After spending 17 years working in a large multinational Financial Services company in various project and operational management roles, I decided to take a year-long career break.
During that break, I completed an MSc in Financial Services and also had the time to reflect on how frantic my working life had been. I tend to set very high standards for myself (with the exception of exercise and household chores!) and always want to be the best I can possibly be in order to reach my maximum potential.
I realised that pushing myself hard all the time had served me well and helped me progress in my career, but that same strong work ethic and ambition, coupled with a 4 hour daily round-trip commute, had probably left me feeling burnt out.
When I started to think about a return to the workplace and what my next role would be, Confucius’ saying was ringing in my ears “Find a job you love and you will never work a day in your life”. This was the first problem to resolve, what was it I actually loved doing?
This is a question I have always struggled with as it relates to my career. I have a tendency to get stuck into a role and if I am performing well I tend to stay at it without ever challenging myself to assess whether I am actually happy doing the role. So rather than identify what role I wanted, I decided to identify a role that would play to my strengths, as that would surely have the potential to become a role I could love.
I quickly discarded the first few strengths that came to mind, shopping, socialising and making my friends and family laugh, none of these were ever going to pay the bills! The other strengths which seemed to offer potential were planning, organisational skills, communication, negotiation, influencing and an ability to work well under pressure.
When I put these together, it seemed like project management was the type of role that my strengths would serve me well in. I had worked as a PM for many years in financial services without realising it was my calling, perhaps because I wasn’t a pure PM in the sense I also had operational management responsibilities so my time was split between both project management and operational roles.
I happened to meet Pat Lucey, Aspira CEO, who advised that I should consider getting a project management qualification as companies tend to look for suitably qualified PMs. I did some research and concluded that PMP (Project Management Professional) and PRINCE2 accreditations were both highly reputed in this field, giving potential employers the confidence that I had the proper level of understanding of the key project management concepts and how to apply them.
PRINCE2 is a process-based project management method that offers a systematic approach to delivering projects whilst PMP is based on generally accepted best practices as defined by a large pool of experts from diverse industries and backgrounds.
Although both disciplines include teachings on tailoring their theory to your project and company’s needs, I felt PMP was less prescriptive and therefore more relevant to a larger number of industries. Industry studies also have shown that certified PM’s earn more than their non-certified counterparts. The decision was made, I was going to get myself a PMP qualification.
Tune in to part 2 of this blog next week to see how I got on!
Author: Gillian Whelan, Project Manager, Aspira