Project Management Institute

The next level

there's more than one way to develop professional skills


By Lindsay Scott

I recently became a PMI member and achieved my Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification. What else should I be doing to develop myself in project management?

Congratulations! Your next step should be planning how to earn professional development units (PDUs) to maintain your status as a Project Management Professional. Start with PMI's Project Manager Competency Development Framework. This simple assessment will give you a clearer idea of your skill gaps.

Next, choose which gap areas are the most important to address today and over the coming three years. It makes sense to align your thoughts with what's important to your current organization. But don't be afraid to pursue skills that your organization might not see as important. Remember: You're developing yourself as a project manager—not just as a project manager working for a specific organization.

Take time to understand the PDU model. It's not all about enrolling in training courses or attending conferences and PMI congresses. You can mix in attendance at chapter meetings, reading books and journals, keeping up with blogs, listening to webinars or podcasts, using online resources like Coursera and, and taking part in web chats such as Twitter's #PMChat.

As you weigh different professional development options, consider the three sides of the PMI Talent Triangle™: technical project management, leadership, and strategic and business management. The technical development is often the easiest, mainly because so much training already has been developed. Leadership development primarily is focused on the “softer” skills of project management, such as communication, conflict management, negotiating and leading a team. For the strategic and business skills areas, you can opt for learning that fits your specific industry or the types of projects you manage. It also can mean pursuing generic business skill areas like finance, legal or business planning, or earning an MBA.

You also should consider volunteering. It's a great way to network and build your professional circle. Another area of development you should consider seriously is being mentored. This on-the-job sounding board and guiding hand in the early years is perhaps one of the best development experiences.

Another option, if you're a little more advanced in your career, is being coached. I‘ve seen how coaching can elevate a project manager's career. Sometimes it just takes someone outside your day-to-day relationships to ask questions that make you realize you had the answers all along.

I‘ve been working in project management offices (PMOs) for years, primarily in a program management office. I‘m excited about developments in portfolio management. How should I position myself to work in a portfolio-focused PMO?

With a strong background in a program PMO, you already should have the technical capabilities to carry out the main roles in a portfolio PMO. After all, the central task of translating data into meaningful information is required for both. You are probably also familiar with investment appraisals, project prioritization, resource management and benefits realization. If you're not, consider those areas as development opportunities.

The biggest shift when moving into portfolio management has to do with your understanding of the business and its competitive environment, and your ability to work with more senior members of the organization. There is a subtle switch in the language used and how you would interact with people at the portfolio level. You need the gravitas and knowledge to be able to deliver information that drives difficult decisions.

Keep in mind that portfolio management is also still a relatively young discipline with a lack of best practices on which to draw. Organizations are still fine-tuning how portfolio management works for them. For this reason, your development in this area partially will depend on how your organization wants to adopt portfolio management practices.

Interestingly, in my conversations with people who have made the move from program PMOs to portfolio PMOs, there's never a great time for that move. Many make the transition and then learn the necessary new skills on the fly.

What's the difference between a project management consultant and a freelance/contract project manager?

Typically, a consultant in any business field is focused on advising organizations in business areas that need initiating, changing or developing. A project management consultant often advises, but also provides a hands-on project delivery role. A freelance/contract project manager tends to be hired to deliver a specific project or well-defined deliverables, rather than advise.

As you weigh different professional development options, consider the three sides of the PMI Talent Triangle™.

Here are some circumstances in which an organization might enlist a project management consultant:

  • Limited project management capability. The consultant advises how to improve an organization's pool of project managers while managing a critical project.
  • Low project management maturity. A consultant will deliver a complicated project while advising the client on improving maturity so in-house project managers can deliver such projects in the future.
  • Troubled or failing projects. Consultants often specialize in getting projects back on track and advising how to avoid similar problems in the future.
  • New technology, tools and methods. Consultants can train and coach staff in new areas as well as roll out new methods.
  • New entities such as PMOs. A consultant can advise on what models to follow and then start the implementation.

Consultants are called on to assist in finding the right solution for the business, using their considerable experience in a specific area. Ideally, once the consultant finds the solution, he or she can successfully implement it as well. PM

img Lindsay Scott is the director of program and project management recruitment at Arras People in London, England.
This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI.




Related Content