Take the Shortest Path to Success in Project Management
Let's look at two general approaches to becoming a project manager and how to set yourself up for success with each one.
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Are you planning to be a project manager? Project managers can easily qualify as the lifeline of a project. They are the ones who must make sure that things are done quickly and accurately. Not just that, a project manager also must make sure that the team sticks to the scope of the task. In order to accomplish all this, a project manager must have analytical acumen without letting the numbers diminish their creativity.
So, what does it take to become a project manager? The answer to this question is not a simple one, owing to the fact that there are multiple ways to become a project manager or to lead and coordinate a project. There are several factors that come into play, from skill to experience. In this article, we are going to discuss two paths to becoming a project manager: a more structured path led by formal education and training and a path guided by personal experience.
Path 1: Structured Growth With Project Management Education and Certification
Step 1: Decide to Become Project Manager
The decision to switch to project management can come early in your career from college or during your professional career after being a part of a project for some time. If you are planning to pursue your career in project management, it is advisable to develop a general understanding of what happens in project management. While working on a college project can give you some idea as to what happens in project management, the corporate version can be very different. Also, being a part of a corporate team may not give you complete exposure to the extent of task and scope. So, the best way to move forward would be to interview a project manager who could give you an overview or follow any project management forum where you can learn more about it. Like every other job function, Project Management has its pros and cons. Try to find that out and decide whether it is for you.
Step 2: Decide Which Certification You Want to Take Up
There are multiple certifications options available in project management. However, the selection of these certifications may depend upon several factors: experience, location, the scope of work, etc. We will discuss a couple of certifications in the Project management spectrum and when can you take them up:
CAPM: CAPM is a certification designed for people who are new to project management and want an initial understanding of project management principles, functions, and best practices.
PMP: PMP is a gold standard certification in the project management spectrum and is taken by professionals with decent project management experience. PMP can be the next step after CAPM and deals in detail about the practical application of project management methodologies and principles.
PMI-ACP: You can opt for this after PMP if you want to gain expertise in Agile methodologies.
CSM: Being certified as a Scrum Master is something else you can do after PMP. CSM is governed by ScrumAlliance and it pays specific attention to Scrum.
CSPO: Is the next step after CSM and should be taken up if you need extensive information on Scrum.
Prince 2 Suite: The Prince 2 Suite is more common in the UK and is the equivalent of CAPM and PMP, although not as famous.
There are several other certifications that you can take as you move up the project management ladder.
Step 3: Begin Your Education
There are several training facilitators that provide courses for all of the above-mentioned certifications. While there are standard books like PMBOK, tailor-made course materials provided by these training organizations are also very beneficial. Remember to take your time during the preparation and take up as many practice examinations as possible. You can take various modes of training from in class to live online training. If you cannot invest a fixed duration for the preparation, you can also choose self-paced learning.
Step 4: Take your Examination
One major reason why most of the certifications in the project management spectrum hold credibility is because of a standard examination. Institutes like PMI and Scrum Alliance go to extensive lengths to maintain the integrity and standards of the examinations, so do not take the examination process lightly. In addition to the examination, you might also have to go through an audit or personal review for certain certifications.
Step 5: Maintain Your Certification
Another major reason why these certifications remain relevant even in ever-changing business environments is that participants have to continuously adapt to the changes and acquire knowledge to maintain their certifications. While you might have to re-take exams for certain certifications, others might require you to indulge in continuous development activities.
Part 2: Project Management Through Experience
Step 1: Identified Potential
You have been assigned the task of managing the project. This could have happened after being a part of various projects and gaining experience and certain skills in the project management spectrum. You certainly have certain skills that are important for project management and your potential has been recognized. This predominantly forms the first step to the second stream of growth that we will discuss. What do you do now? This leads us to step 2.
Step 2: Identify the Skills that You Require
While you have several skills, there will probably be certain skills that you might have missed out on. It is time to identify these skills. This is the most difficult stage in adult learning and is termed as conscious incompetence. This is the stage when you realize there are things that you need to learn — then you need make honest attempts to acquire them.
Step 3: Acquiring the Skills
Now that you have decided on the skills you need; you need to find ways to acquire them. Other project managers in your circle can be of assistance, or you may get help from your manager or other senior members of your organization. You can also get help from self-learning tools.
Step 4: Implement What You Have Learned
At some point, you will have to implement what you have learned. The process is generally slow as you are too careful and there is very little help available. However, the learning you get is of the utmost importance.
Step 5: Decide on the Next Step
While the learning process is a continuous one, you will reach a position where you will have a clear picture of what you want to do next. You might need some formal training or a change in working style.
While your overall journey can be of one of the above paths, you might often find yourself switching between the two structures for optimal results. While starting with certification can give you a strong start and structured learning, the experience is important to solidify the teachings. It is difficult to balance certification and experience. However, certification comes with multiple advantages like structured learning, shorter learning duration, expert help to guide you, and quicker personal development. You can benefit from the experience of others and quickly identify the best practices in the spectrum.
Published at DZone with permission of Richard Kick. See the original article here.
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