How to Learn While You Earn

Learn while you earn - PDUs

Did you think you left studying behind when school ended? Think again. Being a project manager is a constant journey to learn new skills and techniques even while you’re busy with project scheduling. That isn’t a bad thing – as the way we work evolves, it is very useful to keep your skills up to date.

If you are a Project Management Professional (PMP)® then you will already be used to studying. Getting your PMP credential can be hard work, especially if it has been a while since you prepared for any exams. However, once you have passed, and can use those letters after your name with pride, the studying doesn’t stop. Oh no. You have to keep your skills up through the professional development program put together by the Project Management Institute.

What is the Continuous Professional Development Scheme?

In a bid to keep us all highly skilled and to prove that we do know what we are doing at work, PMI have come up with a scheme for their certified project managers. You have to show that you have earned 60 Professional Development Units (PDUs) over a 3 year period. Once 3 years has passed, you have to submit your portfolio of evidence to PMI and if they acknowledge that you have met the requirements, you get to keep those letters after your name.

Getting PDUs takes a bit of effort and organization on your part, because you don’t want to be 6 months away from having to recertify and find that you have a mad rush to try to get in enough study or other activity to qualify. It is obviously better if you can spread out your recertification activities over the 3 years, and what better way to do it than as part of your day job? Here are some ways to learn (and collect PDUs) while you work.

Ways to Learn While You Work

  • Doing your day job: Assuming that you work as a project manager, you can claim your day job towards your PDU total. Yes, you get credit just for having a job in the right field! You don’t even have to work full-time. As long as you can clock up 6 months project management experience (that’s everything from project scheduling to stakeholder management) in a 12 month period, you can earn up to 5 PDUs a year simply by turning up to work. If you are asked to supply evidence of this you can use your job description or a contract to demonstrate that you were in relevant employment during this time.
  • Training: If your company sends you on any project management training courses during the 3 year recertification period, this also counts. Even if the project management training company is not recognized as an ‘official’ provider of training under the PMI Registered Education Providers scheme you can still get PDU credit.This can be particularly handy if you are starting to use a new project management online software tool and are attending training or a webinar provided by the vendor. If you are learning something new, even if the training is delivered by someone from your Project Management Office (PMO) or another internal person, that also counts.You can claim one PDU for each hour that you are in a training course. If you have to provide evidence, you can send copies of the registration form or letter/certificate of attendance and a course outline showing what the training covered.While most companies have cut out a lot of training, some might still consider sending you on higher or further formal education courses too, like an MBA or a Masters in Project Management. These count towards your PDU total too, assuming you are lucky enough to be selected for a place!
  • Writing for the company magazine: You can also claim PDUs for writing articles for your company magazine or blog. Provided that it is an official company outlet, you can earn one PDU for every hour spent on this. It does have to be project management related, though, so the best opportunities are writing for your PMO or departmental newsletter, which has an audience destined to be interested in what you say about project management.Failing that, an article about your latest project for the company blog, or a day in the life of a project manager, or an article about a particular project management technique that is relevant to other groups, such as how to do risk management… There are lots of topics that you could write about and earn PDUs.
  • Mentoring someone: Mentoring counts as volunteering. Mentoring can help you earn project management PDUsIf you are part of your company’s mentoring scheme, then you can earn PDUs from mentoring a junior project manager or another colleague. If there is no formal mentoring scheme but you have informally been allocated as a buddy to that person, it still counts.You do have to make sure that your sessions are focused (not just social chats over a cup of tea) and that they include information relevant to project management, using ‘knowledgeable’ resources. We take it to mean that means journals, magazines, your own experience and reputable websites.Keep a record of the dates and times of sessions and ideally get your mentee to sign an attendance sheet so that you can prove the discussions took place. You can claim one PDU per mentoring hour.
  • Being mentored:  What if you are a project manager who doesn’t have the experience to mentor someone else? Being mentored also counts towards your PDU total for recertification. This is classified as self-directed learning and you can claim one PDU per hour up to a total of 10 per year.

Being mentored or coached by someone can take many forms. For example, you might sit with a more experienced project manager to prepare for an audit. You could seek advice formally from a colleague in relation to preparing your project budget. You could study with a co-worker for a project management exam or to brush up on some other technique. There are probably dozens of examples of times where you have sought help that would count as self-directed learning. Record them all and you’ll soon be earning PDUs while you do your day job!

Given everything that you can do towards earning PDUs as part of your day job, you’ll soon find that you make significant progress towards achieving those 60 credits over a 3 year period. Make the most of the opportunities open to you as part of your normal day to day routine. This will reduce your need to find other ways to earn those PDUs and will also make sure that you can spread out your recertification requirements.

It is also much cheaper to claim as many PDUs as you can through work instead of having to fund expensive activities yourself simply to make up your PDU total as the deadline approaches. Do yourself a favor and plan now to avoid a desperate bid to earn enough just before your recertification deadline approaches!

Treat your PMP recertification preparation like a project and track it in ProjectManager.com. That will help you spread out the learning overhead and make sure you are on target for your recertification plans. Collaborate with others who are preparing for recertification as well and share resources, discussions, and message each other in real-time.

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