A lot of early career professionals come to me asking for ways to develop their project management skills. They often share the following characteristics:
They like working with people
They like to help teams manage to a schedule
They are very collaborative
They love solving problems.
I’ve noticed that most of them are in jobs where there is ample opportunity to build and demonstrate project management skills. In advising them, I find myself steering them to the following:
1. Start Where You Are: There are many skills associated with project management that can be learnt without actually becoming a project manager. Tools like a schedule, budget and resource plan are fundamental to any personal and professional situation. Free applications like Trello can help accelerate your progress.
2. Work On Your Thinking: Good project managers are thinkers. When a house is on fire most people go towards it with their water hoses to put it out. A project manager can be in there with her water hose but her thoughts are not on the fire but on the impact it will have on the household; the steps she needs to take to mitigate the huge risk that just came to pass; and planning a coordinated response to rebuild after the fire has been put out. THINK about that a second (pun intended).
3. Jump In: You are the rubber that meets the road. Project management is a “get your hands dirty” kind of job. Come to think of it… why would someone need you if scope was well defined, people were clear on what to do, and things came in on time and within budget? You do not have to wait to be a project manager to be the person that makes those things possible.
4. Lead yourself: Are you organized in the work you do? Do you ask for clarification? Do you get your work done on time? Do you challenge assumptions? If not, then consider this your checklist for self-improvement.
About the Author
Arpan Lidder is a Consulting Manager at Huron Management Consulting. His extensive program and project management experience includes work at such well known companies at GE Digital. When not rocking his projects, Arpan loves to practice CROSSFIT at his local box and spend time with his family.