How to develop a life-long career in project management

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Why should professionals who have any level of responsibility for projects in their organizations look to approaches like PRINCE2® and others for help? Paul Bradley, MD of SPOCE Project Management, shares his view:

Paul BradleyMany people are involved in project management without realizing, and it benefits to have a consistent approach.

But what approach should you take? There’s been an explosion of different project management methods and guides in recent years and people need a better understanding of how they fit together and can assist them in their work.

Starting out in project management

If you’re new to project management, you will find introductory guidance, with a light process approach and some leadership guidance, in the APM Project Fundamentals.

PRINCE2 offers a robust and comprehensive framework which is a global standard for project management. The PRINCE2 Foundation and Practitioner certifications give you an approach that develops project managers while fitting into an organization’s structure.

Once you have the basics of project management in place, you can then look to develop other competencies such as risk management, communications, stakeholder engagement and delivering benefits. There are plenty of resources online or via a modular learning approach to help you further your confidence in handling these

For people new to project management, undertaking training often “switches on a lightbulb” and they begin to recognize the elements of project management they’re already using in their own workplace.

Progressing in project management

With 12 months’ grounding in project management – and in a work environment supportive of trainee project managers – you should be ready to take on some low-risk projects single-handedly.

And finding, or being allocated, an experienced project management mentor will speed up your development cycle, which will move you into a project manager role.
Today, as project management is becoming recognized more as a profession, you need to build greater awareness of, and learn how to interact with development and technical teams in your organization, not least with the resurgence of agile delivery methods.

Most of a project’s budget is consumed in the development phase – an area where project managers tend to have least control – and therefore you need to understand more about this part of the cycle.

In this advanced stage of your project management learning curve, you need to develop an appreciation of how your project will affect your organization, which introduces a greater level of stakeholder management and awareness. How will the products of projects be transitioned into the business and how will you work more collaboratively with programme managers and interact better with the business and its stakeholders?

Furthering your career

Constructing a long-term career in project management will involve a wider understanding of programme and portfolio management along with leadership and management skills; recognizing how you can have influence and negotiate, manage teams and support organizational change.

It’s in the area of organizational change – initiatives that require the cooperation and changing behaviours of people – where you will find the most complex end of change and which marks your shift to more senior project manager roles. And this is where you’ll need all of your skills to be successful and keep everyone happy!

Advancing your career also means maintaining an awareness of what’s going on around you, being open to new ideas and keeping up with the latest changes in project management through networking with other practitioners and attending events such as Project Challenge in March 2018 or the PMO conference in June 2018.

There is also room for further study and certifications, for example new developments like PRINCE2 Agile, introducing the agile approach more directly into the project manager’s life. You might consider joining a membership organization such as PRINCE2 or MSP® membership which give you access to content and resources to ensure your skills and knowledge are kept up-to-date.

As with developing any life-long, successful career, there is always something you can learn to enhance and adapt your approach and avoid getting left behind.

Read more AXELOS Blog Posts by Paul Bradley

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PRINCE2® 2017 Update: Developing best practice for today’s challenging working world

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