This road sign is pretty much what the path forward looked like to me when I started my venture into formal project management.
Perhaps you can relate. Since then, I’ve combined what I’ve learned in my own journey with the things I wish I would have known to start with and try to help other people who are starting out.
These are the steps you can start taking today to de-mystify your project management career.
Step 1 - You Are Here
If you don’t know where you are starting from, it’s pretty tough to move forward.
There is no ‘one size fits all’ advice for starting or advancing your project management career. Imagine a GPS system in your car that has no knowledge of your current location. It doesn’t work, does it?
You can leverage your background, skills, and interests in different ways to get started. If you have a technical background, there are tons of strategies to use that to your advantage. The same is true if you come from a general or operational management background. Even if you are just starting out and don’t feel you have much experience or background to leverage, it’s very important to acknowledge that and use your interests and natural talents effectively.
Write it down. In the course I teach worksheets are provided to help you clearly define your ‘current location’ as a foundation from which to move forward. You can even start with a blank page and just do a SWOT analysis of your current position. Going through this process will help generate ideas about what you might be interested in pursuing and how you can parlay what makes you unique into opportunities going forward.
Step 2 - Define Your Destination And Plot The Course
Imagine that same GPS unit knows where you are currently at, but has no idea or only a vague notion of where you want to go. Again, pretty hard to get there...
I recommend researching organizations to eventually target 3-5 companies that you would really love to work for, who have clear indicators they value project management as a discipline, are in an industry you love, and with whom you can leverage your starting point to quickly achieve your initial goals.
Aside from targeting the right organizations, this is the step where you start to examine how you should augment your tool kit with certifications, education, and above all gaining experience with projects in ways that will make you more competent and appealing to those target organizations.
Step 3 - Build Professional Relationships
Almost anything worth doing requires more than just one person.
When you get lost you want to have a circle of friends who know, like, and trust you that will help put you back on course. Networking is a scary word for most people, but I’m talking about building relationships here. And now that you have a clear set of routes planned for, you know exactly what kind of people you should focus on building strong professional relationships with.
The most important factor here is giving, giving, giving. If you want to get people to know, like, and trust you it’s all about being indispensable to them. Most people go about networking all wrong. They come across as a nuisance, expecting someone who barely knows them to spend time, effort, and social capital to fulfil a request.
You shouldn’t be requesting anything until you’ve delivered so much value to someone they feel obligated to repay all the favors you’ve done for them. Every person is going to be receptive and value different things, so you really have to know the people in your network if you want to provide them with real value. This isn’t something you can do halfway; do your homework and be specific. Set up whatever you are willing to do for them to make it so easy for them to say yes.
In fact, all they should have to do is say yes.
Here’s an example. In September a local recruiter who is part of my network of friends reached out to me because I’ve always been willing to point him to qualified candidates, and he knows he is going to get a quality referral from me. I have built up that trust over time by demonstrating my willingness and ability to deliver value to this recruiter.
It was a position for a Junior Project Manager position, and as it happens I knew someone else in my network who I thought would be a good fit. I made the connection between the two. Here’s what happened:
•The recruiter gained a high-quality candidate referral.
•The candidate got a nice recommendation and referral for a position he’d love to have a chance at.
•I reinforced my status with both of them as someone who loves helping other people get what they want, without any expectations or hassle.
Voila! The virtuous circle is complete. All 3 parties here gained value. This is my style of networking and it’s a continuous process, not an event. Will I ever ‘get back’ the value I gave to these two individuals? Perhaps not. It doesn’t matter. If you do this often enough over time, you get to be known, liked, and trusted. Pay it forward, and you’ll be amazed what opportunities open up for you at some unexpected time in the future.
Step 4 - Drive With Confidence
In the last part of my course I get to the logistics of the job hunt; resumes/CVs, coverletters, portfolios, interviews, and dealing with offers and rejections. If you’ve done steps 1 and 2, and are constantly doing step 3, this is the icing on the cake.
