Project management is one of the most critical roles in any organization. It takes a special kind of person to lead successful projects and teams. At the end of the day, you can do anything but not everything. Project management might seem a bit overwhelming initially, but don't let anything intimidate you. Keep growing daily, learn from your mistakes, and never stop learning. If you're just starting as a project manager, here are some tips on how to survive your first few years:
Set goals and make plans to achieve them. Make sure your goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound (SMART). For example: "I want to be a PM" is not good enough! What do you want to do as a PM? "I want to work at Microsoft." Potentially achievable but very vague and not specific about what type of job or how you will get there. Instead, "I will apply for a PM role for Office Suite projects at Microsoft this summer. By October, I will have an offer letter to start my new job in December." Much better! You've set a goal clearly and broken it down into smaller steps that can help guide your actions in achieving it.
Be an active listener. As a PM, you'll be working with an entire team. You'll want to make sure that you are listening carefully to what your teammates are saying and asking questions that help clarify any areas where their thoughts may be unclear. If you can't understand what the person is trying to communicate, it will be difficult for them to do their job well.
Embrace your ambiguity and lead through it. Your job in this first year isn't necessarily to come up with brilliant ideas or plans yourself—it's more important to handle ambiguity while leading others through it confidently! In this early stage, you are not an expert on anything. Everything is ambiguous, and you should embrace that. This is a time of rapid learning and growth for you as a PM. You will make lots of mistakes, but they don't have to be bad if you accept them and learn from them (and maybe even have some fun along the way).
Be open to feedback. Be open to feedback from your peers and managers, even if it's negative or harsh. The fact that someone took the time out of their day to tell you something about yourself could mean only one thing: they care about your success! So don't just dismiss their comments; try to figure out how they can help improve your work or attitude moving forward.
Speak up! If you're the only person on a project who isn't speaking up, then know that you are not alone. You might feel like your voice is small and insignificant, but if other people don't hear it, they can't include it in their thinking. So speak up! It's easy to feel uncomfortable doing this, especially if there are other people around who have more experience and authority than you. However, someone will eventually bring up what you are thinking, even if no one else is saying what you're thinking.
Learn to be proactive, not reactive. During the early years of project management, avoid the urge to react to and fix every little problem or issue. Instead, learn to create better plans and monitor situations. Look for positive and negative trends rather than one-time issues. Learn better time management and prioritization skills as well. Over time, you will find your efforts shifting to proactive steps to avoid problems rather than needing to react to them.
Invest in yourself. There is no substitute for experience, but there are ways to gain it faster. Investing in yourself is one of the most important things you can do as a PM. Some ways to invest include:
- Taking courses and reading books on project management.
- Attending conferences. They will expose you to ideas from other industries and help you meet people who can be mentors or peers.
- Joining online project management communities where you can find helpful advice from experienced project managers like myself!
Now that we've discussed the basics of project management and some of the challenges you might face when starting out, it's time to get to work. Go ahead and read through this article again if necessary, then take a few deep breaths before diving into your first project. Remember: there is no right or wrong way to do it—just do what works best for you!
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