Want to become a senior project manager? First you must know how one differs from a typical project manager. Jennifer Bridges, PMP, explains and provides you with practical steps to achieve your career goals.
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In Review – How to Become a Senior Project Manager
Jennifer said she often receives questions about how to become a senior manager. Most of her answers begin with the definition of the difference between a project manager and a senior project manager.
What Is the Difference Between a Project Manager and a Senior Project Manager?
A project manager is a person who uses tools and methods to plan and direct the work of an individual or a group or team. They also monitor that work and take corrective action when it is not progressing as planned.
A senior project manager has a higher level of expertise, furnished by an in-depth knowledge of project management and extraordinary skills in the discipline. The knowledge and skills of a senior project manager include the strategic planning of a focused program; the analysis of business activities, expenses, profits and established goals; and the communication of strategy throughout the organization.
Of course, a senior project manager also plans and directs the work of individuals, including managers and other project managers.
How Can a Project Manager Become a Senior Project Manager?
Jennifer said that there are really only two primary steps that a project manager must take in order to rise to the level of a senior project manager:
- Invest in Yourself: Put in the time, money and energy needed to advance your career.
- Create Your Plan: Apply a practical course of training, experience and guidance from a coach and/or mentor.
Looking closer at these steps, Jennifer reminds us that the goal here is to gain in-depth knowledge and extraordinary skills through the development of a plan. That starts with training, whether by taking courses, doing research, reading or, best of all, a combination of all three.
While you can do a lot of training on your own, experience in project management isn’t going to come from sitting in a classroom or library. It comes from, well, hands-on experience. That means practicing your trade, volunteering, failing and trying again through apprenticeships—or by any means necessary.
Then, with some experience under your belt, the guidance of a coach is key. They’ll help you hone the skills you have and develop ones you need, which means a non-partial person who can assess your skills and behaviors.
A mentor can also steward you towards a position as senior project manager. They’re like a trusted advisor who has already successfully traveled the road you’re on and can offer their real-life experience as a teaching tool.
Of course, the one constant running through all of this is time. It takes time. Anything of value does. But if you set your sights on a goal, make a plan to achieve it and work hard, you’re going to get there. It’s just like any project.
Pro-Tip: There are other ways to help boost your PM career. For example, you can network and get to know the people in your industry, so when there’s an opportunity they’ll think of you first. Also, becoming a thought leader is a great way to get your name out there, especially if you have an area of expertise that is currently untapped.
Take it Further: For some extra motivation, see how much a typical senior project manager earns by reading our project manager salary statistics for 2019.
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Today, we’re talking about how to become a senior project manager. It’s a question I often get. People wanna know, “What’s the difference between a project manager and a senior project manager?”
So that’s what we’re gonna talk about today, including the steps a project manager can take to get there. But first, let’s talk about the two different roles.
So if we start with a project manager, they typically plan and direct the work of individuals or a group. It could be a group of individuals. And they also monitor the work, and they take corrective action.
So if we look at a senior project manager, they can typically do the same tasks, but they have a specific expertise through in-depth knowledge and extraordinary skills.
So because of this, they might be involved in the strategic planning of a focused group, looking at the business activities, maybe expenses, profits, including the established goals, and they’re typically the ones that help communicate that across the organization.
But they also, again, they plan and manage. They could plan and manage the work for individuals, also managers that the individuals report directly into. They can also plan and direct the work of other project managers.
So let’s take a look at some of the steps and how to get there. Well, it’s two main steps. First of all, invest in yourself, and that includes time, money, and energy in that investment. Also, create your plan, and that plan includes training, experience, and maybe even a coach or mentor.
So let’s look. What we’re trying to do is gain in-depth knowledge and develop extraordinary skills. So when we talk about that plan, we’re looking at training, and training can come in the form of courses, could come in research.
A lot of project managers may do their own research and develop white papers. Also, there are so many books out there today, and those books can come in a form of e-books or regular hardback or softback books.
Also experiences, that gives you a way to practice, practice, practice, an environment where you can mess up and try again. Sometimes, we think of an apprenticeship. That’s where you’re taken under someone’s wing and you can work alongside them and see how they do what they do.
It also involves a coach. So a coach is involved in helping you develop skills, and those skills can be behavioral skills, or skills with your hands or your mind, and there are assessments out there that can measure that. So you have an assessment that measures behavioral aspects and also skills. And then, from that assessment in the scores, then that’s where you work with your coach to help develop those skills.
Also, a mentor is someone who has been there and done that for what you’re trying to do, so they’re available for questioning.
So they’re like a, can be in some cases, like a trusted adviser.
Also, it sometimes just takes time. It takes time to develop the in-depth knowledge and acquire the extraordinary skills.
So if you need a tool to help you with your plan, then sign up for our software now at ProjectManager.com.