Project management is a diverse career field, however, the people drawn to it often share certain key traits: ambition, perseverance, creative problem-solving and a desire to push themselves to greater heights. And the problem-solving mentality extends beyond work projects and into career development itself.
Whether your project manager career path is just getting started or you're considering changing careers, these seven pieces of advice from experts in the field will help you navigate your change.
1. Job Satisfaction is a Side Effect of Good Project Planning
It's well-known that happy employees tend to be the most productive and most engaged with their jobs, but many workplace efforts to boost job satisfaction can't see the forest for the trees. Bertrand Duperrin, head of employee and client experiences at Emakina and an influential project management blogger, argues that efforts to improve job satisfaction should focus on eliminating frustration
rather than trying to make employees happy.
Duperrin's argument makes a lot of sense. Your job is just one part of your life and many factors outside of work affect your overall levels of happiness and satisfaction.
When it comes to job performance, focusing on actionable ways to eliminate stress and frustration for yourself and your employees is the key to keeping everyone feeling productive and engaged. Eliminating frustration and boosting efficiency will yield more engaged and productive workers, which in turn creates satisfaction and happiness.
2. Networking is at the Heart of PM Career Advancement
Career advancement relies on networking, and this is especially important as you move your way up through a field. Your project manager resume
might get you through the door, but furthering your career depends on the relationships that you build.
Fortunately, networking doesn't have to be a frightening thing. As Dan Pink, author of To Sell Is Human, explains, networking is nothing more than an extension of human interest and interaction. Pink believes life begins with a conversation. This "connections" attitude toward career advancement is what will separate you from other candidates who focus only on project metrics and neglect personal relationships within their firm and industry.
3. Negative Experiences are Learning Opportunities for Professional Project Managers
You've probably encountered a bad boss or two in your career, and you know first-hand how difficult it can be to work under these conditions. Although it's not always possible to confront bad bosses about their behavior, you can use these negative experiences to learn and grow in your project management career.
Values like authenticity, strong ethics, constructive feedback and a willingness to provide employees with autonomy are all strong management skills that stand in opposition to the worst kind of boss experiences.
Whether you are in a management role or taking on some management duties for a given project, learning from bad experiences and making changes to do better next time around will give you a competitive advantage and ensure the work that gets done on your watch is done to its professionally.
4. Preparation is Key to Project Management Success
The difference between an average project manager and a great one is the ability to foresee problems and deal with them before they arise. This is at the heart of much of the advice offered by A Girl's Guide to Project Management
, a blog geared toward women in the PM space.
When you're starting out, it can be easy to overlook the fundamentals of time management and planning when faced with the huge number of project management tools at your disposal. However, a back-to-basics approach will always help you to stay a step ahead and prepare you for success.
Don't lose sight of your long-term goals, manage risks, anticipate problems and always keep open channels of communication in terms of expectations, scheduling and goal-setting.
5. Learn the Language but Avoid the Buzzwords
Project management is a career field filled with its own jargon. Learning the vocabulary associated with project management is an essential part of developing competency on the job.
To people outside your corporate environment, however, hearing what you do at work each day in might sound like unintelligible gibberish. It's important not to allow specialized terminology and buzzwords to get in the way of clear communication. That's a point made by James Sudakow
at the Guerilla Project Management blog
At its heart, project management is about communication, prioritization, work ethic and a desire to solve problems and implement creative solutions. Learn the jargon, but don't let it distract you (or your team) from the task at hand.
6. Learn from Others' Project Management Mistakes
The good thing about project management is that there are many support, resources and tools out there that can help you better understand your role and how to rise within it. There are also pitfalls that can be avoided simply by paying attention to where other project managers go wrong.
As a project manager, a vital part of your job is helping others fulfill their jobs in the most efficient way possible. This means never making assumptions, taking ownership of a situation, establishing clear goals and avoiding overwhelming your team with information.
Take time to learn from the mistakes of others and identify areas of growth and improvement in your own projects and the shortcomings of those who came before you. The more understanding you have of how things can go wrong, the better your chances of preparing for those problems in advance.
7. Your Career Path Won't Look Exactly Like Anyone Else's
Project management is one of those careers that people sometimes fall into unexpectedly. This is how it happened for Margaret Meloni
. In an interview, she describes landing her career accidentally, and her experience is far from the lone exception.
Some people enter the field knowing what they plan to do with their careers, but others try on several roles before finding the right fit. Wherever you are on the path, it's important to remember that there are no hard and fast rules to success in project management. Having the right attitude and taking opportunities as they arise is more important than following any single set of instructions.
Whether you're established in the field or pursuing your first project management certification, following the advice of seasoned PM experts can help to ensure your success and keep project manager career on the right path.
About the Author:
Michael Masters is writer focused on project management careers and business improvement. His industry experiences span manufacturing, technology, healthcare, and higher education.