“All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure.”
– Mark Twain
Priya Pai is a medical doctor by profession. She was born and raised in India but decided to emigrate to pursue new opportunities and a better quality of life. When I first talked to her, she had been in Canada for just four months. She wouldn’t be able to practice medicine until she was able to fulfill Canadian qualifications, a process that would take years, as the field is regulated. So, she threw herself into a multi-faceted approach to live her new life to the fullest. I found her approach to managing her new circumstances awe-inspiring. As we were chatting, it occurred to me that her experiences transitioning from her past life in India to a new life in Canada were similar to the journey all project and change managers make, in fact all project focussed professions make, when they wrap up one project and move on to the next. She was transitioning to the next project!
Here are the twenty things Priya is pursuing to help her transition, in no particular order. I think it is good advice for anyone going through a sizeable personal change.
- Be flexible, resilient – Entering new circumstances necessitates an openness to new or changing opportunities and an ability to bounce back when things don’t go as planned.
- Play it forward – When someone helps you out, return the favour and extend it to others. Good intent and good deeds contribute to good karma and future happiness.
- Share knowledge and experience – Helping others learn and grow will help you learn and grow in turn. One way Priya is supporting others is as a moderator on WhatsApp forums for new immigrants.
- Build your network, connect with people – Take an interest in others, in their lives, careers, interests and beliefs, in how they can help you grow and adapt and how you can help them in turn. Exchange business cards, Linkedin contacts, Facebook friends. Work to keep the relationships alive.
- Focus on customers – Regardless of what position you hold or what role you are playing, always keep the customer’s needs front and center.
- Listen actively – Really listen when others communicate – verbally, facial expressions, body language. Show concern for and attention to other people.
- Don’t be desperate – Show a balanced interest in opportunities and the associated issues and risks. Make your interests and aspirations clear. Don’t just accept whatever is available.
- Deliver your elevator pitch – Develop a concise description of you, your capabilities or your ideas that will fit in one sentence you can deliver in a 30 second elevator ride. Use it frequently. It’s a great way to get the right kind of attention.
- Work on soft skills – The hard skills are necessary but often not sufficient to get that ideal position or opportunity. Soft skills, like communication, leadership, self-motivation, attitude and teamwork are vital as well.
- Be trustworthy – Those who are honest, informed and objective are a most valued commodity.
- Take advantage of courses and available information – Information is power. Priya is taking courses offered by all levels of government, colleges and universities, non-profits and encouraging others to do so.
- Do research – Before and after arrival, in the new country or the new job, find out as much as you can about the new environment, the players, the common practices and the pitfalls.
- Seek out expertise – Find people who are willing to share their knowledge and experience. Most people love sharing their insights with others. Just ask.
- Grow – Get out of your comfort zone. Recognize that new experiences will be challenging at times. Be prepared to make mistakes, acknowledge them and learn from them.
- Be prepared to make sacrifices – Setting your priorities and committing time, effort and energy to them is essential. Priya’s much loved grandmother passed away shortly after she left India but she wasn’t able to return for the funeral because of other commitments.
- Have goals – As Yogi Berra, the New York Yankee catcher once said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” Priya’s goals are to found a cardiac center along the lines of the Peter Munk Cardiac Center in Toronto, to launch a restaurant chain serving healthy, appetizing food and to start a gym to help people get and stay in shape. I look forward to attending the ribbon cutting ceremonies.
- Be patient – This is a journey, to a new place, a new job or new assignment. Recognize that it will take some time.
- Learn – The journey will need building and honing of skills and capabilities, insights and aptitudes. Continuously. The world never stops. Learning shouldn’t either.
- Work hard – Success seldom comes without intense, sustained effort. No pain, no gain.
- Take action – Make decisions and carry them out. Learn from your mistakes. Achieve results that will take you in the direction you want to go, towards the goals you want to achieve.
Those are Priya’s twenty points. However, the magnitude of a project manager’s transition can vary dramatically, from moving to a new project within the same organization to changing countries, industries, organizations, stakeholders, practices and technologies. So, judge your approach accordingly. Use Priya’s points as a checklist. Consider which items are most important to your move and focus on those. Don’t hesitate to revisit the list regularly to ensure you’re covering all the bases. If you discover additional areas you need to address, add those to the list. If you want to subdivide some of the points, feel free. In Priya’s case, like many others who move to other countries looking for new opportunities and new challenges and move out of their comfort zone, I expect her transition will be time consuming and challenging. She’ll probably be adding more points as her journey progresses. We wish her well. Most importantly, Priya’s twenty points will help anyone make the transition to a new state more effectively.
Finally, thanks to everyone who has willingly shared their experiences for presentation in this blog. Everyone benefits. First time contributors get a copy of one of my books. Readers get insights they can apply to their own unique circumstances. So, if you have a project experience, a favorite best practice, or an interesting insight that can make a PM’s life easier, send me the details and we’ll chat. I’ll write it up and, when you’re happy with the results, we will post it so others can learn from your insights. Thanks
Drew Davison is the owner and principal consultant at Davison Consulting and a former system development executive. He is the developer of Project Pre-Check, an innovative framework for launching projects and guiding successful project delivery, the author of Project Pre-Check – The Stakeholder Practice for Successful Business and Technology Change and Project Pre-Check FastPath – The Project Manager’s Guide to Stakeholder Management. He works with organizations that are undergoing major business and technology change to implement the empowered stakeholder groups critical to project success. Drew can be reached at email@example.com.