Project management is one of the very best skill-sets that a person can learn in modern business. The basic principles of project management can be applied to almost any sector, industry or area and are essential in helping businesses to develop new products and services, improve their processes and avoid risks. In this article we'll explore some of the ways that you can enhance your project management experience.
Because project management is a vast field with hundreds of different techniques, multiple frameworks, varied approaches and a broad range of skills, any experience that you can get in projects will improve your chances of becoming a project manager.
Helpful qualities if you want to move into project management
If you want to become an effective project manager or a valuable part of a project team, some of the qualities that you will find useful include:
. Objective analysis - Looking at a project either while it is happening or after it is complete and analyzing what went well and what didn't.
. Open-mindedness - Understanding what happened and being honest about improvements that you or the project could have made.
. Flexibility - Being able to vary the approach and techniques to suit the project and business requirements.
. Listening - Being able to carefully and comprehensively understand the various requirements, restrictions and other areas of the project.
. Building relationships - Maintaining and improving relationships with stakeholders, project teams and other areas to help the project complete on time, on budget and on schedule.
. Communications - Being able to communicate about the project in a meaningful way to the right audience using the right channels.
Getting project management experience
There are many ways to get project management expertise and experience.
Ask if you can be part of a project team
Often, the simplest way to become part of a project team is to ask. Talk to your supervisor about getting involved in a project. This might be as part of gathering requirements, testing, providing support and more. You probably won't need to be in a specific business area to help out with a project as project managers are often seeking people from across the business to provide insight, information and testing.
Become an intern or get a secondment or job-swap into project management
If your business offers intern positions, job-swaps or secondments, see if you can get work directly in a project management area. Because it is such a useful skill-set to have, your manager might be interested in seconding you into project management for a few months so that you can learn and bring skills back into your regular business area.
Get project management training
There are thousands of courses that can teach you about general project management or that focus on specific techniques and frameworks. Whether you self-study, complete courses online, attend a training course or get training in some other way, these courses can be extremely helpful. You might also want to see if your business or organization will fund your training.
Run a small project
You don't need to be in project management to run a project. In many businesses, small projects are run across the organization. Talk to your supervisor about pieces of defined, time-bound work that need doing in your business area. If you can identify something that could be a good candidate for a project, volunteer to run it.
Get a mentor
A mentor is someone with skills and experience that can provide you with insight, support and guidance. Your organization might offer a formal mentoring program or you might speak to someone to see if they would be an informal mentor to you. Mentoring is useful to both you and the person providing the mentoring to you, as they get to share their skills and experience.
Transfer to an area related to project management
You don't need to transfer into project management directly as there may be other areas of your organization that could provide you with some useful skills. That might be business analysis, support, development, the program office or somewhere else. Look for opportunities that could act as an interim role.
Ultimately, demonstrating that you are interested in project management and have the potential to be a skilled project manager is the best thing that you can do to enhance your chances. Managers and supervisors are often looking for self-starting employees that can demonstrate a positive approach, aptitude and willingness to learn. Talk to your supervisor in your next career discussion about running projects, training, secondment and other opportunities to move into this very rewarding career.
By Paul Maplesden
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