Tips for Dealing with the "Bench"
As the economy has slowed in the last few years so have
projects. Projects are being cancelled, or severely down-sized, and this has
led to large numbers of project managers sitting "on the bench"
between projects. There are many ways of catching that next project, but until
you do here are some tips on making your time on the bench as productive as
- Volunteer your time to one of the charitable
organizations in your community. Although I'm not plugging any particular
organization, your United Way is a great place to start because they are
familiar with many charitable organizations in the community. They are familiar
with them because they fund them and if they can't use your help, they'll know
someone who can. Don't let the proximity of the next project dissuade you. Most
of the volunteers at these organizations are employed and volunteer on a part
- Make use of your project management skills on
your volunteer gig. Most charitable organizations will be delighted to be able
to take advantage of your organizational skills and you'll also have the opportunity
to mentor others. You may also have the opportunity to learn on the job. Many
charitable organizations have become experts in the area of setting goals and
objectives and measuring progress
- Use your down-time to sharpen your PM tools.
There are educational opportunities for just about any aspect of project
management you care to mention and they come in a variety of formats. Choose a
subject area most in line with your next project and a product that fits your
budget and learning style. Even if it's only an educational book, your time
won't be wasted and you can also claim PDUs for your course if you are a
- Polish your resume. It might have been
successful at landing that last gig, but unless that was within the last few
months, your resume needs updating. Consider hiring a professional resume
writing service to do a complete re-write. The few hundred dollars you spend on
the professional re-write will make your resume stand out from the crowd.
- Check the market place and tailor your resume
towards those industries that are weathering the storm the best. These days it
seems that the energy sector has weathered the storm, especially in Alberta.
The financial, insurance, and pharmaceutical sectors are also relatively
impervious to the economic downturn.
- Invest some time in maintaining your social
network. Your best shot at your next project will come to you via a lead passed
on to you by a friend. Renew old acquaintances by dusting off your little black
book, your blackberry contact list, or your e-mail contact list. Browse LinkedIn
and update your contacts with old friends who show up as potential contacts
when you review the people you are connected with.
- Check in with the professional associations you
belong to, or check out the associations available to you in your area. These
associations frequently hold social events where your fellow project managers
get together and swap information. It's a great opportunity to pick up leads.
- Don't miss the opportunity to make up for lost
time on the home front. Frequently our projects take time away from family life
due to the urgency of the project, or the travel required. Make up for lost
time by spending more time with your family and friends. Your next project may
be even more demanding so put some quality social time in the bank now, when
you have the opportunity.
We have little control over when we are relegated to the
bench. Projects tend to rise and fall with the tide of the economy but there is
no reason you can't make the time pay some dividends.