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DCE Magazine

Project Management: A World of Opportunities

Spring 2021

Hiring has been steady and looks to increase significantly, with more companies opting to seek remote workers.

Few careers are as coveted, versatile, and transferable as that of the project manager. It’s no wonder that a Project Management certificate is one of the most highly sought-after education credentials today. UCI Division of Continuing Education’s program has long been considered the gold standard for PM education, preparing professionals for this rewarding and lucrative career since 1994. But lately, you might be asking yourself what the outlook is for PMs during, say, a brutal once-in-a-century pandemic that has shuttered businesses worldwide?

Turns out it’s surprisingly robust, with businesses already preparing for explosive economic growth in a post-COVID world, said Karen Nguyen, advisory committee member and program instructor.

“The hiring outlook for project managers is very positive, definitely picking up, and many companies are already gearing up for a post-pandemic world,” she said. “A lot of the lessons we learned during the downturn will help us perform more effectively moving forward. For one thing, working remotely is a trend that’s here to stay, and that’s a very positive development.”

Difficult situations often result in positive change. In this case, it’s the realization that a remote workforce isn’t just a temporary pandemic necessity — it offers clear benefits, especially for the ever-agile project manager. Free from the confines of office space, they can think globally, be more flexible, and conduct Zoom meetings with clients and co-workers all over the world.

The new work-from-home landscape allows PMs to reinvent themselves and how they manage, to say nothing of eliminating long, draining commutes. A highly successful educator, entrepreneur and international consultant, Nguyen believes there has never been a better time to become a project manager.

Working remotely has nudged project managers into a more creative, agile approach, a shift that is essential to success in today’s environment. “More than ever, project managers have to think more creatively,” she said. “That’s one of the key points I stress to my students. Project managers today have more freedom to stretch themselves.”

Virtual opportunities

When it comes time to launch a job search, the virtual workspace opens a wealth of opportunities that stretch far beyond the local area. Businesses are starting to see the benefits of a remote workforce, even corporate giants that once shunned the idea. In fact, according to a recent survey from Harvard Business School, at least 16 percent of American workers will switch from professional offices to working at home at least two days per week as a result of COVID-19.

“I’ve seen that more companies are advertising that they’re open to remote employees,” Nguyen said. “They understand the value of having an agile, virtual workplace. Even Silicon Valley giants like Facebook and highly sought out employment websites such as Glassdoor and Indeed have dedicated websites to recruit workers for remote positions both domestically and internationally.”

Even during these challenging times, some fields are seeing strong demand for PMs, especially companies in the healthcare, construction, finance, and technology sectors, said UCI DCE’s Career Educator Dakota Serafin.

“The healthcare industry is booming during these times, and while the construction and finance sectors are doing well, they’re looking to increase their hiring quite a bit as 2021 progresses,” Serafin said. “And when we reach the postpandemic phase, the travel industry will be doing a lot of hiring as well.”

To help professionals from all industries and at all stages of their career with their career search, UCI DCE offers a wide range of free resources online. From video tutorials to handy how-to guides, career seekers can access these tools anytime, anywhere. To view all resources available, visit Career Services.

A certified success

The DCE Project Management certificate program covers all principles, theories and practices laid out in the latest edition of A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide), the industry standard for PMs. After completing the 12-unit program in 6-12 months, students will be qualified to sit for the Project Management Professional® Exam. Recognized worldwide, the PMP® certification sets the standard for excellence in project management.

Taught by experienced professionals, the program is designed for newcomers as well as current managers looking to take their careers to the next level. Each course addresses a different stage or aspect of project management, from launch to execution, with each instructor drawing on their areas of expertise.

Nguyen’s Presentation Skills course gives students the opportunity to give presentations, interact in virtual class discussions and gain proficiency in using visual aids to provide maximum impact for their message. She encourages her students to be creative and stretch themselves — key skillsets for success in today’s virtual landscape.

More than ever, she believes that project managers need to promote a positive, upbeat environment for their team to maximize productivity — no surprise for someone who created a successful consulting company called Exploratori Corporation, Inc. in the middle of the pandemic. She and her mentor and fellow instructor Marty Wartenberg have been touring their Happy High-Performance Teams course since summer of 2020. Nguyen believes that a happy team is a successful one, and even small gestures can go a long way to achieving that goal.

“Something as simple as a daily verbal thank you or decorated stocking with a Starbucks gift card inside can show appreciation for team members, recognize accomplishments and help promote a positive, productive virtual workplace,” Nguyen said. “It costs very little but makes a big impact on morale.”

Nguyen stresses that the pandemic has caused a major pendulum shift that opens a world of opportunity for PMs working remotely. The demand for flexibility in where and how people work has created a revolutionary change around the world. Project managers need to embrace and reinvent themselves to think outside the box, she said.

“I strongly urge my students to stop thinking on a national scale and start thinking globally, to stretch themselves and be brave.” She added, “Think strategically and always keep moving forward. And most of all, think creatively!”

Learn more about the Project Management Certificate Program.