Unfortunately, most people think this is the cake. It’s not!
(When did Josh switch from car to cake analogies? Just go with it people, I’m eccentric like that :-)
The goal of the previous steps is to never go into this phase of the process cold. You will be better prepared than the majority of candidates for whatever position you are applying. The vast majority of people do not know what I teach or actually take action to implement this stuff. They do what everyone else does instead; apply and pray.
If you’ve done your homework and put sincere effort into the process described earlier, the hiring managers will already know who you are and will be excited to interview you. Imagine that!
In the best cases the clear ‘vibe’ I’ve gotten when I did this well is that the whole application and interview process was just a formality; they already knew they wanted to hire me. In fact, you’ll notice I didn’t mention anything about searching the job boards online. This isn’t necessarily a bad idea, but if you are doing the rest of what I’ve outline well you should never have to. The goal is to hear about new positions from someone in your network who knows, likes, and trusts you... and wants you to come work with them.
Saturday was well spent.
Awesome lunch with friend over white lily tea, dumplings and peking duck. We did a bit of window shopping and some shopping and bought few movies to watch at home.
Among those was Eat, Pray, Love- I have the book and have watched the movie. Since the movie inspired my friend to travel around the world, we bought it to watch at home again together.
She actually met the real medicine man in Bali; during one of her trips.
We watched it later at night. It’s fun watching all about India while in India. It struck a chord to think that people travel to India because it awakens them spiritually, or calms them down and its said- life’s never the same ever after visiting India.
It was nice seeing India through my friends eye (she is from New York).
It’s been around 10 months since I have been back and I had plans and things to do when I return. Isn’t that why I returned? All I have been doing is getting sucked in work and life is the same. I had additional plans for my blog, spend time on a business goal I have been nurturing for a while and travel more. None happened.
Evernote has changed the way I read. I have it pretty much everywhere- web, desktop application, Iphone and even the web clipper (chrome extension).
I have to say, I use the web clipper the most because I like to remember the sites or article I enjoyed reading. I used to save links before in notepads or Google tasks, now I simply clip it and tag it.
The sync takes care of the rest. So, I can read them later at leisure say from my phone.
I also have been keeping the business cards virtually with Evernote, take a pic, attach it and write a note to remind yourself where you met, why should you connect and save it.
I haven’t used SpringPad, but it seems like a good one too.
Another new find has been Linoit. I have been looking for a Kanban board that I can use and Linoit just does that! You can use it the way you want. Like a reminder board with stickies, or simply stickies that come with a reminder and alarm feature, a mood board or a kanban board. And it’s free.
If you want to see the list of similar board applications click here .
This is a guest post from Sam Palani. Find out more about him at his site or connect with him on twitter.
5 Steps to get your Project Schedule Correct
When I was asked to come up with a guest post for Stepping Into Project Management (SIPM),
I wanted to come up with something that was close with the central theme of the blog, which
is helping Project managers on starting their journey on the project management space. As a
newbie project manager (or for that matter even as someone who has been managing projects
for sometime) getting your project schedule correct early on is critical as this will be one of the
important baselines against which you would track your project execution.
I also want to call out one common myth / misconception here - A Project Plan is different from
a Project Schedule - no matter what they tell you. I will not go into details on this post, but to
summarize - A plan will include your strategy on how you will get there i.e. the end goal (scope)
whereas a project schedule is as the name suggests a schedule of tasks along with their
So it is critical that you get this correct as you take your first steps into project management.
Here are five simple but important steps that will help get your schedule correct:
Start with the WBS - First things first. Start with decomposing your scope into a work break
break down structure. While there are multiple rules around this, the general thumb rule is break
down your scope to work packages where each package can contain around 5-10 individual
tasks. Again this is a just a rule of thumb, the level of the WBS would largely depend on your
individual program or project. The idea here is to be able to tie back the individuals tasks that
will make up your schedule to the capabilities listed in the project scope.
