The future is now
Prepare for a career move by sharpening the skills needed for tomorrow's project, today.
BY CINDY WAXER
When a project manager
has done a job well, it shows. But senior management looks for more than a sparkling project record when promotion time rolls around.
Project managers need to show they have the ambition and ability to learn the skills that will take them to the next level. And now is a prime time to make a move. A PwC survey identified the availability of key skills as one of the three top concerns facing CEOs worldwide in 2013.
To capitalize on this shortage, project managers can't shy away from opportunities to learn something new.
“We have our comfort zones so sometimes it's hard for us to break out,” says David Roberts, PMP, a project manager at the National Park Service, Denver, Colorado, USA.
But venturing into the unknown is the only way to find new frontiers. Here are three tips on how to take the first step forward.
Find—and fill—the gap
Being the perfect candidate doesn't happen by accident. To land the jobs they want, project managers must identify the next step up the ladder and carefully review the requirements for the role, Mr. Roberts says.
“That's an excellent way to see what credentials and experience they need to develop between now and when they expect to pursue the job,” he says.
Also, take a good, long look at what top project managers do best, says Enrique Galvez-Durand Monge, PMP, senior project manager at engineering firm Altran Innovación, Madrid, Spain. He recommends turning to history for role models.
“In the case of former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, for instance, he had to make very complex decisions and transmit those decisions efficiently to the team,” he says. “As a leader, he was good at planning, analyzing risks and being prepared to make fast decisions. These are the kinds of skills you need as a project manager.”
While target skill sets will vary based on an individual's career goals, strategic and business management is a must-have skill across industries and roles. PMI's Pulse of the Profession™ In-Depth Report: Talent Management found that 58 percent of organizations have a need to train new employees in strategic and business management skills.
“In many cases, you have to negotiate with internal areas of the company for resources, or you have to explain why you have to make certain decisions,” Mr. Galvez-Durand Monge says. “To communicate effectively, you must have a business view of the project, not only a technical understanding.”
“To communicate effectively, you must have a business view of the project, not only a technical understanding.”
—Enrique Galvez-Durand Monge, PMP, Altran Innovación, Madrid, Spain
Make time for training
Once they understand where they need to do the most work, project managers should create a development plan that outlines short- and long-term training goals.
For example, Juliano Messaggi, PMP, knew he had to fine-tune his finance know-how when he joined CPQi, an investment-banking technology company in São Paulo, Brazil. So he took action.
“I sought out and participated in online courses that are specific to financial markets in Brazil,” he says.
Earning a degree can also boost a project manager's career prospects, and with the increasing popularity of distance education programs, not even busy work schedules need to stand in the way. Getting a master's in business administration (MBA) can teach project managers to align projects to organizational strategy and measure business value. What's more, it can provide a stepping stone to a leadership position.
“For me, an MBA was the right choice because I wanted to learn more about business,” says Mr. Roberts. “It's given me background knowledge I wouldn't have had otherwise.”
Credentials can also position a candidate for the next phase, Mr. Galvez-Durand Monge says. “The Project Management Professional (PMP)® credential is one way to get not only good training, but also to certify that you are an experienced and well-trained professional,” he says.
Project managers may even be able to build buy-in for their organizations to pay for training by touting the impact education can have on business results. Organizations that offer ongoing project management training report meeting goals and business intent on 66 percent of projects, compared to 57 percent for those that do not, according to PMI's Pulse of the Profession™ study.
Step up—and into the limelight
Skill development is only as valuable as the self-promotion that comes along with it. To stand out from the pack, project managers must demonstrate to their organizations’ senior leadership they've taken the time to become leaders themselves.
“Delivering a project on time, under budget and with the right quality is not enough,” warns Mr. Messaggi. “Project managers also need to show senior executives they've worked well with the project management team.”
One of the best ways to exercise and demonstrate leadership—and curry favor with a supervisor—is to volunteer for responsibilities related to the job they want.
“Request more responsibility piece by piece, slowly picking up the skills you need for the next step in your career,” Mr. Roberts says. “As you do so, you'll become more qualified for the next level, and senior-level management will take note of that.” PM
“Delivering a project on time, under budget and with the right quality is not enough. Project managers also need to show senior executives they've worked well with the project management team.”
—Juliano Messaggi, PMP, CPQi, São Paulo, Brazil
PM NETWORK AUGUST 2013 WWW.PMI.ORG