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Recession survival tips for project managers

In an economic downturn, project managers have to motivate teams that may be worried and overworked, a situation in which projecting optimism, confidence and an “anything is possible” attitude is a must, according to project management consultant and trainer Michelle LaBrosse. On the reality-check side, LaBrosse recently told me, PMs have to plan ahead more carefully than they ever had to before.

LaBrosse, founder of Cheetah Learning, offered these tips that could help PMs prosper during lean times:

  • PMs who are resourceful, innovative thinkers are desperately needed during a recession, she said. This is the time to lead by example.
  • Assess your projects and commitments to see which are energizing and which are dragging you down. Said LaBrosse: “A simple way to figure it out is to ask yourself: ‘If I had to make the decision today to start this project, would I?’ If the answer is no, stop wasting your valuable resources on it.”
  • Seek out opportunities to do your own formal and informal learning. This isn’t the time to cut back on training. Keep engaging in activities like informational interviews and podcasts to webinars and development courses.
  • This is also a key time to brush the dust off your resume. “Your resume should serve as a timeline of what you’ve been up to,” LaBrosse told not long ago. “It should tell a story about your growth and experiences since your first real job. Look critically at your resume and make sure it weaves a story that sets you apart from others in your industry. What is your unique selling point? Is it that you are a programmer who also worked as a stand-up comedian? That could communicate that you think fast on your feet or you can diffuse situations by using humor. Whatever your story is, make sure it showcases your confidence in being at the top of your game.”
  • Networking is crucial now. Participate in trade associations, like the Project Management Institute. Not only is this the way to gain more skills, it can often be your key to your next job or project. “You need to expand your worldview,” she said.

On her blog, Everyday Project Management, LaBrosse offers these additional tips:

  • Make sure the commitments you are considering pursuing will make sense in another week, another month, and another year. “A good way I have found to do this sense making is with doing a project agreement on goals I am considering pursuing,” she wrote. She offers a free project agreement template, which requires registration.
  • Manage resources so you can complete your projects with a variety of nonfinancial capital, so that you don’t have to wait for the credit markets to unfreeze to finish the project.

LaBrosse’s company, Cheetah Learning, is based in Carson City, Nev., and offers Project Management Professional Exam training and other services.

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