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So You Want to Be a Project Manager?

By: Myong Galletta, PMP

Chances are if you are reading this article, you have already done project management. The truth is, we apply project management skills to daily tasks and everyday life, whether it’s preparing a meal, completing a DIY project, or planning a vacation. Project Management Institute (PMI) defines project management as “the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements.” If you’ve created a checklist of detailed tasks before leaving for vacation, planned the itinerary, coordinated with family members on what to bring, booked the trip, and taken off as scheduled, you have done some aspects of project management.

As a project manager, you are planning, scheduling, budgeting, executing, and monitoring the project until it is completed. You work with people and tools to achieve success.

According to PMI, there are over 1 million active certified Project Management Professionals (PMP) worldwide, as of August 2020. There are a number of project management certifications you can attain, and with each, you must meet certain eligibility requirements and also pass an exam. The PMP certification is the gold standard for project management because it is known globally, validates your competence as a project manager, and ensures you can manage a project using standardized and repeatable processes. After you pass the exam, you maintain your certification by earning professional development units (PDU) through learning, teaching, practicing, or volunteering. Earning PDUs is much easier than passing the exam, so don’t let your certification lapse.

The PMP coursework, PMI’s A Guide to Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide), teaches you the five process groups and 10 knowledge areas of project management. Since there are numerous authoritative sources that teach to the PMP exam, I won’t dive much into course content. Below is a list of additional skillsets, beyond textbook and classroom knowledge, I believe project managers should have to achieve success in their projects:

  • Soft skills – such as effective communication, integrity, creativity, empathy, and problem-solving, help instill trust and confidence in you as a project manager.
  • Knowing the big picture – when you work on a project with many people who are focused on specific tasks, you need to be the person who puts it all together.
  • Team dynamics – building a team environment, where collaboration is key, will build trust and keep the team motivated.
  • A good mix of structure and flexibility – at the core of project management is following a plan, but as in life, some things don’t always go as planned, and projects are no different when it comes to unexpected events. People leave jobs, a health pandemic can force us out of the workplace, or project funding is cut short. A good project manager has a plan in place but also plans for contingencies, with frequent reviews, revisions as necessary, and a willingness to adapt.
  • Stay up to date with new technology – project managers have to continuously improve and try out new techniques and tools to improve efficiencies, reduce cost, and stay on trend.
  • Document – in addition to the required project documentation, (e.g., project charter, project plan, schedule, risk management plan, etc.), document processes, change requests, decisions, and lessons learned to ensure project requirements are fulfilled and establish traceability to actions.

If you like making an impact in an organization, helping to achieve goals, and creating a work environment where teams can thrive, a career in project management may be right for you.

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