I’ve recently become a member of PMI and successfully achieved my PMP. What else should I be doing to develop myself in project management.
Congratulations! Hopefully throughout your PMP journey you have developed an appetite for learning and a passion for project management. There are still so many areas you can explore and that should start with planning how you are going to approach your Professional Development Units (PDUs) requirements to maintain your status as a professional project manager. I like that PMI have recently changed how PDUs can be achieved, in line with the PMI Talent Triangle, because they now include a focus on developing leadership and business skills too – all of which will help you become a more rounded professional. A good place to start when planning your development activities is to begin with the Competency Framework from PMI. This simple assessment will give you a clearer idea of what areas of project management you are doing well in – and more importantly will show you where your skills gaps are. The Competency Framework is an industry standard which is important when you’re starting out because you know your development choices will be based on what industry wants and needs from project managers.
Following your initial assessment, you can set to work by choosing which skills gap areas are the most important to address today and over the coming three years. It makes sense here to validate your thoughts about what’s important with what your current organization sees as important too. Sometimes they work perfectly together but don’t be afraid to pursue some development in other areas which your organization might not see as important. Remember you’re developing yourself as a project manager first and foremost – not just as a project manager working for a specific organization. Take some time here to talk through your thoughts and ideas with your line manager.
Coming back to undertaking PDUs – take time to understand the model and what options there are for development. It’s not all about training courses. It’s also not just about attending conferences and Congresses and picking up all your point requirements in one go! You need to think about how and when you can realistically undertake development, and spread it out over the three years. You should think about the combinations of activities. Mixing attendance at Chapter meetings, planning which books and journals to read (and thinking about writing a review of those to cement your learning), subscribing and reading blog feeds, listening to webinars, podcasts, using online resources like Coursera and Lynda.com, taking part in web chats like Twitter’s #pmchat. The list goes on. Your quest here is to find the quality resources that are available to suit the time and opportunity you have available.
You also need to choose development options based on the three areas of the technical, leadership, strategic and business management. The technicalities of project management are often the easiest, mainly due to the fact so much has already been developed and produced, you’ll be spoilt for choice! A top tip is to ask other members that you meet through Chapter meetings, conferences and other meetups, what their recommendations would be. Leadership development is primarily focused on the “softer” skills of project management. Early career development in this area typically includes subjects like communications, conflict management, influencing, negotiating, leading a team, facilitation skills and so on. With the strategic and business skills areas you can opt for development that fits within your specific industry sector or the types of projects you manage. It can also mean pursuing more generic business skill areas like finance, legal and commercial, business planning, even pursuing further education with a MBA.
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There are other avenues to explore too like volunteering or giving back to the profession in some way which can be great for those in the early parts of their project management career as it’s a great way to network and build your professional circle.
One area of development that you really should give some serious thought to is mentoring. If you talk to anyone who is fairly new to the role of project manager and has a mentor, they will tell you just how effective it is at helping to cement their formal learning back into the workplace. They’ll also tell you how good it is to have the support of a more experienced project manager when aspects of your project get tough. That on-the-job sounding board and guiding hand in the early years is perhaps one of the best development experiences you will ever have in your career.
There are lots of resources available about how mentoring can work for you on the web and you should consider it carefully, identifying a few possible people who could be that mentor for you before building your proposal to approach them.
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The second option – if you’re a little more advanced in your career – is to consider the option of coaching. I’ve seen how coaching can elevate a project manager’s career. It’s about using an external source to help you see what you are really capable of – almost like panning for gold. You know you have the capability to do the job but sometimes it just takes someone outside your normal day to day relationships to ask those questions that make you realise you had the answers all along and now you know exactly what course of action to take. Pretty powerful stuff.
This article is taken from my regular careers column in PMI’s membership magazine, PM Network, visit the Project Management Institute for more information.