4TREND > BIG JOB CUTS
These are dark days to be unemployed.
For awhile, project managers seemed
fairly bullet-proof in these recessionary
times. But from construction in the
United Arab Emirates to IT in the
United States, industries once teeming
with projects and opportunities are now
drying up. The bleak economy is causing
many companies to put projects on hold,
and project managers have become
prime candidates for layoffs.
Project managers in construction were
among the first to feel the pinch, according to John Thorpe, managing director of
Arras People, a project management
recruiting firm in London, England.
“Construction was hit right at the
beginning,” he says. “New building
projects froze and people stopped buying.
Even in places like Dubai, United Arab
Emirates, which had been experiencing
massive growth, the market is tightening
up and the big global project management companies are letting people go.”
Also, a flood of project management
practitioners with financial services backgrounds have been looking for work in
recent months, Mr. Thorpe says.
They’re not alone in their job anxieties, according to Project Management
Benchmark Report 2009, an Arras survey
of 1,200 U.K. project professionals
conducted last December and January.
The report revealed that 16 percent
of respondents anticipated major cuts
The benefits of
the minor cost
—Dave Wilkes, Novell, Provo, Utah, USA
in project management personnel in
2009, with 43 percent expecting
staffing reductions at the very least.
Contractors are in equally bad shape,
with 28 percent predicting their rates
will fall in 2009. Nearly 70 percent
reported a lack of opportunity as the
biggest challenge in the coming year—
compared with 52 percent a year ago.
But Mr. Thorpe is not completely
“The market for project managers
right now is 60 percent of what it was in
early 2008, which means there are still
opportunities,” he says. “As in any period
of time, there will be winners and there
The winners will be the ones who
can position their experiences and skill
sets to attract the attention of hiring
companies. “The jobs may be harder to
find, but they are out there for the right
people,” Mr. Thorpe says.
Because of economic uncertainties,
the most experienced professionals are
sticking where they feel safe. That’s creating opportunities for interim and
contract professionals while organizations look for the right candidates for
“A lot of people who may otherwise
have been thinking about making a
change are staying put because of the
risk of changing jobs in a tough economy,”
he says. “That means the quality of the
talent pool may not be as good as it is in
Mr. Thorpe predicts the public sector
will be the place where the most opportunities will arise for project managers in
the coming year, as many countries—
including the United States, China,
Peru and Australia—release money from
massive stimulus packages for infrastructure projects.
“All of these projects require project
managers,” he says. “The market hasn’t
dried up. For those with good skill sets,
there are still going to be jobs.”
Mr. Thorpe urges project managers
looking for work to pay close attention to
their résumés and to focus on experience.