Presently, the economic climate is ideal for both project managers who are looking to advance in their careers, and for those who have their sights on entering the field. There are great opportunities out there, and room for advancement. However, these opportunities won’t just fall in your lap. Enabling career growth can be considered a project of sorts, and therefore requires the same techniques, project management tools and dedication to schedules that would be involved when managing any project.
Start planning your career goals as soon as possible because opportunities in project management are projected to grow. While the Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t specifically track project management careers, a study by the Project Management Institute, Project Management: Job Growth and Talent Gap 2017-2027, found “a drastic increase in the number of jobs requiring project-oriented skills.”
The report also stated that there is a great deal of attrition in the industry due to professionals retiring from the workplace. There is also regional growth, specifically in rapidly developing economies, such as China and India.
So, if you apply your project management skills and talents towards boosting your career and reaching your project management goals, then you’ll soon be reaping the fruit of those labors. There are any number of ways to put yourself on a pathway towards advancement, but here are a handful that we find helpful.
1. Create a Career Plan
Project managers might be brilliant at planning other people’s projects, but sometimes they can neglect to focus on their own career plan. By planning project management goals for your career, you can drive yourself towards the successful future you envision for yourself.
Start by being strategic and having an end goal. Then you can work back from that endpoint. Have long-, mid- and short-term goals. You want to be ambitious, but also realistic. Create a one-, five- and 10-year plan and schedule working back from each of those points.
Once you have identified your goal, you’ll want to set up a detailed series of tasks or steps to get there. What do you need to do to move forward towards that goal? Write it down. That’s one task. Now you’ll want to put a deadline on each of those tasks and schedule them to align with the timeline you created. That’s the task duration. Place milestones to indicate the end and start of larger phases.
One thing to consider is that short-term goals need to be more specific than long-term ones, which can be more general. Also, setting up steps for your mid- and long-term goals will help you schedule a more realistic timetable for the short-term ones.
To discover new opportunities in project management, or if you are new to the field and want to learn about project management, you will need to network. Join meetups with other managers and leaders in the industry. Don’t just network with other project managers, though. Broaden your horizons. Projects are part of every industry, and all of them need managers to lead them.
Attend conferences in your industry not just for being seen, but to learn about best practices and current trends. There’s a wealth of information out there, especially as technologies change and modern methodologies emerge. This is where you’ll discover what’s new and upcoming, as well as make connections that can both further your education and possibly lead to employment.
Be aware of getting too comfortable with jargon, though. You’ll hear a lot of it. That’s just normal. People in specialized groups tend to use specialized terms. However, you don’t want to get so wonky that you’re painting yourself in a project management corner. Remember, you are employed by a business, and business speak is the language you need to be fluent in, not just the nomenclature of project management.
Another thing to remember when networking, and when working, is be to nice. That might sound obvious, but some people can be overly aggressive or just inconsiderate to those they aren’t working directly under. Maybe they think they can let off steam and be discourteous because they’re not accountable. Whatever the reason, it’s a bad precedent to set. These people are potential coworkers and colleagues, and they deserve respect.
3. Become a Thought Leader
What does it mean to be a thought leader? No, you don’t have to start a blog, but you can work in your organization or in local groups to speak on topics you have subject matter expertise in. To say you’re creating your own personal brand is a bit grandiose, however, in a sense you are differentiating yourself from the crowd. You’ll stand out, and it’s those who are visible that usually get ahead.
Naturally, that visibility should be positive. Don’t get on your soapbox and start to lecture the office. That’s not going to help, and in fact it’ll probably hurt. Instead, locate the influencers in whatever group or office you’re associated with, and work with them. It’s like networking, but with a more focused agenda. You’re giving back to the industry but doing so in a structured and communal way that both distributes your unique insights and ingratiates you with important people.
You should share your experience and offer the knowledge you have to others, but if you can say something new that disrupts the conventional wisdom, that’s even better. People aren’t attracted to yes-men, at least not the type of people with which you want to associate. If you can broaden their perspective, they’ll listen. If you don’t have anything to say, though, don’t just speak to fill up space.
4. Wear Many Hats
This isn’t a fashion tip, but rather practical advice. True, project managers already wear many hats. They are leaders, administrators and planners, just to name a few. They create budgets, schedule tasks and make presentations. But, the more you can work at expanding your expertise in this myriad of duties, the more attractive you’ll be as a prospect.
Look over the skills and responsibilities you have as a project manager and determine which are lacking and could use improvement. Work on being a mentor, too, if you can offer less experienced project managers a hand. Or seek out your own mentor to get guidance as you hone your skills and fill in the holes in your experience.
If you’re breaking into the field, then look at your past work experience. What have you done that could apply to the duties of a project manager? Frame that experience around project management. For example, if you’ve worked with customers on a product or service of some sort, that’s very much within the wheelhouse of project managers.
5. Be a Great Communicator
You can’t get somewhere if you’re unable to articulate where you want to go. But communication isn’t always narrowly focused. It’s a broad brush and one that will color every aspect of your job as a project manager. If you follow the communication tips below throughout your career, you will put yourself in a position for advancement.
The better you can communicate during a project, the more successful the endeavor. That’s a large part of any successful project, even if that project is how to advance in your career. You’re in constant conversation with your team and with stakeholders of the project, each of whom will get a slightly different message. You need to know how to get granular with the team and more general with stakeholders – unless they want details.
But talking isn’t communicating, at least it’s not the full picture. Good communications are as much as about listening, actively listening, as they are about speaking. If your team or stakeholders feel they aren’t being heard, there’s going to be trouble.
To become an active listener, the first thing is to pay attention. Give the speaker your full attention. Then acknowledge the message to make sure you’ve heard it correctly. You can show you’re listening through body language as well. Maintaining eye contact and sitting still will show that you’re engaged. You’ll want to give feedback, and ask for it, too. Then you should defer judgement, if a decision needs to be made, and when it has been decided, act appropriately.
If you’re a project manager, or want to become one, you’ll find project management a lot easier if you have the right tools for the job. ProjectManager.com is a cloud-based project management software that gives you real-time data for more accurate planning, monitoring and reporting. See how it can help you hit your project management goals by taking this free 30-day trial.