I think most professionals want to advance their careers and project managers are no exception. As a PM you are always looking to get larger and more difficult assignments. You want to get those choice assignments from your company that will help you advance your career, hopefully moving you up on the company org chart. There is nothing wrong with wanting to advance your career and get more money and benefits along the way.
There are lots of factors that go into climbing the corporate ladder. Some of it has to do with politics, assignment to the right projects, and having the right personnel assigned by their managers to your project. Those are factors that are outside of your control. But what about those issues that are within your sphere of influence?
Continuously updating your skill set is important. If you do not progress and expand your skills you are going to be left behind. Are you unsure what Waterfall Project Management is? Do you not know what Agile Project Management means? Even if you do not use these methodologies, you owe it to yourself and your employer to educate yourself and understand all of the tools that are available to you as a PM. There are tons of resources, including this site, where you can take some time out of your TV viewing schedule and learn and understand strategies related to PM.
I read a book early in my career titled Now Discover Your Strengths by Buckingham and Clifton that advocates you focus on your top five strengths and work to improve them. As you do so, you will improve your effectiveness and ultimately performance. When you buy their book, they also offer an online assessment to determine what your top five strengths are. For those of you who are curious, mine are Achiever, Woo, Communication, Learner, and Developer. The authors provide you with details on how to make improvements in each specific area. I refer back to this book a ton.
One of the most important traits you can have as a PM is trust. Trust is an interesting thing — as a project manager it takes years to build it up. It comes through your hard work and effort as you are able to complete projects on time and within budget. You are able to keep confidences when required and people know that when you are given a difficult project, if it can be completed, you are the person to do it. They can count on you to always be truthful, both by being honest and by not withholding information. But trust can be lost in a matter of minutes; it sometimes takes years to gain it back.
I just finished reading Jeffrey Gitomer’s Little Teal Book of Trust where he explains some of the small things that you may overlook when it comes to building trust. Part of the book is related to sales and how to gain the trust of your customer, which you may think doesn’t apply to you, but think again. You constantly sell yourself to your team, stakeholders, and the client when you are in our profession. Project managers constantly sell themselves and their skill set whether they know it or not. When your coworkers trust you as a PM and a person, they will want to work on your project teams, your boss will want to give you the tough assignments, and customers will seek out your expertise and ability to get things done.
As a PM, you need to continually update your skills, both professional and personal. If you are reading this and say to yourself, “Man I don’t have time to read,” I say bull. If you say, “I am not a reader,” I say become one. Start with the two books I suggested and commit to making improvements in yourself. If you don’t like the look of these, pick one that appeals to you and get started. Get started today or you just might fall behind.