The restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in more project managers working remotely. While this keeps everyone safe, it also means that there is a larger supply of project managers available to lead a given project since location is less critical. So long as a project manager is temporally close to key stakeholders, in many situations they should be able to get the job done.
While this provides greater opportunity to gain experience outside your locale it also means you are facing much more competition for these roles. Your experience, education and “who you know” can certainly help to differentiate you relative to other candidates, but building a solid brand is equally important.
One of the definitions which Merriam-Webster provides is apropos to our purposes: “A public image, reputation, or identity conceived of as something to be marketed or promoted“.
The first thing is to decide what you want your project manager brand to be. Perhaps it is a “Steady Eddie” who can be relied upon to get the job done or maybe you want to be the “Red Adair” of the profession who can always be counted on to extinguish the flames of a project which is on fire.
But once you have decide what your brand is, how do you go about proving that you live up to it?
A simple answer is to deliver expected project outcomes, but that’s table stakes. If you don’t have a track record for that, you may be in the wrong profession or, at the very least, working for the wrong company.
If successful delivery is the foundation of your brand, you still need some solid walls. These include:
- How good are you at leading a team? If you are getting the job done but it’s at the expense of your team members’ growth, engagement or job satisfaction, no one will want to work with you.
- How good are you at building bridges? When dealing with stakeholders with diverging interests, how successful have you been at creating alignment towards a common goal?
- How good are you at making tough decisions? Have you made a key decision on a complex project which resulted in its success? Have you been the voice of reason to convince senior leaders to reduce scope or to even cancel a project which you were leading when that was the right thing to do?
- How good are you at connecting the dots? We don’t deliver projects in isolation. Our projects are all part of a larger complex adaptive system. Can you think of instances where your ability to connect the dots and to effectively communicate those relationships to key stakeholders has led to project success?
But these just relate to the projects you’ve managed.
What do you do to give back to others? Perhaps you mentor some practitioners who are new to project management. Or maybe you volunteer your time and skills to lead initiatives for not-for-profit organizations. Maybe you are a thought leader and have helped to evolve the profession through research or work developing standards or practice guides.
Your brand as a project manager is built across multiple dimensions. Neglecting those might result in you receiving a different type of brand as per Merriam-Webster: “A mark of disgrace“!