9 Ways To Get Ahead In Your Project Management Career


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Project Management CareerOne common question I’ve always had when looking at successful people is “what is that you do that’s given you this success?”. One day I imagined, out of a whim, “what if I am asked the same?”.

Silly, sure. But it got me to think. And a little bit of self-discovery. And this little discovery has stood me in good stead.

In this post I am sharing few points from my own experience that has helped me. No, I have not mastered any of these, but keeping these in mind has sure benefited me more than once.

1. Cutting back on unnecessary tasks

Most of us start the day with emails. With 80-20 rule, about 20% of all the mails received are important for the business. Rest 80% is irrelevant. Still, we end up spending way more time going through all the mails, giving in to the urge of responding to all mails and ‘clearing’ the inbox. In the process we lose very crucial productive time of the morning. Focus on important tasks, issues and ideas instead.

2. Being organized

Being organized makes it easy to work on multiple tasks together, which is such a crucial part of project manager’s daily life. When PM is organized and is able to work on multiple tasks successfully it rubs on to the team, and they look up to the PM.

Gaining respect of the team is a great way to positively influence the team.

Read about the soft-skills required for project manager, here.

3. Being proactive

This quality cannot be stressed enough. The more proactive PM is better she will be able to manage uncertainties. Being proactive means foreseeing problems as well as opportunities.

One way to foresee problems and opportunities is to look for symptoms. For instance, if a talkative team member is suddenly goes silent, there might be something bothering her. This, if related to work, needs to be addressed immediately so her performance isn’t affected. Worst, she may be thinking of quitting. A timely intervention by the PM to address any brewing issues will pay huge dividends for the project.

4. Never giving up when going gets tough

As they say ‘attitude determines one’s altitude’.

By mentally not giving up we send out a strong signal to ourselves that we are in it to win it. This focuses our mind into finding solution. This might save you tons of wasted time and productivity and win plenty of appreciation from customer and senior management.

It is always best to ask for advice and help when going gets tough. Having a mentor, especially within the organization, may help during such situations. The best thing to do before seeking help is to analyze the situation well, assess pros and cons of the solution alternatives you are thinking of and being prepared with the relevant facts and figures.

5. Getting certified

You better know all the rules of the game in order to play it to win it. Not many organizations have systematized project management processes.

What would happen if one doesn’t realize that she needs to have project charter in order to start on a project as its PM? A professional certification helps understand all that is involved in managing a project. It avoids pitfalls that might prove to be expensive later.

At the same time, we must understand that just getting certified is NOT a replacement for the experience. Experience teaches us lessons, gives insights and toughens us from inside that no external certification or courses can.

6. Being able to wear multiple hats

A good PM wears many hats. She can be a friend, mentor, go-to person and leader.

A PM needs to be the product person with customer, project manager and mentor with team, business person with senior management. This means changing the perspective towards the project, understanding all aspects of it, and presenting the information to relevant people in the way they expect it can be a real asset for a project manager to have.

And such project manager a real asset to the organization.

7. Being a human being first, everything else later

This might sound like a cliche, but there is truth. After all under the designations and roles we don we are all human beings. People with aspirations, pains and pleasures. Everyone has good and bad times, a PM must be able to look at situation from the perspective of other people.

For a junior a simple problem might be a blocker, for the CEO a timely given piece of information can save a deal and make his life easier. Being able to understand others’ situation and responding to it accordingly will be a very useful attribute for a PM to possess.

8. Knowing where you want to go in your career

…2 yrs down the line, 5, 10 yrs.

This is crucial for one’s career. Even if it is being a project manager for rest of one’s career, having a goal and making plans to achieve it is important.

9. Communication, more so Listening

Being able to articulate well is a definite asset for the PM, but being able to listen actively is of paramount importance. Lot can be communicated by listening attentively. Just listening to someone can at times solve problems.

Read about project related communication, here.

“To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.”

– Anthony Robbins

Here’s a Wikipedia image about degrees of active listening. This in my personal experience has been the most important part of project management.

Degrees of Active Listening

Sure there is more to what gets one success. What are the attributes in your experience that contribute to success in project manager’s career? Do share in the comments below.

Image courtesy: Aristocrats-hat

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