The Next Career Step for a Project Manager: (3) Exploring Diagonal Paths

As project managers, we are driven by our aspirations for growth and advancement in our careers. While the traditional career path of climbing the hierarchical ladder has its appeal, like becoming a program manager or line manager as we have seen in the previous articles of this series, there exists a more daring and rewarding approach – exploring diagonal paths. Diagonal moves involve stepping out of our comfort zones and embracing diverse challenges that may not seem directly aligned with our current roles. In this article, we will delve into the benefits of exploring these uncharted paths as project managers and how they can lead us to the next level in our careers.

The Power of Diagonal Paths

Exploring diagonal paths means venturing into unexplored territories and seizing opportunities that may not follow the conventional trajectory. Instead of moving horizontally within the same domain or industry, or strictly vertically up the corporate ladder, project managers can benefit from these diagonal moves. Here are some examples of how diagonal paths can elevate our careers:

  1. Embracing New Industries: Transcend the boundaries of your current expertise and venture into different industries. This lateral move exposes you to fresh perspectives, broadens your skillset, and positions you as a versatile and adaptable professional.
  2. Leading Diverse Projects: Embrace projects that challenge your expertise and push you beyond your comfort zone. Managing diverse projects enables you to cultivate innovative problem-solving skills and enhances your ability to tackle complex challenges.
  3. Seeking Unconventional Leadership Roles: Consider leadership positions that may not appear directly related to your project management background. These roles offer unique opportunities to enhance your leadership capabilities and broaden your influence.

Preparing for Company Career Path Prerequisites

One strategic advantage of embracing diagonal moves is how they serve as effective preparation for meeting company career path prerequisites. Many organizations have specific requirements for higher-level roles, and pursuing diagonal paths can help you fulfill these prerequisites. Here are some examples:

  1. Going Abroad: Companies often value international experience when considering candidates for leadership positions. Embracing diagonal moves such as working on international projects or seeking assignments abroad can give you an edge when applying for roles that require a global perspective.
  2. Moving to a New Department: Internal mobility is highly regarded by companies seeking leaders with diverse experiences. By exploring diagonal moves and transitioning to different departments, you demonstrate your versatility and adaptability, making you an attractive candidate for future leadership positions.
  3. Moving to a New Division: Companies often seek leaders who understand the organization from various angles. Embracing diagonal moves within the same organization, but in different divisions, allows you to gain a holistic understanding of the company’s operations, making you a valuable asset for future leadership roles.

The Benefits of Exploring Diagonal Paths

While exploring diagonal paths can be both thrilling and challenging, the benefits are undeniable. Here are some of the significant advantages project managers can gain from this career approach:

  1. Personal Growth and Adaptability: Diagonal moves expose you to new experiences and environments, fostering personal growth and increasing your adaptability to change.
  2. Skill Diversification: Engaging in diverse challenges helps you develop a wide range of competences, making you a well-rounded and sought-after professional.
  3. Expanded Network: As you explore diagonal paths, you build connections with professionals from various backgrounds, expanding your network and opening doors to new opportunities.
  4. Enhanced Confidence: Successfully navigating these uncharted paths boosts your confidence in your abilities, empowering you to take on more significant challenges.

Making the Leap

While embracing diagonal paths requires courage and planning, the rewards can be extraordinary. Here are some steps to consider when making the leap:

  1. Define Your Career Vision: Clarify your long-term career goals and identify the skills and experiences needed to achieve them.
  2. Research and Networking: Explore different industries and roles that align with your interests. Seek advice and insights from professionals who have taken similar paths.
  3. Invest in Continuous Learning: Identify any skill gaps and invest in further education or training to prepare for new challenges.
  4. Seek Mentorship and Support: Engage with mentors, colleagues, or friends who can offer guidance and support as you navigate diagonal paths.

Summary and practical tip:

Exploring diagonal paths as project managers opens up a world of opportunities for personal and professional growth. By venturing beyond the conventional, we gain diverse experiences that enrich our skillset and prepare us for greater leadership roles. Moreover, embracing diagonal moves can effectively prepare us to meet the prerequisites of our company’s career paths, positioning us as strong contenders for future advancements. As you consider your next career step, remember that embracing these uncharted paths can lead to extraordinary opportunities and propel you toward a fulfilling and successful future. So, dare to embrace the challenge, and let the power of diagonal moves elevate your career to new heights.

Practical tip: Get to know what are the prerequisites for career advancement in your company or in your target company and, from the options presented, take the one that you would like to try first and consider staying during 3 years at least. Mastery comes by dedicating at least 10,000 hours (3-5 years) on a particular domain.

Wishing You a Fa-Bu-Lux Life 🙂

You can know more about “Project Your Life” through the:

📕  Amazon (FREE preview): link

🌐  Book website (book delivery only possible for Portugal): link


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