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Who’s driving your project management career?

Michelle LaBrosse
September 17, 2012

Passionate Pauline is driving down the boulevard in the early morning, whistling to the tune ‘Oh Happy Day’ with a big smile on her face, ready to take on the day with a vengeance and excited to tackle any challenges that may come her way. In the next lane over, Sullen Sue is sulking, and somehow stuck in the slow lane… again! Things don’t typically go her way, she dislikes her job, and she’s dreading the mounting paperwork that is piling up on her desk.

Which driver’s seat would you rather be in every workday morning, 52 weeks a year, for the odd 40 working years of your life? Your career is an endeavour that requires a great deal of your time, energy, and focus. If you’re sitting in Sullen Sue’s driver’s seat, only you can change directions to find a career that ignites the passion in you and makes you find the fun in your field.

Don’t let society define your role
Why did you choose the career you are currently in? Did it seem like the ‘thing to do’ after you graduated college? Or did you have some time to introspectively analyse your innate strengths and interests, and decide on a career path based on that?

As a single mum, I have heard all types of stories of how hard my life must be. This role as a struggling victim didn’t quite suit me, however, and instead of focusing on what others expected of me in my ‘role’, I focused on how I could best create a life for my children and myself in the best way I knew how. We are all unique individuals with strengths and assets that direct us to a special purpose in life. Fuel your career growth by doing your thing, regardless of what society says you can or can’t do.

Change your job description
Who knows you better, the HR director who hired you while they were interviewing 40 other candidates, or YOU? We all have parts of our job that we love, and other parts that we hate. Chances are, the person sitting in the next office space is in the same boat. What you see as boring and tedious, another might regard as satisfying and even fun. To create a job description that fits like a glove, make sure to keep an open and honest dialogue with your peers, subordinates, and managers about what work keeps you energised versus which work sucks your life force.

Be proactive

The happiest workers are those who have a strong sense of control over what they’re doing and why their efforts are important to a company’s mission. If you don’t like the projects you’ve been assigned, be more proactive in seeking your roles in projects; it never hurts to ask.

If there is a certain process that you find to be cumbersome, tedious, and (in your opinion) useless, take the initiative to change it to improve it. Your work is your world, and the more waves you make that are of your own initiative, the more fun you will have. So don’t sit idly by hoping things will get better—jump to it!

Smell the roses
At the end of the day, we all want to feel that we’ve accomplished something of importance, that we’ve been an asset to our employers, made the world a better place, come a step closer to solving poverty, and all that before lunch if we can. But the truth is we are all human, and sometimes our best intentions can lead to us neglecting what keeps us going.

Every day, make sure to take some time for just yourself to re-energise and refocus so that you can go back to work ready to take on the world’s problems. Try taking a quick walk at lunch and smell the roses. On the busier days simply allow yourself to get up from you computer, and take five minutes to focus on your breathing and to stretch. You owe it to yourself, not to mention your organisation, to be at your best. So put it in your calendar if you have to, and take your breaks!

We all have the decision every day, which driver’s seat do we want to be in: Sullen Sue’s or Passionate Pauline’s? Whatever your decision, make sure you are making it consciously and with intention. And remember, the Passionate Paulines have more fun!

Co-authored with Kristen LaBrosse

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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