By: Leslie Stevens-Huffman
Maybe you’d like to tackle a difficult project, move into testing or work with stakeholders; so, how can you convince your project manager to give you a shot?
It probably goes without saying that you need to master your current duties before you even think about asking your project manager for more responsibility. However, he or she will be more receptive to your request if you not only stay on top of your work but complete reports or other paperwork without being asked.
“Complete assignments or tasks right away and ask for feedback so I don’t have to follow-up,” said Hemdeep Dulthummon, EIT, PMP, who works for Toyota as a project engineer. “Instead of waiting to be asked, go ahead and complete a confirmation plan if it’s usually required.”
Indeed, project managers appreciate self-sufficient engineering contractors who seem concerned about the project manager’s needs as well as their own, said Samad Aidane, PMP, managing director of NeuroFrontier.com.
“I appreciate it when a contractor points out blind spots or things I’ve missed,” he adds. “Establishing yourself as a contract engineer with a vested interest in the outcome of the project will encourage your project manager to assign you more challenging tasks.”
Once you’ve mastered your domain, you’ve earned the right to ask for more responsibility. Here are the best ways to go about it.
Have the Conversation
Your project manager may not consider you for a different project if he or she is unaware of your engineering background or skills.
The best way to broach the subject is over lunch or coffee or schedule a convenient time to talk. Bring a list of your relevant projects and certifications and be prepared to address your project manager’s concerns, e.g., by having a plan to keep your existing work covered or by training another contractor.
“I’m always asking if I take on more difficult or risky projects,” Dulthummon added. “Once you’ve developed a relationship with your project manager and proven that you’re capable, it’s perfectly acceptable to let them know where you want to go.”
Solve a Problem
Don’t make it seem like all you want is more billable hours, Aidane says. Explain how you can solve a specific problem that you’ve observed – or how you can use your expertise to rescue a troubled project, reduce expenses or appease a grumpy stakeholder.
“Consider budget constraints or other issues your project manager is facing and propose solutions,” Aidane says. “Any time you can increase your project manager’s effectiveness, reduce their workload or lend needed skills to a project, you automatically increase your chances of getting more responsibility.”
Indeed, effective persuaders lead their colleagues to a problem’s shared solution, according to this article in Harvard Business Review. The author, Jay A. Conger, wrote: “Persuasion involves careful preparation, the proper framing of arguments, the presentation of vivid supporting evidence and the effort to find the correct emotional match with your audience.”
So how can you find a pressing problem that needs solving? You’ll want to keep your eyes and ears open. When it comes to getting more responsibility, there’s something to be said for being in the right place at the right time. Of course, it’s not all luck. Some behaviors increase your chances. For instance, show interest in the projects on your radar by attending their stand-up meeting or daily scrum. Or, ask other projects engineers if they need help.
“Volunteering works, especially for contractors,” Dulthummon said. “Sometimes project managers are so busy, that they don’t even realize that the solution to a big problem is sitting in the next cubicle.”
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