Are you fresh from a project management course? Are you feeling overwhelmed or excited about the huge range of skills you need to be good at your job? From anticipating problems, to excellent communication to controlling a budget and schedule and dealing with conflict.
If you’ve just begun your career as a project manager, you’re about to enjoy a varied, challenging and rewarding career. Here are some great tips to help you get started.
Don’t just hear, listen
You won’t learn anything by letting information go in one ear and out the other. Now is the time to take everything in. Consider all your different team members (their skillsets, personalities, weaknesses), research project clients and identify the key senior members of management you’ll have to present to. Listen and consider everything around you, then actively engage with team members and colleagues without reservation. The more you communicate effectively with those around you, the more successful you will be in your career.
Be proactive and anticipate problems
Don’t jump straight into a project without considering all the risks effectively. Project management training courses teach risk management skills and strategies, and now’s the time to utilise those skills. How many problems can you anticipate before the project starts? You will of course come across bumps in the road, but you must experience those bumps in order to learn.
Be a real team player
As a project manager you have to work for your team’s best interests and recognise, understand and utilise their individual strengths and skills. You must communicate with your team, especially if you need help. This doesn’t mean complaining to your team that you don’t know what to do, but it does mean calling a brainstorming session to allow your team to pull together and suggest solutions.
Know which methodology you’re using and be flexible
One of the biggest downfalls of more experienced project managers is the fact that they can take a liking to a particular project management methodology, and then apply that to every project even when it doesn’t suit all the projects they work on. Be flexible with the tools and methodology you use, recognising and familiarising how they work and if they will actually work for the current project you’re overseeing. If the methodology or tool doesn’t suit the project, be flexible and change your approach.
Understand your clients and customers
Who is the project being completed for? What does your organisation stand for? Who are the customers of your organisation? One of the best things you can do is really dig deep to find out about your clients and customers. In particular, understanding the values of your organisation will serve you well when you’re motivating your team, as you can always create a common goal based on a much broader ideal.
Body language counts
Emotional intelligence matters – it’s something that comes naturally to some people but has to be learnt by others. If you think it is something you are good at, develop that skill now. Having a great understanding of human behaviour will serve you well in this industry.
Consider finding a mentor
If there is a mentorship programme at your place of work, get on board. It’s an amazing way to gain support and to learn from someone who has already been there and bought the T-shirt.
Savour the fact you’re new to the job
One day you’ll be a well-respected project manager who is expected to get it right most of the time. Right now, you’re in a very forgiving environment where colleagues will understand that you’re new to the job. Of course you’re still responsible for your project, but you’re not expected to have full authority so embrace that fact.
Get used to things changing
Project management courses teach you to be OK with change. You must be flexible and adaptable no matter what the scenario is. Environments, colleagues and projects will change all the time, as long as you embrace that and become OK with improvising you’ll be ready for each and every day.
Treat others how you would like to be treated
Don’t think you need to charge in and lay down the law, asserting your authority to prove yourself. Be kind, be communicative and get to know the people you work with. A likeable project manager will always gain respect from colleagues quicker than someone who has no time to listen or care for how others feel.
Gain qualifications and certificates
In the past a project manager would have one or two qualifications under their belt and that would be perfectly acceptable. It is still acceptable but you will see more and more PM’s new to the industry coming to the table with several certificates and qualifications. Not all employers care about these qualifications, but many do and taking a few different project management courses to beef up your credentials won’t do you any harm.