Development, Project Management
30 March 2013
Act now, time is limited and it’s all in your mind!

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I’ve come across this question posted on the Hub: What are your thoughts about welcoming young talents/new talents in the field of project management?

Because this question is very often asked, I have decided to share my thoughts, together with one of my colleagues’ answer. Have a great Easter! And start doing something instead of waiting for someone to welcome you! Act now, time is limited and it’s all in your mind!
Ian Whittingham, Programme Manager,Thomson Reuters: This is a dilemma for many aspirants to the role of project manager.  But the important thing to remember is that a project manager is a role and not just a job.  I know that for practical (& HR) purposes project managers do the job of project managing.  But being a project manager is more about fulfilling that specialist role.  What this means is that in practice, someone who has “another” job can fill the role of project manager on a project.  I have seen this happen throughout my career, where a project gets started without a project manager being appointed and then someone steps into the role.  This is how so-called “accidental” project managers start their careers: they were doing another job and then found themselves doing the job of a project manager because no-one else was doing it. I know that today it is much harder to find opportunities to do that i.e. fill the role of a PM on a project as we are much more formal in how we structure and organize the projects we work on?
I agree with Ian that a project manager is a role and not just a job and being a project manager is more about fulfilling that role. I’m an accidental project manager and when meeting people interested in pursuing pm career I always stress that I was not given my first project but had found it -knew how to complete a difficult activity, that no one wanted to do, used my good relationship with the client and motivated a team to work with me.
I’ve read an interesting book on project management leadership: The Strategic Project Leader: Mastering Service-Based Project Leadership by Jack Ferraro, where the author explains 3 excuses why not to become a project leader: the lack of authority, the inability to lead and organizational resistance. And these excuses are usually rooted in fear. Let me quote the author’s advice here as I believe the same applies to a project manager role.
I Don’t Have Authority. Successful leaders do not attain their leadership positions by waiting for superiors to appoint them. Leaders don’t wait for someone to tell them to lead. They start the process; reach for more responsibility, and create opportunities for themselves by serving the interests of others.
I Don’t Have the Ability. Another common excuse is lack of leadership competencies. Some convince themselves their brain is not wired for leadership work. Fear is often at the heart of this excuse, unless one truly believes leaders are only born. Because leadership opportunities are abundant and come in all shapes and sizes, developing leadership competencies should be a life-long goal for any professional. Leadership competencies can be improved through the proper feedback mechanisms and use of emotional intelligence skills. The journey is unique since everyone has different formation experiences.
The Organizational Culture Must Change First. Some convince themselves the organizational culture will not allow them to be a successful leader even if they had the authority. Waiting for the organizational culture to change is too risky. Opportunities are floating past you every day, and you must act upon them. Organizational cultures are changed by change agents, who first transform themselves. People transform organizations; organizations don’t transform people.
Let’s come back to our question: how to become a project manager if I do not have experience in project management? Very often I hear this excuse: “Because I do not have project management experience I will not get a PM job” and “If I do not get a PM job I will not gain experience”. First thing comes to people’s mind is a vicious circle, so not much can be done. But if you really want something, first of all you need to stop thinking that way ” similarly to leadership excuses this is only an excuse and is rooted in fear!
My advice would be:
Do not wait to be welcome” Instead:
  • Lead or sign up to be a member of a team other than your own that is working on an addressing a requirement, enhancing systems and processes, or meeting an objective.
  •  Work streams such as charity, diversity, green team and others create a great opportunity for
    future project managers – join and lead a project on their behalf!
  • Join local project management groups-  find one in your area. That might be a local project management assiociation  or other PM interest groups. Take part in PM events and projects!
I do not agree with Ian in this: “I know that today it is much harder to find opportunities to do that i.e. fill the role of a PM on a project as we are much more formal in how we structure and organize the projects we work on.”
Look around, there are a lot of opportunities, just put some effort to find them. Be proactive, that’s one of the most important attributes of a successful Project Manager! Please note that all English Camps” project managers and some other team members are certified now or to be certified soon and are in pm roles and mostly because they got involved in this charity initiative.
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