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7 ways to advance your project management career

Jennifer Lonoff Schiff | April 24, 2014
Project management experts and executive IT recruiters provide tips to project managers on what they can do to give their careers a boost.

"Articulate the value, progress and estimates of your project in business terms (e.g., dollars, ROI, payback period, etc.) in addition to the traditional scope/performance, cost and schedule terms most PMs use," McElhaney says. "Nothing will advance your career more than using the terms that the people responsible for your promotion use."

4. Don't be a PM zealot. "Project management zealots are people who believe they must use every best practice or tool included in whatever methodology or body of knowledge they subscribe to, regardless of whether all of those practices are appropriate for the project," says McElhaney. Instead "a PM [should] apply the right mix of project management tools for the individual project."

However, too often, project managers stubbornly cling to a specific methodology -- the one they are certified in -- even when it may not be the right approach. It's "this is a bad habit [that] often leads to the popular misconception that project management doesn't work or isn't useful," McElhaney says

5. Don't shy away from "hard" projects -- or give up (or assign blame) when the going gets tough."As a project manager, don't be afraid to be bold," says David Laing, director of Innovation, LaserJet & Enterprise Solutions Business, HP.

"Be the go-to person for the hardest projects. When other project managers run away, step up and volunteer to take on the toughest assignments," Laing says. "This will help you gain visibility within your company and enable you to drive results."

Similarly, don't give up or blame others when projects get delayed or encounter setbacks. Instead, work with the team to find solutions and keep the project moving forward. Companies look for and promote problem solvers. And an ability to get the job done, despite obstacles, will put you in good stead with senior management.

6. Be clear about your career goals."Actively pursue and communicate your career goals so that your supervisor, your mentor, your peers and coworkers know where you want to be in five years," says Kari Fernandez, PMP, CSM, senior technical manager, Experis Global Content Solutions, part of the Manpower Group.

"Be very clear about your goals and work together with your supervisor to determine how [to accomplish them]," Fernandez says. "Do this through performance reviews and bi-weekly one-on-one meetings to ensure that you are selected for the right opportunities to advance your career."

7. Play nicely with others. "I have seen excellent, technically strong project managers who just rub people the wrong way," says Wu. "Project managers need to remember that the deliverable requires the entire team. Thus, treat people with respect, be firm, but also be nice."

Remember, "everyone you encounter is your customer," Fernandez says. So "treat everyone with the same professionalism, courtesy and service-oriented responsiveness. Ignore titles and roles, and remember that how you treat other people matters," she says. "Your career will flourish as you gain respect and build a network of people who will champion you and your career goals."

 

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