A friend of mine invited me to lunch, saying, “I need a sounding board; will you help?” I was happy to help; I’ve known this colleague for many years and respect her professional contributions.
At lunch, my colleague explained that her company was about to undergo a large restructuring and her current job might be in jeopardy. She needed to “talk out loud” about her situation. As we talked, she discussed her career options – try to stay within her functional division in a new capacity, consider relocation to the company’s headquarters in a different state or seek a similar role in a different organization.
All of these ideas had merit and it was clear she had carefully considered her options.
But there was one option she didn’t mention: “What about project management?” I asked.
She was surprised. “I hadn’t thought of that one,” she admitted.
Now, if you looked at her resume, you wouldn’t see “project management” listed on any of her job descriptions. Her functional expertise is in human resources and operations. It’s true that she has never officially held a project management title.
Yet, over the past decade, key leaders in her company have approached her several times to manage large-scale projects on behalf of the company. Some projects were for charity-based events that the company supports. Others were for major company renovations that needed an expert eye beyond what the company’s facilities group could handle.
In every single case, my friend brought her project home on time and under budget. More importantly – she did so with incredible interpersonal finesse through coalition building.
Why did my friend not consider a possible move into project management? Because the professional story she was telling herself didn’t include a chapter on “My Time As a Project Manager.” Those side-projects she took on were simply a way to “help the company out”.
When it comes to exploring our career options, sometimes we can’t see the obvious. Often, it takes an outside perspective to help clear the fog. As my friend Becky Robinson wrote in Toward a Growth Mindset, “People who see us day to day may become blinded to the incremental changes in our abilities and accomplishments, while people farther removed are able to see our progress over time and give greater encouragement about our growth.”
The people who see the growth the least clearly? Sometimes, it’s our very own selves! Are you telling your whole professional story? Ask a friend to help you find chapters you may have skipped over. Like any good story, sometimes the best passages are brief, yet powerful gems nestled deep within the main plotline.
You may also enjoy: Is Your Story a Comfortable Fit?
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