You are an experienced DPM, who has worked for a number of years across different industries within a digital sphere, and now you want a change of career direction, maybe making the move from a permanent role to freelance. You want the freedom of working in other digital agencies, with different groups of people so that you can continue your professional development, personal growth and embark on new learnings and opportunities.
You may also find yourself in a career portfolio where DPM is now just one area of your expertise. However, the other areas all contribute to you as a whole and your skills are transferable. This new career path requires a unique set of competencies.
Here are my 5 top tips for building up the proactive skills you need to survive as a freelance DPM…
When you first start out you need to get comfortable with goal setting. It’s about taking purposeful action against clear, specific goals. Being goal-oriented and focused will help you to keep going even in the face of adversity. Stephen Covey stated in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, you must begin with the end in mind. Having a clear career direction at the outset can support you in making decisions to gain the knowledge, skills and experience you need, not just for your current role but for your next role and beyond. Having milestones along your route also means you remain motivated and can hold yourself accountable to smaller goals whilst celebrating success along the way.
To be is to do…never give up. What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals. – Henry David Thoreau
Self-awareness is the key to being proactive; you have clearly identified the experience you have within digital project management and the technical skills that are required. Now comes the tough part, are you aware of your negative reactions and your ‘go to response’ when dealing with challenges? If you are not aware of your natural and potentially negative responses it’s impossible to take the initiative to change them into positive reactions. You will need to know your strengths and weaknesses and why you are likely to respond in a certain way. Being proactive means having complete awareness and therefore mastery over your thoughts, emotions, and beliefs.
One way to increase self-awareness and self-mastery is to mind the gap. Within the fast-paced world of digital agency work the space between stimulus and response is increasingly becoming smaller. You will need to create the space to build awareness, allowing you to have better quality thinking and the freedom to choose a more positive attitude in your response. One great technique to help with developing this mind-set is introducing mindfulness activities into your daily routine. This will help build up the habit needed to shift your perspective of autopilot to being in the moment. Proactively slowing down the mind and the moment can support you in accessing your higher thinking and in the long term changing your natural responses to ones which are proactive and most productive.
You will need to create new strategies, always be thinking a few steps ahead, and plan for the future. Be resourceful, and take the initiative by looking at what is around you, build up a network and nurture your relationships. You will need to reframe your language from ‘there’s nothing I can do’, to a more proactive language such as ‘I have lots of different options… Is there a different approach I can use?’. Getting some grit is about making the most of what you have in the moment whilst preparing for what lies ahead.
Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day-in, day-out. Not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years. And working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint. – Angela Lee Duckworth
Project management within this digital age has changed significantly and in order to survive, stay one step ahead and be respected by the team around you, you will continually need to upskill. According to one recent study some of the top 20 must-have skills for a DPM in 2018 include: copy/content writing and editing, HTML/CSS, information architecture, knowledge of Content Management Systems, SEO and have a positive outlook. (https://blog.hubspot.com/agency/top-20-skills-for-digital-project-managers, Peter Sena) I would take this one step further, I believe there are two major camps DPM’s fall into:
Discovery phase PM’s – specialist skill set required: UX, Content editing – digital strategy, Business analysis, SEO, Information architecture and data structure.
Production/delivery PM’s – specialist skill set required: Website and app testing – automated and manual, script writing, code e.g. Ruby and Python, HTML/CSS, Content Management systems, for example, WordPress or Drupal.
You may find yourself in the fortunate and luxurious position where the digital agency you work for have dedicated roles for the above. However, it is more likely that you will not and you will need to broaden and deepen your understanding and experience in multiple disciplines or at the very least know enough to be able to speak with genuine competence and confidence; ultimately become a T-shaped thinker and doer.
Being proactive starts with self-awareness and grows with willpower and taking responsibility for your actions. It is the key to creating personal happiness and the kind of career and life you desire.
Being a freelance DPM requires a skill set of being creative and having the self-confidenceto sell and brand yourself. You will need to use your experience and skills to confidently go into unknown environments where you will have to assess the situation very quickly and ascertain the dynamics of the team you are working with. You will need to observe your industry and then take the lead. You are an authority in your skills, and your increased self-awareness and newly found self-mastery will provide you the confidence to do this.
Want to know more about the seven soft skills you need to get ahead as a DPM? As well as practical tips you can start to use straight away? Please visit the Digital Project Managers page 🙂