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Who Owns Your Project Management Career Plan?

Last month the latest Project Management Benchmark Report was launched by Arras People and one of the areas touched on was the project management career development plan.

About 2000 project practitioners were asked, “Who owns your career development plan?

The question was posed to try to understand how much control project practitioners have over their own development and choices in areas like which training courses they could choose to sign up for.

Part of the reason behind asking this question was the concern that many project practitioners career development seems to be either led by their own organisations i.e., development plans that work for the organisations advantage rather than focusing on what the practitioner might need and market forces dictating what people should have on their CV if they are to be considered for new opportunities.

In this article we take a deeper look at what the project practitioners are telling us today.

Who owns your career development plan?



It’s good to know that project practitioners do in fact own their career development plan (63%) whilst 33% acknowledge that there is joint ownership between them and their organisation.

I was particularly interested to see if the size of organisation had any bearing on these figures, perhaps people working in larger organisations have more freedom? Or smaller organisations need to direct development more?

The graph below does show some slight variations. The smaller organisations do drive their project practitioners career development the most whilst organisations over 250 employees also sees project management practitioners having less control than their smaller and medium size business counterparts.


We specifically asked project practitioners who work permanently for an organisation, “How is your development plan agreed within your current organization?”. 50% of project practitioners agree their career development plans on an annual basis. Interestingly 23% of project practitioners have no formal plan in place.


Budgets for career development?

With that in mind, it was interesting to see what happens with the budget for training and development, we asked, “Does your organization agree an annual budget for your development?”


Overwhelmingly 69% of project practitioners have to make a case for their preferred training and development on a case by case basis.

What is interesting to see is the large percentages of people who claim to manage their own career development, yet there are still hoops to jump through when it comes to actually funding the development. If career development was truly owed by the individuals, I would expect to see more freedom on how they choose to spend that budget (and therefore would expect to see larger figures in the Yes – Agreed Budget and No – Development is my responsibility)

What kind of career development?

We also wanted to see what project practitioners were thinking about in terms of what kind of development they need. This outcome is particularly interesting, especially since PMI also changed their development requirements with the talent triangle.

Respondents were asked to pick all the different types of development that applies to them, we asked, “What is your current focus for development?”

Strategy and Business Management is the most popular – and a relatively new focus for project practitioners. At the other end of the scale, technical aspects of project management were less important.


That made me wonder if the Strategy/Business Management development was restricted to certain types of project management roles. The following graph might appear to be busy but click on it to see it made larger. This is an interesting view across the different types of development that different types of project practitioners will be seeking out:


It makes sense to see the Portfolio Manager role focus more on Strategy and Business Management development – the Change Managers and Planners are also thinking about development in that area too. The planners are the most interested in soft skills development too whilst the Business Analysts are more concerned with their technical knowledge and industry knowledge. the Programme and Project Support group are the ones that feel they need to brush up on their programme and project management knowledge.

How to approach development?

Finally we took a look at how project practitioners will be approaching their development. Online development is of course popular, being able to fit in small chunks of time in a busy working day makes sense. Practitioners still like the in-person experience too – not just training courses but also informal learning through events, seminars and conferences.


Getting ahead in your project management career relies on many different factors – the type of organisation you work for; the level of your own ambition; the limits of your own learning and even how lucky you are. The career development plan you have also plays a part in how successful you are as a project practitioner. Career development – as we have seen – doesn’t have to be a formal plan with assigned budget. It doesn’t have to just consist of internal organisation led training courses. As a project practitioner it doesn’t necessarily mean development in project management. As we’ve seen, strategy and business management are currently on many practitioner’s radars.

So who owns your career development plan? Ultimately the person who has the most vested interest in it – you!

Want to read more insights? Download the latest project management benchmark report.


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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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