I frequently receive questions such as how do I get started as a project manager and how do I learn more about project management. It takes time to learn. You will also need to learn not just best practices but the practices your organization already employs.
This post is not about training or competency studies but relationships. Building the right relationships ensures you get the proper training at the right time to advance yourself and your organization. So here are four ways to develop your project management competency through relationships.
Find your path collaboratively. Personally, my career started as a collaboration with my manager. This came after I had already been performing some of the work of a project manager. I expressed an interest in pursuing project management as the next step in my career. He told me he felt that would be a good goal, and we were able to use that to set up some training milestones and other things he needed me to do before moving into a new area. When those goals were completed, and an opportunity arose, he assigned me to shadow a project manager. We continued to collaborate until I reached a management position.
Maybe you don't have this type of collaborative relationship with your manager, so you may need to consider building it first. Another great resource for collaboration would be a college or career counselor who can assist you in getting the right training.
Learn from others. Because project management relies significantly on the decisions and actions of the practitioner, learning from another project manager in your organization is helpful. Getting a role as a project coordinator, project assistant, or shadow project manager is a way to make this happen.
Find a mentor. If none of these previous ways work out for you, consider finding a mentor. A mentor is a seasoned professional who can help guide you along your career journey. If you cannot find someone to play this role in your company, consider joining your local Project Management Institute Chapter. Many chapters offer to mentor new professionals.
Adopt a mindset of continuous improvement. Ideally, you will be able to take advantage of all three of these ways. However, regardless of success, it would be best to adopt a continuous improvement mindset. It's not just about getting the next certification or taking the next class but making sure you get the knowledge and experience necessary to always get to the next level. Listen to the advice of your managers, advisors, colleagues, and mentors and find out what would make you more valuable as a project manager in your organization and circumstances.
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