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Top Tips for Breaking into Project Management

52 Tips to break into PM“What advice do you have for project management students fresh out of school who want to break into the discipline?”

That’s what Geoff Crane asked me, and other project managers, so he could compile our top tips for his students. I found it quite difficult to come up with some tips because there are so many things that I could pass on to new project managers. In the end, given the space constraints, this is what I came up with:

New project managers should show that they are flexible, willing to put in the time and able to listen to their project team members. As you don’t have much project management experience, look for other ways to contribute, such as through facilitating discussion, being great at documentation, being honest and transparent in communications and asking the questions that no one else dares to – I do this a lot and when you are new to a business or a job you can get away with it simply because you are new!

One of my first projects I forgot to identify a stakeholder group and didn’t talk to them at all. Then on go live day I had the head of that department on the phone wondering what had happened and why her team was swamped with extra work. Communicate more than you think you have to – extra stakeholders will appear where you least expect them. That doesn’t mean blanket emails to the whole company. It means tailored, relevant communication to specific stakeholders, but lots and lots of it. Phone people, stop by their offices, invite them to lunch or coffee. Especially on big projects, people do worry about not knowing what’s going on: it’s your job to stop that.

Another unwritten rule of project management is that you protect your project team from politics and grief so that they can get on and do their jobs. If it helps, take the blame for problems yourself. It’s a great way to diffuse tension and help people move on to constructive problem solving. It is very hard for someone to keep shouting or ranting at you when you’ve apologised.

Finally, don’t forget that you are a project stakeholder too: you should always get something out of a project in terms of career development, even if it is just spending another 6 months working in an area you love.

Geoff put together a whole ebook. You can download it for free with a single click here. It’s a PDF document (no sign up required).

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