With an unemployment rate of 3.5% and a projected growth for project managers to be around 7% around 2030, it might seem odd to be talking about PMP certification in a recession and the potential layoffs of certified project managers.  Recent economic trends point to economic contraction.  With inflation at 7.1% the Federal Reserve Board is consistently raising the target federal funds rate to bring inflation to a target rate of 2% resulting in a likely economic contraction over the next six months.  Indeed, we are seeing just that with almost daily layoff announcements within the tech industry.

A significant percentage of project managers work in the tech industry.  This makes them vulnerable to losing their jobs when this industry contracts.

The insights come from over 35 years working with businesses, government as well individuals seeking our help getting certified. During this time, we have seen booming labor markets and dealt with the fallout from major recessions including 2008 financial collapse and the 2020 Covid meltdown. This is not a scientific analysis by any means.  We gleaned these insights from conversations with customers and clients.

On this page:

  1. Layoffs in the Tech Industry
  2. How Layoffs Work
  3. Eliminating the Position not the Person
  4. PMP Certification as a Layoff Consideration
  5. What Value Does the PMP Bring to Finding a New Job?

Layoffs in the Tech Industry

As of January 3 2023, there have been over 150,000 layoffs in the tech industry, including 11,000 at Meta, and 18,000 at Amazon. Many of these layoffs are due over ambitious hiring during Covid. (Salesforce to terminate 10% of its workforce).

Regardless of the reason, despite a robust work environment and even a worker shortage in many areas, there is a significant potential for job losses in the tech industry.  Some have called this a white-collar recession.

How Layoffs Work

There is no good or bad way to lay off a portion of a company’s workforce.  There are better ways and worse ways.  No one sits at home rubbing their hands together looking forward to Friday when they get to sit down with a bunch of employees and tell them they’re getting the boot, or worse, sending out the mass email.  Did I mention the worse way?

The rule of thumb is that you do not terminate people, you eliminate positions. In a perfect world it’s not personal.  You’re look at an organization chart and decide on positions to eliminate regardless of who is in them.  Sometimes, in the real world, this is just window dressing designed to paper over a job elimination process that is inherently biased.

It can result in good hardworking people being let go while other less productive or devoted workers remain.  Occasionally, whole programs are eliminated and everyone in them is terminated – good and bad. So where does PMP Certification fit into this?

Eliminating the Position not the Person

A large employer needs to make sure that force reduction decisions are fair and do not discriminate against any protected classes within its work force.  The best way to do this is by identifying objective criteria and applying them uniformly to all company employees in a non-discriminatory manner.

Say you are the head of a PMO and are told to reduce your workforce by 10%.  How do you decide who stays and who goes? One way would be to identify your most senior project managers and use that as the basis for retention.  Newest hires go first. This could be problematic.  The terminations will most likely fall most heavily on more junior project managers.  You could be gutting the future of your department.

You could develop criteria who for selecting the best project managers for retention – those that handled the most projects, on time and within budget.  At first this may look objective, but it invites a more detailed factual analysis.

Often the best, most experienced, project managers are assigned to the most difficult or political projects, or they are parachuted into projects that are in trouble. Because of this, they might not show the best results.

PMP Certification as a Layoff Consideration

PMP Certification as a criterion for termination can be objective.  First of all, assuming it is open to all employees who qualify, it is a clear objective criterion for retaining employees.  PMP Certification requires a certain level of experience and demands a level of competency to pass the exam.  Of course, it’s not perfect.  There may be some superstar project managers who feel that they don’t need certification; however, it does provide a good criterion for deciding who a company should retain.

An even better criteria is to work CAPM into the analysis for more junior project managers.  A level of retention or termination for project managers qualifying for each of the certifications.

Certification can work for the employee’s benefit as well – especially those in a protected class.  An employee in a protected class, who has the PMP Certification, gains the protection of that certification about termination decisions.  A firm wishing to terminate that employee needs to come up with some other reason if the employee has the certification.  That other reason will necessarily come under scrutiny.  “I have the same certification as the project manager sitting next to me, so why was I terminated, and they weren’t?”  That decision would be subject to further inquiry.

What Value Does the PMP Bring to Finding a New Job?

Assume you are terminated.  In some cases, companies allow you to apply for jobs within the same company.  Other times, you are out in the marketplace.

In either case, you are competing with other project managers for the same position.  Most ads for project managers state that the certification is preferred but not required.

Certified project managers typically earn 16% more than non-certified project managers.  The short answer is that certification is an advantage when looking for a job.

Getting and Maintaining Your PMP Certification

Whether you are in the job market or in a firm that is terminating project managers, having a PMP Certification is an asset for keeping your job or obtaining a new one.  It shows that you have a level of competence and that you have a commitment to the project management profession.

RMC Learning Solutions has everything you need to obtain and maintain your PMP Certification.  If you need assistance obtaining PMP Certification products or want to take one of our courses, please contact us.