4 Ways To Get Your Project Management Career Back On Track This Fall

Project managers are known for their love of achievement and organization. Many project managers fail to plan one of the most important projects in their life: their project management career. That’s a huge mistake because most of us spend more of our waking hours at work than we do at home.

Jeff Allen, PMP Shares His Perspective On Earning The PMP Certification

Find out how to make the most of that time by using these four strategies to develop your career goals.

1) Search Within Your Past Job Experiences To Inform Your Next Step

Review your past job experiences and your goals to find your next step. This strategy is especially powerful once you have a few years of work experience.

Example: You loved the experience of mentoring new hires and selling the vision of new projects to management. You also have a goal to increase your income. One career path to combine these goals and strengths: start your own business focused on coaching and consulting.

Use these reflection questions:

  • What frustrated you the most about the organization’s culture (e.g., work from home, limited professional development budgets)?
  • What projects were you most proud of in this role and why?
  • How did you feel about the job on Sunday nights? If you were inconsistent low spirits every Sunday night, that’s a warning sign you’re in the wrong job.

If you find yourself liking the fundamental nature of the work (e.g., leading technology projects) but disliking the organization, it is time to look at making a change.

2) Look At The Marketplace (Not Just The Job Boards)

Your needs and interests matter but they are not the whole story when it comes to careers. As you plan the next step to grow your project management career, there are a few considerations you need to keep in mind.

  • Look At Promotion Notices. Does your company post promotion announcements to an internal website? If so, take the time to read through those notices. Specifically, look for patterns on who is promoted. For example, if you have your heart set on an executive role, you might notice that most executives have a master’s degree like an MBA and have a variety of different roles in their work history. You can then model those patterns in your career.
  • Check In With Your Network. The majority of the best, highly paid jobs and business opportunities come through your network. Unfortunately, you are probably neglecting your contacts. To gain insight from your network, set up coffee meetings with two to four people you already know. The purpose is simple: ask them for their perspective on what skills and capabilities are in demand. You will receive the best insights if you focus your efforts on managers who have made or participated in a hiring decision in the past twelve months.

If your market research tells you that certifications and credentials are critical, we’ll show you how to take the next step.

3) Enhance Your Career With Project Management Certifications

When you earn a high-value certification like the Project Management Professional (PMP), you will experience a few benefits. You will start to have greater confidence in your decisions because you can use a proven methodology. Further, Project Management Institute research suggests professionals with PMI certifications tend to earn more than those who lack the certification.

If you want to earn a certification, use the following steps to get started.

  • Choose Your Certification. While the PMP is the most project management certification, it is not the only option on the market. If you already have the PMP, you might consider pursuing another certification like the Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP).
  • Check Your Eligibility. Before you get too excited about opening new doors in your career, you need to do your research. Visit the certification organization (e.g., PMI) website and review the eligibility requirements. You may require a specific combination of professional work experience, training and exam results to obtain a certification.
  • Set Your Budget and Schedule. Once you find a relevant certification that you are qualified for, it is time to set your budget and schedule. For the PMP, I recommend setting your schedule as 12 months or less. The budget you use will depend on your circumstances, but you can probably earn the certification for less than $1,000.
  • Seek Out Support. There are two places you can seek support. First, ask your manager if you can apply for funding for certification expenses and time to study. Second, ask for your family’s support and understanding as you take the time to study for the exam.

Now you might be asking yourself “how am I supposed to find time for all this when I already have a day job?” Let’s cover that challenge in the next section.

4) Start A 10% Personal Project To Get Growing

10 percent is all you need to make serious progress in your project management career. 10% of what? Let’s unpack the concept.

For the sake of discussion, assume you work a 40 hour work week. If you extend that workweek by 10% (i.e., add four hours), you will be able to make progress without driving yourself crazy.

Assuming you work a 9-5 schedule, here are a few ways you can add 4 hours to your program.

  • The Morning Warrior. Set aside 1 hour in the morning on Monday-Thursday and work on your career. This approach works well if you are studying for a certification.
  • The Networking Strategist. Start scheduling two lunches and a few coffee meetings each week to grow your network. For the best results, include existing contacts and people you want to meet.
  • Leverage The Weekend. If your workweek is too chaotic, look at your weekends differently. When I studied for the PMP exam, I set aside time on weekend mornings to do practice PMP exams. The strategy worked well for me because it gave me uninterrupted time to do full practice exams.

Resource: Interested in starting your own project management business on the side? Check out The 10% Entrepreneur by Patrick McGinnis for advice on how to apply the 10% concept to starting a business.

Are four hours per week enough to achieve all of your career goals? Only you can tell for sure. If you want to make progress faster, you may need to set aside more time. This approach will be enough to get you going.

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