The Best Teacher You Never Had

A few weeks ago, I was approached by fellow project management blogger Geoff Crane. Long-time readers of my weekly round-ups will recognize the name immediately – Geoff is the man behind PaperCut PM, and one of the funniest guys in our business. He’s also a new college professor, and his first project management class just graduated. To commemorate their milestone (and his), Geoff wanted to give them a going-away present – good advice from practicing project managers on how to get into the field, and how to manage your career once you get in. He’d compile the advice into an e-book, give it to them, and share it with the world. Would I contribute? Of course – I sent him my 300 words the same day!

The class has now graduated, and Geoff has published the e-book. As a testament to his influence in the industry, fifty-two of us stepped up to provide content. Looking at the list, I see a lot of very accomplished, well-known names, as well as a few I haven’t heard from before. Never mind; I’ll be following them from now on. Reading their contributions makes me proud to be part of this project management community. I’m honored to be in their company, and grateful to Geoff for including me in this monumental, quick-turnaround effort.

I urge you to take a few minutes to read some of these short notes, and pass along the advice in them to project management students, practitioners, and managers – it’s that widely applicable. You might even find a few things for yourself in this treasure chest.

Once again: thanks, Professor Crane. You’re all right, in my book.

 

 

Project Management Job Requirements Study Announced

Job ApplicantsNoel Radley, the managing editor for SoftwareAdvice.com, published the results of an interesting survey last month. They looked at three hundred job listings on job board-scraper Indeed.com for project managers. The intent was to compare requirements for positions across three sectors: aerospace, healthcare, and information technology. The points of comparison were education, certifications, and years of experience.

The team at SoftwareAdvice.com chose these three sectors based on PMI’s Industry Growth Forecast, published last year. The Forecast estimates 6.2 million new project management roles will be created in the United States between 2010 and 2020. PMI anticipates job growth in aerospace, healthcare, and information technology will each be over 12 percent.

Radley says, “After reading how 6.2 million new project management jobs are anticipated to be created by 2020, we wanted to understand what qualifications employers are looking for in the project manager role. We wanted project managers to be able to better understand trends in their sector: how many years of experience are wanted (on average), what the biggest industries for PM are, and if PM job seekers need to be investing in higher education and certifications to secure these jobs. We also wanted to give project managers a sense of whether they would be competitive if they decided to switch industries, helping them to think through what it would take to transition and seek a new opportunity.”

What I found interesting in the results was the reduced importance of education, especially advanced degrees, for companies hiring project managers. The skills gap referenced in the PMI Forecast is manifesting here first, as companies lower their academic expectations of new hires. If you don’t have a degree, but you have lots of industry and project management experience, you might be preferred over the recent graduate.

Another of their findings was that, of those job postings specifying a professional certification, the PMP credential was the most commonly mentioned – as expected for project manager in the U.S. If you don’t have a degree, that PMP may provide an additional edge.

I’d be interested in hearing from recent job seekers and hires whether it seems like the bar is getting lower, in terms of education and experience, and whether these “requirements” are becoming “preferred.” Leave a comment, and let’s add some anecdotes to Noel’s insightful analysis.

A Rhetorical Question

Several times over the last few years, I’ve seen the same question asked in forums ranging from LinkedIn to various blogs, and most recently, on Reddit: “Is Project Management a skill-set or a profession?” Here’s my answer:

Project manager is a role.

Project management is a body of knowledge, skills, and common practices. It is also the application of that intellectual capital.

Those working in a project manager role who pursue the study of project management and work at achieving competence in practicing it, and expect to make a career of managing projects, while following ethical practices and mentoring others, can reasonably call themselves professionals.

But, project management is not a profession, in the classic sense. Project managers are not subject to malpractice suits, in that capacity. Hence, they are not regulated in the same way as practitioners of a learned profession, such as a doctor or lawyer. The New York State Education Department operates the Office of the Professions, charged with licensing practitioners in a lengthy list. From medical, dental, pharmacy, and related fields, to engineers, architects, and even interior decorators, New York maintains standards for licensing a number of professions. Project managers didn’t make the list. I haven’t checked the other 49 states, but I suspect the story would be similar.

So, how can those who do not practice a profession reasonably call themselves professionals? Because the dictionary says they can: a professional is one “following an occupation as a means of livelihood or for gain: a professional builder.”

Reasonable people can disagree, as can unreasonable people and even disagreeable people. If you are any of these, please add your thoughts in a reply, below.