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Project Management Career Builder Workshop (Part 1)

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Training courses I recommend:

The free career planner is available here.

Full text of Part 1

Welcome to the Project Management Career Builder workshop.

Whether you are just starting out in project management, exploring the profession to see if it’s a good fit for where you want to go next, or, like many of my mentoring group, discovering that there is a job and a job title for the work you’ve been doing for years, then welcome, you are in the right place.

In this video training, you are going to explore the career opportunities that are available to you as a project manager, and learn how to take the next steps to move your career on.

If we haven’t met before, I’m Elizabeth Harrin from GirlsGuideToProject Management, and I’ve been helping professionals deliver projects and build their careers since 2006. I’m a Fellow of the Association for Project Management, PRINCE2 certified and the author of a handful of books. Plus I do the job, I’ve been a project and programme manager since I was in my early twenties.

I’m so excited to welcome you into our community.

When I first started out as a project manager, it always felt like I was making it up as I went along. I’d done the training course, in fact, I did a few, but there were always surprises. Projects are done by people, and for people, and when you add people into the mix, well, it felt as if the training courses hadn’t really prepared me for the challenges.

I love working as a project manager. I got to earn a very good salary, work with lots of different departments and learn a lot about how my organisation works. Plus I know that what I deliver really makes a difference to my colleagues, clients and the business overall.

But I was hugely ambitious as a 22 year old, and I didn’t know how to get on in my career. It was something I talked to my mentor about often, and we did a lot of planning and thinking about how I could take the next steps, get bigger projects, manage bigger budgets and ultimately get promoted.

I started to see that the things that made a difference to my career were the softer skills. They were about how I interacted with my colleagues, how I positioned my authority in meetings, how I supported other people and influenced team members to get their work done on time.

Regardless of the projects I’ve worked on – big or small, co-located or virtual teams, software projects, change projects and process improvement, the thing that has made the difference in the successful delivery of those and ultimately the impact on my career had been the soft skills.

What do I mean by soft skills?

That’s working with other people. It’s influencing, negotiating, conflict management, stakeholder engagement, building trust, collaboration, leadership, getting people to take responsibility for their tasks, working in a matrix structure where you’ve got no formal power, facilitation, understanding office politics. All those skills that help you get work done through other people.

No matter what industry you are in, what type of projects you do, what methodology you use, being able to work effectively with people is the single biggest contributor to building a successful career as a project manager.

The foundation for a successful career

So what does a successful career look like? There are as many career paths as there are individuals, but in this video training series, I’ll share some ways to help you take your next step.

We’ll talk about moving on, which is what we’ll talk about today, getting a promotion and taking on bigger projects. The second video is about the skills, processes and templates that will help you save time and get more done with less stress at work so you can take those bigger projects on confidently.

And finally, in the third video we’ll look at moving up into other project delivery roles, like programme management and  line management for teams.

But before we get into the main topic of today’s video, I want to make something clear.

Project management is a role, not a title

Many of the people in my mentoring group don’t have the title project manager, but they are doing project work. You don’t need the title. The role is about delivering change in the organisation or for your clients. It’s about ensuring what you deliver is fit for purpose and has real value to the business. Whether that’s organising an away day for your team or installing a multi-million dollar software solution, it’s all project management.

At Girls Guide to PM, and in the Project Management Rebels mentoring group, we focus on helping people who are managing projects regardless of their job title navigate the tricky areas of their projects. The people stuff. The messy edges of work. The things you don’t cover on training courses or in the text books.

That’s what I know best, and that’s what I genuinely believe is going to help you get your next job. Very few interviewers are going to ask if you know how to do earned value management or calculate the critical path by hand, but every interview I’ve ever had has asked me how I dealt with a difficult situation, handled conflict or something similar where I’ve had to talk about soft skills.

Moving on in Project Management

So – you’ve got your first job already and you’re looking to move on as a project manager. The natural next steps are to take on larger and more complex projects.

The other things for you is to consider the importance of a certification. Certifications demonstrate to employers that you are serious about your career path and that you know what you are talking about. Plus, the effort of studying for an exam shows that you are committed to continuous professional development.

