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Self-Promotion and the Project Manager

Self-promotion and the project managerYou’ve got good experience; some great project management skills; got some decent project management training under your belt and you’re part of a formal community like PMI. But there is something else that a good professional project manager does that enables their career to head in the right direction – and that’s something called self-promotion.

We hear it all the time – in order to gain promotion or find great opportunities in the marketplace – it’s those that self-promote, or get themselves noticed for all the right reasons – who seem to have a career that just goes, well, well.

What do you think about self-promotion?

I think when we hear the words “self-promotion” a fair few people would squirm with embarrassment, that it means taking a step too far out of your comfort zone, but it doesn’t need to be that way. With change, it is about taking small steps – comfortable steps – towards a bigger goal. You don’t suddenly need to be that outgoing, gregarious person that holds the floor with scintillating conversation. Indeed, self-promotion is not about becoming someone new or different, it’s about getting noticed for what you do.

Here are a few things you can try out – and like with any change – the key is to practice a lot then do it a lot before it becomes a habit where you’ll be more comfortable with what you’re doing.

Personal Reflection

First off, you need to understand who you are before you can promote yourself.

There’s plenty of advice out there on the web about personal reflection – but what we need to know is, what are you about? What values you hold? What behaviours you actually show that demonstrate these values?

Think about your project management work – how do you deliver projects according to these values? This makes you think a little deeper about your professional life rather than just thinking about what needs to go on a CV or a Linkedin profile.

The Personal Stocktake

The personal stocktake is something that project managers need to do periodically throughout their working life. This is about understanding exactly what professional skills and experience you have – and are accumulating throughout your working life.

Self-promotion is tricky if you’re unsure about what aspects you need to be promoting but questions like these help to bring some clarity:

What makes you a credible project professional?

Evidence could include:

  • Accreditation
  • Security Clearance
  • Academic qualifications
  • Years’ experience
  • Domain/sector you work in

How complex are the projects you are currently involved with?

Evidence could include:

  • Disciplines
  • External
  • Strategic importance
  • Stakeholder cohesion
  • Stability
  • Financial impact
  • Interfaces

How would you describe your style of Programme/Project Management?

Evidence could include:

  • Leadership
  • Communication
  • Stakeholder relationship
  • Negotiation
  • Transformation

How does your use of Management & Tools impact on successful delivery?

Evidence could include:

  • Structure
  • Governance
  • Team Management
  • Resource Management
  • IT
  • Processes
  • Benefits Realisation

What is your track record of Results?

Evidence could include:

  • Success
  • Failure
  • Adversity

Elevator PitchThe Elevator Pitch

It’s always good to think about how you think others see you. This is about both your personal and professional side because once you have a better handle on this – you can start to think about the “elevator pitch” which will form the basis of self-promotion in face-to-face situations and with things like your CV.

The elevator pitch is essentially your rehearsed lines when people want to know more about you. They should be rehearsed because that will help alleviate any discomfort in new situations where you might struggle to get a conversation started. The advice for a pitch like this is to concentrate on what you do – not the job. And to explain how you are different in some way and what outcomes you produce. When people ask what you do for a living, never just say a Project Manager. Explain what you do – and pull out what makes you do that well.

Once you have a pitch, think about how you can shorten and lengthen that pitch depending on the situation you’re in. You then need to be prepared for questions afterwards – something that piqued someone’s interest – or be ready to ask questions back. For someone who is naturally shy (believe me, I know exactly how you feel) it’s practicing that really helps. I tell myself, if I do it enough times it will start to feel natural and thankfully it does.

The Networking

There are not many people who can genuinely say they LOVE networking – especially the kind of networking you encounter at say, PMI Chapter meetings, conferences or seminars. Some events are easier than others – and of course a lot of depends on how you feel on that particular day – and what you’re trying to get out of an event.

I run a professional networking group and work to get people feel comfortable coming into an event like that. Personally what works well for me is to ask questions, be genuinely interested in what people have to say and try to help in any way I can. I often find that this is the easiest way to build rapport with people – and to be likeable and memorable (for the right reasons!). Self-promotion works just as effectively if you put someone else first, being helpful in some way means that most people will reciprocate.

Networking events are a way to test the elevator pitch you’ve worked on but I find that just having the aim coming away from the event having spoken to at least one interesting person who you feel comfortable connecting up with on Linkedin is a worthwhile use of your time.

Remember, networking is a long-term activity – it’s about making useful connections for both parties which hopefully over time can develop into a more meaningful relationship that benefits both of you.

And the Internal Networking

When it comes to opportunities within your own organisation, internal networking is something we can all get better at. Internal networking is something I’ve written about before and something many project managers are familiar with – navigating the internal politics whilst getting noticed for the right reasons.

Internal networking starts with understanding ‘who’ is in your network – both immediate and extended. For project managers this can be a wide range of people from those in the PMO, through to senior execs and heads of departments. This is about thinking who in your network is actually a stakeholder in your career. Who can impact it? Who can help it? Who can influence decisions like your promotion or recommend you for certain projects or other opportunities.

With self-promotion my advice is simple, concentrate on making small inroads. Understand yourself first, practice communicating what you’re about, ask questions and try to help people out. You’ll be surprised how comfortable you become with this – and that’s when you can start thinking about further self-promotion steps to take as you move through your career.

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About Lindsay Scott

Lindsay Scott is Director of Arras People, the programme and project management recruitment specialists. Lindsay is the project management careers columnist for PMI's Network magazine and co-editor of the Gower Handbook of People in Project Management. Lindsay recently created and hosted The PMO Conference and hosts the monthly PMO Flashmob

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