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Project Managers, What's Your Competitive Advantage?
By John P Reiling

The question is, "How can we as professional Project Managers achieve competitive advantage in the marketplace?"

We all owe it to ourselves to periodically assess and re-assess our personal strengths - our skill sets, our natural tendencies, and our position in the market vis a vis these strengths. These form our strategic, or competitive, advantages.

We live in an era of "incestuous specialization" - the phenomenon of organizations seeking, and professionals providing, very narrowly defined skill sets. The challenge is not to define yourself too narrowly, but at the same time to not define yourself too broadly!

But what is too narrow, and what is too broad, and how does that tie in with being a PMP certified professional?

Well, in marketing, defining yourself too narrowly might mean that there are not enough buyers to make it worth your while to market the product. But as an individual selling your skills, you only need to make one sale - at least one sale at any given time.

On the other hand, if your skill set may have a very broad market with lots of buyers - but there also might be an equally large number of sellers, or others with that skill set. Many argue that the market for PMPs is getting to that point, although that really depends on HOW ELSE you define yourself beyond just the PMP.

We need to segment the market of possible employers or clients for our services in the right way, where the market we define puts us squarely in position where our combination of skill sets provides a competitive advantage.

The project management field is a very large and broadly defined. The fact is that project management applies to just about everything, so it is a great skill to have. So, if you are a project manager, the natural question someone might ask is, "A Project Manager of what?"

Here are a few things you might think about to help answer that question:

1. industry or company experience
2. experience in a particular market
3. specific functional experience
4. technical expertise, such as engineering
5. domain expertise

There are many more, but let's just take a look at these for a little bit with some hypothetical examples:

1. You might be the person with project management experience in the aerospace industry. You will probably need to do a little more segmenting of your experience, such as to define if your experience is in engineering, production, or some other aspect - or if that even matters! Adding a PMP or PgMP certification to your credentials could really give you an edge in the market.

2. You may be an IT person with experience in application development. You have managed some projects with success, but want to move up the IT ladder. You are PMP certified and are eager to take further steps. One possibility would be to earn the ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) Foundation certification, as this would complement your current skill set and perhaps qualify you to manage some different types of projects in an IT organization, thus broadening your background and qualifications.

3. You work in a manufacturing environment and have been a certified Project Manager for several years. You want to continue to learn and grow - and to enhance your qualifications in the market. One thing to consider would be earn the Six Sigma Green Belt, which not only applies in manufacturing, but also in other industries. This would provide you with some additional skills, add some confidence, and provide some upward as well as horizontal mobility in your career.

Our career strategies along the way remind me a bit of crossing a stream. We cannot get across the stream in one step, but rather need to step from rock to rock until we finally get across the stream to our destination. The key is to find the commonalities between what you have done and what is needed at that next step, to shore up your qualification with perhaps some fresh training, and take that step.

John Reiling, PMP is a Project Manager, and has also earned an MBA, is a licensed Professional Engineer, has been a certified Application Developer, has had credentials in the environmental industry, and is a Six Sigma Green Belt. John's web sites, Project Management Training Online and Tech Training Online provide PMP, CAPM, ITIL, Six Sigma, PRINCE2, Program Management, Business Analysis, and IT certification online training to help busy professionals maintain a professional competitive advantage.

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