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What’s the Next Step in Your Project Management Career? (Ikigai) | Video

What's the Next Step in Your Project Management Career? (Ikigai) | Video

What’s your next step as a Project Manager. The answer to your Project Management career is in the Japanese concept of ikigai.

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‘I’ve been working as a Project Manager for several years. What is the next step in my career?’

In different ways, that’s a question I hear a lot.

But the Question: ‘What’s the next step…’ is the Wrong one.

It’s based on a false premise. There is no ‘the next step’. If you are a good project manager, then you have a bag of career assets:

  • knowledge
  • skills
  • relationships
  • reputation
  • track record

And this means you have a wealth of opportunities. Often the problem is less about what to do and more about narrowing your scope.

So, your real question for your Project Mangement career should be:
‘What is the right next step for me?’

To help you answer that, think about what you:

  • are really good at
  • want to develop even more skills at
  • love doing – about your job
  • would love to do, that is not part of your current job
  • feel is important to you in life

These sort of questions will help you to determine your next destination. There is a lovely image doing the rounds of the web. It illustrates the Japanese concept of Ikigai. The literal meaning is ‘a reason for being’.

Ikigai: A Reason for Being

When thinking about your project management career, you need to find what’s right for you. Ikigai tells us that your perfect job is at the overlap of four things what you:

  1. love
  2. are good at
  3. can be paid for
  4. …and what the world needs

With any one of these missing, there is a feeling of:

  1. Emptiness
    – if you’re not doing something you love
  2. Uncertainty
    – if you aren’t good at what you do
  3. Poverty
    – if you can’t get paid for it
  4. Futility
    – if the world does not need it

The Obvious Project Management Career Choices

Among the cohort of Project Managers I grew up with, some have gone in surprising directions. In my LinkedIn connections list, you’ll find a florist, cafe owner, print store director, care-home operator, and house builder.

But here are some of the more conventional routes I’ve seen:

  • Project Management in a new industry
  • Program or portfolio manager
  • Project Director, PMO leader
  • C-suite, Senior Director, CEO
  • Academic, author
  • Consultant, contractor, interim
  • Trainer, speaker
  • Coach, advisor
  • Entrepreneur

Practical Thinking

Project Managers are nothing if not practical. So once you know what you want to do, start to think about how. What do you need to get before you are ready to make the move? When is the best time? How will you make your move?

Think of Your Career as Your Project.

Apply your Project Management skills to finding your goal, objectives, and requirements. Once you have them, think about workstreams, tasks, risks and stakeholders to build a plan.

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About the Author Mike Clayton

Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.

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