How To Plan Your PM Career
Did you ever see the space shuttle take off? It’s was a breathtaking sight. It’s something you will never forget if you had the opportunity to be up close and personal to a launch. All you needed to be was somewhere in the vicinity of Cape Canaveral during a launch and you would have heard the roar of the engines as they ignited, the ground shook as the shuttle took off, and the brilliant glow of the flame behind the rockets that propelled the shuttle out of Earth’s atmosphere and toward space!
I’m sure the experience was exponentially even more memorable if you were on the shuttle itself. You would felt the power, force, and violence of the shuttle as it began to defy Earth’s gravity. You would have eventually felt the boosters disengage and fall towards the Earth, and then you ultimately made it into the weightless, no friction environment of outer space. Effortlessly drifting above the Earth at thousands of miles per hour looking down upon the very area of the Earth where you originated. Amazing!
Have you ever seen someone’s project management career take-off? While not quite as technically amazing as the space shuttle taking off, it’s a sight to behold nonetheless! Someone may start at a company as a project coordinator and quickly display an uncanny ability to organize people or put a project management plan together.
A bit of time passes and there may be some personnel shifts in the company that allows this project coordinator to step up into the role of a project manager. They excel at their project management position. Next thing you know this person may be tasked with setting up a PMO for the purpose of managing the portfolio of projects across the company.
This meteoric rise from just putting a project management plan together to running a cadre of project managers can all happen in just a matter of years, and if the circumstances are right, within a matter of months.
How does your view of the world change when your career takes off as described above? The following are some guidelines you can use when it comes to putting together a project management plan for your career. This view of the world can be implemented at just one company or multiple companies as you start off on your project management journey.
When you first start out on your project management career you are like the astronaut sitting in the space shuttle tethered to the launch pad. Albeit the astronaut in space is not much akin to you entry-level project management job, still your heart is racing as you don’t want to make any mistakes. Everything seems to move in extraordinarily slow motion. Every sense is acutely aware of the minutest details are going on around you as you stay laser-focused on making sure this launch is successful.
What are some of the things you can do to implement this type of behavior in a project management plan that is focused on your career? The following are some guidelines:
- Know the Details – This is the point in time in your career when you are expected to know the details about everything. You need to know how many resources are assigned to your project. You need to know their utilization rate. You need to know the status of all risks and issues and what is being done to mitigate any problems that have the potential of derailing a project management plan you have put together.In the early days of your project management career it is important on building credibility. Nothing builds credibility more than specificity. Know the ins and outs of your project management plan to be able to clearly explain it to anyone that needs to know this information.
- Over-Communicate – One thing you can’t do enough of when you are first starting out in a project manager job, is to communicate. While a project management plan will undoubtedly have a communications plan as one of its components, communicating information about the project is something that should come as second natu re to you. It should be an intrinsic part of who you are and how you manage projects.Communicate up, down, sideways and any and every conceivable way possible. Make sure all stakeholders know of the status of the project, next steps, obstacles, accomplishments, and whatever else is important for them to know.
- Work on Efficiencies and Processes – In the early days of your project management career it is also a good time to improve efficiencies and work on improving processes that will make yours and everyone’s jobs that much easier. The efficiencies and processes you develop in one position will last throughout your career in project management. For example, you may create a generic template for a project management plan as a starter for all the projects you manage. The amount of time this saves over your project management is priceless.
Career Project Management Plan #2: Focus on the Big Picture
Now that you have a solid foundation for your career to take-off, the next step is to start focusing on the big picture. This is a tricky transition to move through. The detail-oriented nature of your project management style that has taken your career to this point now begins to change.
Going back to the analogy of the space shuttle, the rockets are beginning to break free from the Earth’s gravity and the pilot can see his target of outer space in front of him. Behind him he can also see a clear path of where he started. What should your project management career development look like at this point? Below are some recommendations that you can implement for this stage of your career:
- Focus on the Business Value – You will now be moving beyond the painstaking detail that was necessary to start your career and start looking at the bigger picture. This is when you start understanding that every project that is being worked on must contain a certain ROI in order for it to be justified.This may be that the project is a revenue generation opportunity or it could be that it saves time and allows something to be done that much quicker. Always make sure you have a grasp of how the projects you are working on fit into the economics of your company.
- Consultative Approach – At this point the project management career advice you will have amassed consists of a substantial amount of knowledge that can be used to help others make good business decisions. Facilitate and expedite the success of others (both internal teams and clients) to help them make the best decisions for their projects and steward them through process. This can range anywhere from helping them understand a project management plan you have developed to how to optimize the implementation of the project.
Career Project Management Plan #3: Focus on Moving Mountains
The final stage of your project management career is similar to the space shuttle floating above the Earth seemingly effortlessly. Sure, there are a lot of forces, pressures, and power necessary to keep the shuttle orbiting around the Earth, but from the untrained eye it almost looks effortless. That’s what your project management career should look like at this point.
Gone are the days of putting a project management plan together. You should now be focused on the strategic direction of the company. You should be finely tuned into revenue generation opportunities that present themselves by either expanding existing projects or looking how to further offer your services within existing clients. You should be considered a trusted advisor to upper management which gives you the opportunity to provide your opinion on what works and what doesn’t.
Is it effortless at this point? Absolutely not! There is still a lot of effort, thought, and time involved to accomplish these goals. However, the experience, wisdom, insight, and relationships you have nurtured throughout the years will almost make it look easy!
What stage of this project management career profile are you? Details, Big Picture, or Mountain Mover? Focus on the tips for each stage above and you’ll quickly find that your project management career will take off.
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