5 ways to launch your career in project management

Project Management has grown rapidly as a professional discipline, particularly over the last 10 years with the introduction of new techniques and methodologies aimed at improving successful outcomes, or working in a more agile way, or reducing risk, or maximising returns.  So you would like to progress your career?  Maybe secure a new position?  Manage larger projects?  Move industries?  Great, but where do you start?

1. Get yourself a recognised qualification

Although training and qualifications cannot alone make you a good project manager, they do provide an excellent foundation for effectively managing projects, and also give those around you confidence that you know what you are talking about.  Don’t underestimate the confidence that this gives your colleagues and customers.  Whether you opt for PRINCE2, PRINCE2 Agile or PMI’s Project Management Professional they will not make you a better project manager alone.  That will come with time and application, tailoring and adjusting based on experience and lessons learned.  Get yourself a professional qualification and build on that solid foundation.

2. Don’t blindly follow a methodology….. tailor

Leading project management methodologies like PRINCE2 are very thorough and provide a framework for managing projects successfully whatever their size and complexity.  However, it is paramount that you tailor the methodology to suit your project and the project environment.  If you tailor appropriately, you will have a structure that is streamlined and sized to meet your needs.  If you fail to tailor, you will end up with a heavy, slow, less relevant and cumbersome methodology and you will run the risk of alienating your project team.  The result? They may abandon the structures you are implementing to try to manage the project and you certainly don’t want that! Keep things relevant and spend the time to tailor the methodology up front, and regularly review this throughout your project.

3. Take responsibility

As a project manager you need to take responsibility.  Don’t shy away from difficult projects. Don’t throw the towel in just as things start to get hard. You need to hold your nerve and you need to be bold with your actions.  When things get tough, it is too easy to blame someone (or something) else for the issues the project faces.  Setbacks in a project are normal, so work with your team and key stakeholders to find solutions and keep the project moving forwards. Get their support and map out options and recommendations for corrective action.  This resilience will stand you in good stead, and before you know it your reputation for being able to manage during difficult times will grow.

4. Bring the team with you

As a project manager, you are central to the relationships within your team.  Get it right, and you will have a high performing team.  Get it wrong and brace yourself for chaos. Successfully delivering a project requires the contribution of each member of the team.  Be nice (but firm) and focus on bringing (and keeping) the team together.  This is energy well spent, as a fragmented team with lack of direction can be extremely disruptive.  There will be disconnects and communication issues at some point along the journey, but address these in a positive way rather than brushing them under the carpet in the hope that they will go away.  Trust your team, tap into their expertise and treat everyone with respect. Your reputation and career will flourish as you build your people network.

5.  Communicate your project and your career aspirations

Make sure you clearly communicate regularly to both your key stakeholders and your team.  Use the right language to match your audience.  If you’re speaking to senior stakeholders, make sure you describe your project in terms that they can easily relate to, such as return on investment, payback period, financial savings, etc.. This group will have significant influence in your career advancement, so don’t miss the opportunity to put your best foot forward. Be clear about your career goals, and don’t be shy about communicating these to your boss, peers, mentor(s) and teams. They can call help you to get what you want.

Written by: Nigel Galloway


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