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Future Proofing Your Project Management Career

Future Proofing Your Project Management Career
The theme of the PMI’s Project Management Conference this year is around building the future of New Zealand’s project management industry. As a recruiter in this space, this topic is very important to me. For aspiring project managers to truly future-proof their career choices, they need to step outside their native sector, whether that’s IT or construction, and gain the experience needed to adapt to the trends of the local market. Of course, that is easier said than done but for some advice on how to build a project management career for the future, read on.

Why Do I Need to Future Proof My Career?

Project management is a universal discipline that is present in nearly every industry. So, if you want to build a successful career in project management, it’s very likely that you might need to cross over to different sectors at some point. In New Zealand, two of the biggest markets for project managers are construction and IT. Whilst both sectors are currently experiencing a boom, they do face their own unique challenges. IT is constantly at the forefront of disruption and the industry-specific and technical skills you pick up today, could become redundant in five years. Construction on the other hand, can be dependent on the state of the economy and government and foreign investment. As a result, the industry can sway between boom and bust every few years.

How Can I Future Proof My Project Management Career?

One of the best ways to future proof your career is to become multi-disciplined so you can respond to changing market requirements with fluidity. In other words, by actively developing your transferable skills and industry knowledge, you can move into a new sector to keep your career moving forward, if your market takes a downturn.

The first hurdle in future proofing your career is to ensure you’re focusing on the most relevant transferable skills. Whilst IT and construction project management roles certainly have their similarities, we cannot ignore their differences. As the Christchurch rebuild swung into action, many IT Project Managers attempted to make the leap into construction. Many failed to secure jobs because they didn’t consider the fundamental differences between construction and IT.

Construction companies want project managers who can manage expectations, build meaningful relationships and engage their stakeholders. However, they also want project managers who can be on site solving problems in the thick of it, which requires industry specific skills such as the practical understanding of building costs and regulations, and managing subtrades. The construction industry mostly views IT project managers as desk-bound problem solvers.

The role of the IT Project Manager is changing and this can work to your advantage. There isn’t such a thing as an “IT project” anymore. Instead, we have business projects that have a technology element, meaning the IT project manager has to be more business, stakeholder and client focused; all traits construction employers are looking for. To appeal to other industries when applying for jobs, highlight how you have solved problems, built relationships, and been client, stakeholder and outcome focused.

How Can I Gain Experience in an Industry I’ve Never Worked In?

Despite all of this, construction companies want project managers to have construction experience and IT companies want project managers to have IT experience. So how do you get around this?

If you are at the start of your project management career, look at options to widen your knowledge base. There is some excellent construction apprenticeships and internships that can provide crucial on-site experience. There are also ways of gaining hands on IT experience that would be equally beneficial to you long term. This will give you a wider knowledge base to start your career from.

If you are more advanced in your project management career you need to look for opportunities within your current role that move you towards the business or client side of project management, reducing your focus on the technical elements of the role (i.e technology or construction). Then when it is time to move industries, you can apply for roles in that industry that are business focused, where you can sell your transferable skills.

Project Management Institute also provide several professional development opportunities and certifications to help aspiring project managers to build upon their skills, so that they can meet future demands of the market. I also recommend that you attend this year’s Project Management Conference so you can connect with key industry leaders and potential employers who will be looking for the next wave of talented people.


New Zealand has an incredibly unique and dynamic project management market so it will always pay off to safeguard your career against whatever may happen next. Whilst all the above suggestions are great places to get started, speak to me today or come find me at the PMI Conference to find out how OCG can help you to future-proof your project management career.
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