by Kathy Martucci, PMP:

Face it, one of the reasons you like being a project manager is that, theoretically, you could be in the healthcare sector one week and in the finance sector the next.  But is it really that easy to wrap up your communications project for a trucking empire and then segue effortlessly into the implementation of back office financial management applications or e-trading software?

Certainly there are skills that most good project managers have developed that are more or less easily transferrable between different areas of business:

• Verbal and Written Communication Skills: We can make a point, communicate a specific message or present an argument with an awareness of audience reaction, and respond appropriately to feedback. It’s what makes us who we are.

• Organizing Skills: What project manager isn’t an ace at planning ahead; meeting deadlines; managing yourself and others; establishing priorities and coordinating people; and organizing activities such as events of all kinds. If you can’t do this, you’re in the wrong business!

• Problem Analysis and Solution: We pride ourselves on having clarity and logic of thought in defining and solving complex problems; capacity to identify key issues and reconcile conflict; ingenuity in the creation of solutions; effectiveness under pressure; concern with priorities; creative thinking. Some of us are better at it than others, but still.

• Team Working: Again, if you’re not good at this, should you be considering a whole career change? This ability is necessary to work in formal and informal, long-term and project based teams or groups towards a common objective, with an understanding of the different roles within groups and importance of team building.

If you have all the above in your toolbox, you’re good to go.  Or are you?  There are challenges when making a change in your usual project portfolio.  Because we all know each organization has its own unique personality, we need to be aware that we will need to work on the following:

• Corporate culture: Your old organization was loose and informal so a trip to the executive director’s office was a common thing. But is the new organization so friendly and open? Take some time to learn the culture; get a seasoned mentor on your side before you commit political suicide.

• Industrial buzzwords, acronyms and heroes (affectionately named BAH!): Sure, you’re now familiar with clinical terms and medical infrastructure and software. But do you know what the finance sector bible contains? Can you differentiate between a CBC and an OCT? Who are the leaders in your new business sector?

• Power brokers and politics: A good stakeholder analysis should assist the project manager with who’s who. But who has the real power? Who are the vocal, visible customers and who are mostly behind the scenes but plenty powerful? We as project managers must understand this or our efforts may be focused in the wrong direction.

The bottom line is that we project managers have a lot of options. But be smart about moving around…do your homework!

Have you been able to move around successfully? Let us know how you did it.

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