Navigating Layoffs And Bouncing Back Seamlessly: Real-World Advice From A Project Manager

Workers walk at Cementa's Slite plant in Slite

Layoffs are painful, but – especially in today’s economic climate – they can be inevitable. Earlier this year, I was one of the tens of thousands of workers at technology companies across the U.S. who were impacted by layoffs. And while setbacks like this are beyond your control, what matters is how you respond.

Fortunately, there are many resources out there to help project managers in a similar situation. By leveraging the resources available to me, as well as my professional network, I successfully rebounded – and so can you. In this article, I’ll share my first-hand experience and advice on how project managers can prepare themselves for unexpected layoffs and bounce back seamlessly.

Here are three actions to consider taking when facing a layoff (or the possibility of it):

  1. Leverage Professional Networks for Support: In today’s uncertain job market, one of the most valuable assets a professional can have is a strong network and support system. This is where professional organizations come into play. These organizations have nationwide – sometimes global – networks of industry leaders and professionals who can quickly point you to relevant job openings and make important introductions. Plus, the emotional support and mentorship these networks provide can be a lifeline during challenging times.

In my own professional journey, my memberships with Project Management Institute (PMI) and Women of Project Management allowed me to access communities of like-minded professionals who understood the unique challenges I was facing.

Being a part of these organizations provided me with the motivation I needed to stay resilient, and I was able to tap into a network of professionals who were well-connected in their respective industries. In response to layoffs, PMI has recently launched its own Career Transition website, which shares tips for professionals on securing their next job and initiating self-reflection to determine their best new career path.

  1. Continuous Learning Through Certification: In a competitive job market, investing in continuous learning through certification programs can provide professionals with a distinct advantage. Professional certification – such as the PMP® or PMI-ACP® – enhances your resume, adds credibility, and showcases your knowledge and expertise. Certifications demonstrate your aptitude and commitment to potential employers and help you stay relevant in the ever-changing business landscape.

As a certified Project Management Professional (PMP®), I recognize the impact my certification has had on my career trajectory and I firmly believe that in the past, when it has come down to myself and another candidate, my certification has helped me secure an interview.

  1. Be Open-Minded: One remarkable aspect of project management is its versatility – it transcends industry boundaries. I can personally attest to this, as my project management background allowed me to successfully transition from the tech industry to my current role in finance.

Project management skills are in high demand – in fact, PMI data shows we’ll need 25 million new project managers by 2030. As organizations across industries recognize the value of effective project execution, that demand will only increase. Regardless of industry, the ability to lead projects, manage teams, and deliver results is a highly sought-after skill set.

If you are a project manager – or interested in becoming one – project management expertise can serve as a solid foundation for future career transitions or pivots, offering professionals the flexibility to explore diverse opportunities and leverage their skill set in new and exciting ways.

Layoffs always seem like a setback, but treat them like an opportunity. If you’ve been working in your industry for a long time, perhaps it’s time for a change. With project management experience – and, ideally, a professional certification that helps you stand out from other candidates – the sky is truly the limit when it comes to where your career can take you next.

Reflecting on my own personal journey as a certified project manager who bounced back from a layoff, my story is a testament to the power of professional memberships, certifications, and the versatility of project management as a profession.

I encourage other professionals facing layoffs – or who simply feel it’s time for a change – to consider these strategies for propelling their careers forward. While the emotional toll of a job loss is not to be understated, these actions can empower professionals to overcome the challenge of a layoff and stand out in a competitive job market.

During times of uncertainty, professional networks, continuous learning, and certifications become potent tools that enable professionals not only to survive but also to thrive. By tapping into these resources, individuals can navigate the challenges of layoffs with resilience, adaptability, and the determination to emerge stronger than ever.

Ordonna Sargeant is a PMP® Certified Project Manager

Ordonna Sargeant
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