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Even for those with years of experience, being a project manager is no easy task. Project managers need to have an incredible amount of on-the-job experience and knowledge, from developing leadership skills and learning to be an effective communicator to goal setting and execution.
While the role can appear to be overwhelming at first, being a project manager can add an incredible amount of value to your professional resume. Companies will always need the skillsets learned, refined and mastered by project managers.
The following ten tips will help new project managers find success, conquer current projects and set themselves up for more challenging — and rewarding — jobs in the future.
1. Become a certified project manager
If you’re serious about taking your project management career to the next level, consider becoming certified. Not only does this kind of formal training and education help craft your skills, but it can also make you more attractive to potential companies.
Just like with everything, some pros and cons need to be considered. Do you have the time to dedicate to the certification process? Do you have the financial means to become certified?
Pro tip: Some companies will pay for your project manager certification. The HR department will typically be able to tell you whether they offer any type of program, and if so, how to enroll.
2. Understand the full scope of the project
Never go into a new project blind. Doing so will only set you up for failure. Instead, take the time to dissect the entire project scope and comb through every detail before diving in.
While you might be overly excited to begin a new project, surprises down the line can be costly — impacting the project as well as your reputation. The time spent preparing will pay off in the form of achieving goals and making fewer pivots.
3. Map out the project’s top priorities
Once you have a complete understanding of the project’s scope, you can begin to map out the top priorities. You must be able to identify the tasks that must be addressed in the early stages of the project, what ones can wait and what tasks require advanced planning.
You never want to be caught off guard. The minute the project slows down, it creates a bottleneck disaster that can lead to a complete collapse and utter chaos. Project disasters are typically due to not prioritizing tasks.
Related: The 9 Most Difficult Personalities to Manage
4. Set realistic goals and milestones
When it comes to goal setting, you need to be realistic. This isn’t the time to play the hero or attempt the impossible. A company wants the project to move along as planned — so set realistic goals that you can meet, or even better, exceed.
When setting your project milestones, break your goals into several micro-goals that are highly measurable. When all your team members can step back and see the progress, it leads to high team morale and higher productivity.
5. Be comfortable leading and taking charge
As a project manager, you need to be willing and able to take charge of every component, from the team members to the project itself. You need to be willing to embrace this leadership role with open arms.
Not every project is going to run smoothly. There will be bumps in the roads, obstacles that require maneuvering around and other unexpected issues. Displaying a lack of confidence can hurt the entire team.
As the project manager, your team is going to look to you for guidance and advice, so be prepared to take charge and lead.
6. Embrace your team and strive to work as one
Take the time to gel with your team. The more effort you put into relationship building, the harder each individual is going to work towards that end goal you set.
There are going to be times that you’re going to need team members to go above and beyond, whether it’s working longer hours or taking on additional tasks. A strong relationship and connection with your team will have them going that extra mile for you when it’s needed.
Taking the time to get to know everyone on an individual level also helps you pinpoint the strengths and weaknesses of your team. This is highly beneficial when it comes to delegating tasks. Also, don’t be afraid to jump in the trenches to help. You can gain a lot of respect by working alongside your team members.
7. Understand your customer/client inside and out
It’s important that you understand the customer or client, and taking the time to get to know them opens up a much clearer path of communication. Communication is so important when it comes to staying on track and meeting milestones and deadlines.
When you have a good understanding of who your customer or client is, it allows you to create a plan that meets or exceeds expectations. A happy customer or client keeps a project moving smoothly, even in the event of small hiccups along the way.
8. Be proactive and one step ahead at all times
No project will ever go 100 percent according to plan without any issues or challenges. But great project managers are proactive and identify potential problems ahead of time. That way, when problems show up, they already have a plan in place to address them before they snowball into a larger issue.
Related: These Remote Project-Management Skills Matter Now and Here’s Where to Learn Them
9. Master your project management software stack
You need to fully understand the project management software stack you will be using for a particular job. If you will be using something you are unfamiliar with, take the time to learn it and suggest that your entire team learn it as well.
If you’re allowed to select software as the project manager, opt for a stack that you are familiar with and can provide training on, as well as software that has a strong technical support team in place. Having your project management software give you issues is an unnecessary and avoidable inconvenience.
10. Evaluate and critique your performance at the end
When the job is done, you need to give yourself an honest evaluation. Critique every aspect of your performance as the project manager. The more you understand about what worked and what didn’t, the better prepared you will be for your next project.
Patting yourself on the back and giving yourself a high-five is great, and you should be proud of your accomplishments. But those that can identify areas of improvement and take action to improve them go on to become highly successful project managers.
Related: Why Project Managers Are Essential to Your Business