may very well not exist in five to ten years…Stop worrying about technology. Start worrying about people who trust you.

Step two in having a secure future as a contract project manager is establishing and maintaining relationships that keep you cognizant of opportunities and a network that knows your capabilities and character.

Step one is recognizing that you may one day be a contract project manager, even if you have a secure job today and that you must execute step two because secure isn’t what it used to be. As Marshall Goldsmith states in his book MojoIf I could write a headline that sums up the last ten years of the American (and other rich country’s) workplace-and the next thirty years as well-it would be this: That Job is Gone!

Consider this other polling result from my event in Vancouver this month:

Career Polling 2015 2

More than 50 percent of those surveyed said companies commonly or frequently layoff senior personnel and hire junior personnel to do the same job!  The fact is as you age you are more likely to find yourself looking for a job, in a landscape that is increasingly challenging with each gray hair, wrinkle and creaking joint. When I first started conducting full day courses on Managing Your Career years ago, the average age of the participants was in the low twenties. For the Managing Your Career course I conducted last year with the PMI Atlanta chapter the average age of participants was mid-forties.

Step three is establishing a verifiable reputation. It does you no good to produce high quality work if it cannot be verified. After step one and two, success as a contract project manager hinges on your reputation. Towards that end, you should always take the opportunity to get testimonials from the customer and stakeholders as you approach the end of engagements. You should also ask the customer and stakeholder for permission to use them as future references when the time comes.

Keep in mind what was taught to me when checking references for a contractor – Initially just ask them for three references, because they will usually have three rock-solid references that they will provide you. Once you have these three references, then ask them for one or two more, as these may not be as rock-solid and can give you a more complete picture of performance. Therefore it is prudent for a contract project manager to always have five or six rock-solid references in case they come back for more. Really you can’t have too many because time passes rapidly and references/testimonials can get old and not as relevant quickly. Additionally, it can prove beneficial to have references from different project types, industries or geographical locations allowing you to tailor the references to the position.

This may seem like overkill, but when you consider the value of a one year contract or what it costs to be out of work for a month or two or six, all of this minimizes risk and minimizes the potential downtime between contracts/jobs.

In part two of this discussion I will share what the Chief Technology Officer of a Fortune 10 company told me about Contract Project Managers.

Posted by Dr. James Brown in Career Management.


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