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Employment trends and the project manager

PM Oracles
July 18, 2012

If you were unemployed tomorrow, could you compete in the current project management job market? PM Oracles sent Jeff Hodgkinson on a research mission where he compared job postings on major sites to obtain a picture of the current job market for project management.

When professionals look for new work, they usually want to look at salary and compensation on offer before applying for available opportunities. We also presume people will actively network, contact recruiting firms, update LinkedIn profiles and such, but that’s not the scope of this article. Our goal is to provide some commentary on what is being asked of project managers in the current job markets around the world, and to let you compare this with your own knowledge and experience as a project management professional.

In today’s challenging economic times—acknowledging that the economies of the USA, South America, Europe, Australia and Africa are all experiencing different situations—you can’t take anything for granted, including your employment.  Whether you work for a private or public company or a government or not-for-profit organisation, circumstances beyond your control can occur at any time, causing layoffs, downsizing, attrition, buy-outs, mergers, and so on. If you are self-employed, future opportunities could be limited or non-existent.

Without wishing to paint a bleak picture, anyone can be susceptible to job loss, and the best advice we can offer is: be prepared. A great example of this can be seen in the film Company Men, which dramatises the effects that sudden layoffs can have at all levels. Keep in mind that the three of us writing this article share a common philosophy of ‘always be prepared through continuous improvement’.  We are all multi-credentialed and actively volunteer in our profession because we gain numerous benefits, including professional contacts.

Project management positions listed today range from the project coordinator to a director-type level. Obviously, salaries vary according to such factors as geography, scope of duties, and the industry in question and, for this article, we choose not to comment on compensation or its variations.

A recent article in US News stated that employers increasingly seek workers proficient in project management: 90% of executives surveyed claimed that project management is either critical or somewhat important to their operations, and that roughly 1.2 million project management jobs will be created per year for the next 10 years. This seems to be good news for those in the project management profession, but there will be tough competition for these positions.

Project management job postings generally request some technical background and experience specific to the type of business in which the company operates, which is, of course, to be expected—experience will always be a primary factor in hiring process. We realise that background and sector experience are important, but here we are focusing on the pure project management requirements. Titles and seniority levels aside, we have seen some common themes and expectations, which we list below in no order of importance:

  • Provide project updates
  • Conduct project meetings
  • Manage cross-functional teams
  • Coordinate cross-discipline teams
  • Manage all stakeholders effectively
  • Meet project schedule commitments
  • Define and achieve target milestones
  • Manage risks and issues in a competent manner
  • Be ‘self-motivated’ or a highly motivated project manager
  • Know how to lead and influence others without direct authority
  • Successfully manage several projects simultaneously or a large program
  • Deliver projects on time, meeting performance metrics and project objectives
  • Manage resources and deliverables to meet both project and company objectives
  • Strong interpersonal skills in addition to exemplary writing, speaking and presentation skills
  • Experience working with globally dispersed, multi-cultural, multi-lingual teams preferred.
PM Oracles
PM Oracles is Gareth Byatt, Gary Hamilton, Jeff Hodgkinson and Duke Okes, all experienced PMO, program, and project managers who share a common passion to help others and share knowledge about PMO, portfolio, program and project management.
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