Get Recognized by Upper Management and Earn More

If you’re a project manager, chances are you see an end game to your earning potential, unless you have plans to move into finance or some other higher paying industry. Now don’t get me wrong…project managers can make some decent money, especially technical PM’s. Still, earning more money through a rate increase, bonus incentive, title change, or other promotion would be ideal for many project managers. This idea of promotion in your field is what I’d like to share with you.

It’s not just about more money. It’s also about having more influence, more responsibility, and being in a position to mentor others. While some are completely content in their PM role, others want to add more to it and see what else they can do with their skills and talents.

Project managers actually have similar skills as CEO’s, but rarely come up their career path into such a role as often as operations, marketing, or sales managers do. These people are almost always more visible because they either bring in revenue or save the company money.

There are many potential reasons why PM’s are not promoted as quickly. I’ll discuss a couple of these potential reasons, and then discuss what a project manager can do to up their game.

Time and Money

Project managers can be extremely busy managing relationships, applying positive pressure, putting out fires, communication with clients, etc. that they just don’t have the additional time or energy to put into a personal promotion project. In fact, a survey by the Zweig Group found that “most PM’s (86{80e463235c561985fcb9d065cb7af58becf1df7010d7a45bb4eb7315e5a8b304}) say they feel their level of authority accurately reflects their level of responsibility…and 67 percent of PM’s say they feel their compensation accurately reflects their level of responsibility.” In other words, most PM’s believe they are earning enough for what they do.

Caught in Their Own PM World

The project management world has their own language and business jargon. Unfortunately, the people who are in positions to promote you often are clueless to the language you use. They rarely speak with Agile jargon, or speak about Gannt charts. Theirs is the language of marketing, sales, ROI, and business strategies. For you to get recognized, to catch the attention of management, you need to think and speak their language.

Think and Speak Strategically

Project managers tend to view project completion as the goal of the project. Even with effectively written Agile epics, personas, and stories, a project manager can still be so focused on completing the project on time and on budget that the PM loses sight of the real reason why the project was created in the first place. Also, project managers are typically viewed as belonging to the tactics column of business planning. The executive team creates a strategic vision, and project managers are given the action plan of that vision to carry out.

Catching the attention of upper management or corporate executives can be key in paving a path to promotion. These business leaders are primarily focused on company-wide objectives, departmental goals, marketing, sales, and retention. It’s these people and their ideas and plans that you need to become more aware of. Your activities are often under their radar.
Project managers, or their supervisors, often get to report on project completions, progress, difficulties, etc. You job will be to seek opportunities to be part of those presentations and discussions. While there you will be able to convert your PM language into CEO-speak.

To do this, you must first learn and understand the deeper business objectives of the project. Find out what is the end goal of the project. Usually, it is to improve some aspect of the business so that more revenue is generated or saved. Learn how that end goal fits into the overall goals of the company. These can be learned in published articles, marketing reports, sales presentations, department goals, etc. Take the time to make new or better friends in each department. Learn what goals are driving their activities. Start putting together the puzzle pieces that give you a clearer picture of where upper management is trying to take the company.

Show How Your Efforts Contribute to the Overall Success of the Company

When I say “your efforts,” I mean you and your teams’ collective efforts to help meet the ultimate goals of the company.

Once you demonstrate that you understand the company’s vision and pathway to the near and distant future, and how your area of responsibility helps meet the needs of operations, marketing, and sales, then you will start catching the attention of the promotion givers. They will better appreciate your role as you make the connection for them. With a dash of passion, you will not only show your cross-departmental prowess, you will also show the enthusiasm needed by those positions and earnings you aspire to.

Combine your new way of getting positive attention with this winning mindset of project managers and your promotion path will be unstoppable.

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