Hint - Do not over do this to a level where you end up adding more complexity and management
Get your estimates on track - The next logical step is to estimate the individual tasks that
make up your work packages. How many resources you will need and how much time it will
take take for these resources to get the task completed. Avoid doing any fast tracking or
crashing at this stage. This is based on the assumption that you will be doing a bottom up
estimation, that is starting from the individual tasks and rolling up at the work-package level.
Hint - Make sure your estimation process & model is communicated and transparent to the
Analyze your dependencies - Most certainly your individual task will not be executed in silos.
They will have dependencies. These dependencies and constraints can be in different forms.
Example a task may have a dependency on a particular task getting started or completed as
well as there may be tasks that are constrained to start or end on a particular date.
Hint - Don't attempt to do this alone, get your SMEs involved in this exercise.
Calculate your critical path - Once your have your tasks,estimates and the dependencies in
place. You are now ready to to get the critical path. You either do this manually or through an
EPM software that you are using. It does not really matter. It is also likely that you may end up
with more than one critical path. You will need to pay attention to all the critical paths identified.
It is also important to note that during the course of the project your critical path might change
so your schedule is more of a living document and not static.
Hint - Often there may be tasks outside your critical path that will influence your project
Communicate - Now that you have done all the good work and have the project schedule
in place, publish it. Your project stakeholders including your team need to be aware of the
project schedule. The schedule would help little just sitting out there on your hard drive. again
a reminder that your schedule is a live document and gets revisited during the course of your
execution for instance every time you do risk assessment or change management
Hint - Include a link to your schedule in your project status communications.
So that’s it, you now have a schedule baseline against which you can monitor and control your
PMChat has been gaining popularity and is a great way to stay updated, interact and learn more. Today's post is all about PMChat- details, where to join and what to expect.
This is a guest post by Robert Kelly; Founder and Managing Partner of Kelly Project Solutions. He has over a dozen years of experience leading complex, enterprise projects at companies including Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, Lenovo and currently at Red Hat. Robert’s blog, Kelly’s Contemplation, was shortlisted for Computer Weekly’s Top 10 Project Management Blogs for 2010, named a Top 10 Up and Coming Project Manager on Twitter, and contributor to ‘A Peek Into The Life of Project Managers’.
Regardless of their experience level, Project Managers are always on the hunt for new ways to grow, learn, and stay on top of their profession. It may be learning a new technology to join a new project. Some are looking to break into the field of project management and want to learn the basics, while others are PMPs and need PDU’s to remain that way. Wherever you may be in your professional career as a Project Manager, I would like to introduce a new medium to your development portfolio...#PMChat
Project Management Chat (#PMChat) is a weekly discussion hosted by Robert Kelly and Rob Prinzo each Friday from 12-1pm (EST). The topics focus on Project Management & Leaderships techniques, best practices, and so on. In addition to both Rob’s being named to the Top 10 Up & Coming Project Managers on Twitter, their partnership offers nearly 30 years of diverse experience to the #PMChat participants. To further add value to this platform, they will invite thought leaders from a range of project management and leadership arenas to co-host the forum. Additionally, KPS hosts a #PMChat Pre-Game show, via KPS Chatter on BlogTalk Radio, every week from 11:30-11:45 am (EST). During this quick, 15-minute radio show, you will hear both Roberts and their guest for the week discuss the topic that will be discussed during the Twitter chat.
Here is what folks are saying... ·“Thanks for inviting me to the #pmchat. Great stuff, SMART people! Have a good weekend!” ·“It was fun! This was my first-ever Tweet Chat. Went very well and learned. Excellent use of time! Thanks for hosting it.” ·“Thanks @rkelly976 & @robprinzo for an interesting #pmchat today. Great topic! Wish I’d had more time to participate. Next time!”
The #PMChat is truly a great opportunity to talk with some tremendous Project/Program Management professionals about leading challenges in this space. While other hashtags have become 1-way communication and retweets, #PMChat is truly a collaborative environment where people are sharign ideas, networking, and developing relationships.