I don’t think exams are all you need to succeed, but certifications certainly open doors. In fact, for some job opportunities they are considered as a hygiene factor. As a recruiting manager, when I look at applications and one candidate has a certification and the other one doesn’t, if all else is equal, I’d choose the person with the certification. It just gives them an edge.

If studying isn’t for you right now, I have a few other tips to share for landing a new job in a moment, but first let’s talk about certifications.

There are lots of certifications, and my advice to you is to look at what certifications are held by people working at the next level up from you. If everyone in your industry has their PMP, you’ll want to go for that.

The PMP courses I recommend are:

If something else is more common, like PRINCE2 or an IPMA certification, go for that. Do your homework about what is most likely to give your career a boost.

If you already hold one of the main certifications, you might want to broaden your skills with another in a more specialised area. You can take courses in risk management, scheduling, agile or change management. All of these help round out your experience as a project manager and ultimately make you a little bit more employable.

Plus, the effort of studying for an exam shows that you are committed to continuous professional development.

There is a wide range of qualifications and professional body schemes to consider. Project management, is not an area that stays still. The knowledge bases that underpin all of these credential schemes are works in progress, continually held under review by their governing body. This means that whichever you go for, you should have confidence in knowing that the standards and documentation have been reviewed by professionals in the field and deemed to be reflective of current best practice.

Each syllabus or body of knowledge is refreshed on a rolling basis so make sure that if you are investing in a text you have chosen the latest version.

Other Training Courses

Aside from courses that lead to a professionally recognised certificate, there are numerous other opportunities for training that will enhance your career. As an IT project manager, you can study everything from short courses in soft skills to an MBA with a technical project management specialism, and many other courses in between.

The non-certification courses I recommend the most often are from OnlinePMCourses.

It’s worth talking to your employer to see what support they offer for training. For project managers early in their career, there is a huge benefit from taking courses that will help you develop your leadership and interpersonal skills as these will strongly influence your career success over time. Take every opportunity for training that is open to you, as you never know what you might learn or who you might meet through the course.

Whatever qualification or course you choose, it’s going to support your next move and enhance your CV. You’ve invested your time and energy into professional development. Whether you’re aiming to make your next career move in-house or to move to a new company, the fact that you’ve committed to improving your skills will help your application shine.

Other Tips for Moving On

If studying isn’t for you right now, there are other things you can do to increase your chances of getting a new job.

Volunteer to take on bigger and more complex projects at work. Ask for them. Get a mentor. Network. Make a career plan so you know where you want to go – I have a free career planner that will help with that. Writing down your goals makes them more real and you’ll find it easier to keep yourself accountable.

When you’re thinking about career goals, think about what you’d find most interesting to do. There are lots of jobs available. For example:

  • Hybrid roles – this is where you are doing project management alongside another role. That could be another non-project related role in area of the business like marketing, finance or customer services. Or you could be doing project management alongside other project-related functions like business analysis or software development.
  • Industry Specialists – you can build your expertise in a specific domain, like digital projects, or aerospace or the military, or the charity sector. Or you could focus on a particular methodology for delivery, like Agile. Or you can niche down even further and be a project manager for SAP implementations, or another big tool – and go contracting offering that service.
  • Or you could be a Generalist project manager – and this is how I identify. If you are employed as a project manager to deliver change in your own organisation, this is probably what you are too. A generalist is someone who uses the core skills, tools and techniques of project management to deliver projects across an organisation, working in different areas.

When you look at job adverts for roles near you, you’ll see a mix of all of these, at different levels and pay grades. That’s what shows us there is a massive need for people with project management skills. You’ll definitely be in demand if you can demonstrate that you can do the job.

Coming up…

That’s what we’ll be talking about in the next video – the skills, processes and templates you can use to make it easier to get project work done.

After that, we’ll look at making the move into programme management and line management. If you’re quite early in your career, you might be thinking longer term, and that’s a realistic goal. I’ll also share how Project Management Rebels can help you take the next step in your project management career. I’m looking forward to it, because I could talk about these things all day!

I believe project management skills are so important at work and outside of work as they help people get stuff done and achieve their personal and professional goals.

I can’t wait to help you take your next steps and get where you want to be as a project manager.

Look out for the link to part 2 of the Career Builder Workshop in your inbox tomorrow.

Don’t want to wait? Watch the video now.

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