CQU Project Management education

When a project manager leaves the office

Michelle LaBrosse
August 22, 2011

A serious condition is spreading like fireweed across the project management sector. The symptoms include glazed-over eyes, droopy shoulders, cramped hands, aversion to natural lighting, and a permanent butt print in your office chair. This condition is called Corporate Zombie Syndrome.

It can strike when one spends far more time looking at a computer than not, or hasn’t talked to a real coworker—except through videoconference meetings—in months. But don’t worry, there is a simple cure that can alleviate these symptoms and get you out of your Corporate Zombie state. That cure is to get out there!

The technology age that we live in provides everything imaginable at our fingertips, which creates an environment by which we can do many jobs without leaving a desk. There are days when I am quite productive without leaving my office, or even my chair. However, some very important components of your professional career are lost when you hide behind your computer screen, so it’s important to make sure you take the time to get out there to advance your career.

Don’t eat alone. It is a common scene in many businesses—people eating lunch hunched over their computers, dripping mustard in their keyboards, and trying to type with one hand while eating with the other. This type of rushed food frenzy is not only bad for your digestive tract, but bad for your professional life as well.

While it is okay to eat lunch at your desk when you are on a tight deadline, make a habit of taking the time to eat lunch outside of the office with coworkers, prospective clients, your boss, or your team. Everyone has to eat lunch. So why not make this a time when you can build rapport with people you work with, or for whom you work?

Be visible. If you are hiding in your office, you will definitely not have a random chance encounter that will lead to great business or networking opportunities. While the chance of meeting someone you could help or who could help you varies depending on where you go, there is at least a possibility of a fantastic chance encounter occurring, but only if you leave your office.

While working in your office, be visible by keeping your door open. People will more likely come in and talk to you without feeling they are disturbing you. If you, like many professionals nowadays, work from home, switch up your scene every now and then by going to a coffee shop near a business park to get your work done. When you are visible, you are accessible to the opportunities that the world has in store for you.

Be proactive. Getting out there is not just about passively waiting for opportunities to arrive at your doorstep. Be proactive by getting involved in organisations. Project managers can do this by approaching the local PMI chapter and seeing how they can help.

The more you help others succeed in their initiatives, the more likely you are to succeed. Give this idea a try and offer to help out at the very next local PMI chapter meeting you have—you might be surprised by the results.

Build your social capital. As a society, we need to be more aware of the forms of capital that are accessible to us besides monetary capital. Social capital, which is made up of the people you know and the connection you have with them, is a very important source of capital that you need to cultivate throughout your career.

If you follow these tips, you just might be able to avoid the Corporate Zombie Syndrome that has afflicted so many. But it takes perseverance and an unwavering belief that today, and every day, you will make an effort to just get out there.

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Michelle LaBrosse
Michelle LaBrosse (PMP) is one of the Project Management Institute's (PMI) 25 Most Influential Women in Project Management in the World and the founder of Cheetah Learning, a former PMI Professional Development Provider of the Year. She boasts a background in engineering and is a graduate of the Harvard Business School’s Owner President Managers (OPM) program, as well as a prolific writer and educator, having authored Cheetah Negotiations, Cheetah Project Management, Cheetah Know How and Cheetah Exam Prep as well as numerous articles in publications worldwide.
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