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Job security for project managers

Michelle LaBrosse
April 8, 2015

In an era of large-scale layoffs and job precariousness, it may feel as though there’s nothing you can do to secure your position besides sit back and hope for the best.

Not only is this a poor solution to improving your job security, it’s exactly the kind of attitude that will weaken your job security. If you see the future of your organisation as totally out of your control, what does that say about how supervisors and coworkers will perceive your value to the company?

Here’s how to be the ‘first one hired’, if you’re currently looking for a new position, and—more importantly—how to be the ‘last one fired’. Essential to both of these is your ability to demonstrate how you deliver value to your organisation, fast.

First one hired

You’ve put together an impressive resume, you have all the right credentials from the top institutions, and you articulate yourself beautifully during interviews. So why haven’t you landed that dream job? I’m going to cut right to the chase here: the issue is that it’s not all about you. Employers are looking for the same thing in every employee they hire, they want someone who will deliver value to their organisation fast and consistently.

Rather than trying to impress prospective employers with your academic accomplishments or empty flattery, work to demonstrate what they really want to know: how you’ll deliver value to their company.

What did you do in your last position that benefited the company? Give a concrete example and spell out the connection between what you personally did to how the company benefited as clearly as you can. If you leave it up to your potential boss to fill in the blanks about the value you added, they might give you the benefit of the doubt—but they might not. The more powerfully you can demonstrate how you have created value in the past and can do so in the future, the easier you’ll make it for a prospective employer to decide to hire you.

For example, if you worked on a two-week project to streamline the HR Performance Review Process that saved each and every employee 10 hours of work per year, that is a measurable productivity gain. You can easily estimate that cost savings. Let’s say there were two hundred employees, and you can estimate it costs the company on average $50 per hour per employee: your project saves the company 200 employees x $50 per hour x 10 hours. So you saved the company $100,000 per year. And it only took you two weeks to do that. Imagine what you can do for the next company that hires you!

Last one fired

Now that you’ve landed that dream job, how can you make sure you’ll keep it? First, by walking the talk. Stay vigilant about maintaining consistent ‘brand building’ behaviours and minimising your ‘brand bruising’ behaviours. Keep the big picture in mind, that is, how what you’re doing creates more value for the organisation.

Deliver value fast by completing all your projects. One way to make sure you do this is to keep your projects small. When you’re responsible for a larger-scale, long-term project, break it up into smaller units that allow you deliver value incrementally, rather than all at once at the end of the project. This will allow your employer to benefit from your work even if the bigger project gets cancelled or stalled.

The second way to ensure you’ll be the last one fired is to communicate the value you create for your organisation to the folks that matter. (Yes just like you did in the example to get hired). What good is it if you successfully lead a project to completion if your supervisors don’t know the role you played, or what value the project adds to the company?

Just as you need to do when interviewing for a position, to secure your position at your organisation, you should make a habit of regularly communicating to the higher-ups what value you have provided. Be clear and concise—leave them with no doubts about the importance of your position or your value as an employee.

These are just a few tips for landing your ideal job and keeping it. Mastering these skills takes time and practice. By developing skills in these areas, you set yourself up to land the position that is right for you, perform at your highest abilities in that position, and secure a stable career.

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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