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7 ways to advance your project management career

Jennifer Lonoff Schiff | April 24, 2014
Project management experts and executive IT recruiters provide tips to project managers on what they can do to give their careers a boost.

Everyone wants to get ahead. (Well, almost everyone.) Project managers are no different. Hence the number of certification exams project managers take. But just having PMP (for Project Management Professional) after your name is no longer enough in today's high-tech mobile world.

So what skills do project managers need to get ahead? Dozens of project management experts, executives and recruiters share their top seven project management career tips.

1. Get certified. "There is no getting away from having at least one of the standard PM credentials, e.g., PMP, PgMP, PRINCE2 -- and now the norm is to have more than one," says Courtney Kirschbaum, CEO at CK Consulting and Her Next Move.

"PRINCE2 seems to be more popular in Europe and Canada; whereas PMP and PgMP seem to be favored in the States," Kirschbaum says. And "many technical PMs are getting ITIL certified as well," she says. "If you don't have a credential, you won't be taken seriously no matter what the rest of your resume says."

"I would strongly encourage fellow CIOs, CTOs and their project leads to have a look at PMI's new portfolio management professional (PfMP) credential, which recognizes the advanced experience and skill of portfolio managers," adds Jeff Jackson, vice president of Development, Changepoint, a provider of PSA and PPM for services and IT organizations. "This credential can benefit and facilitate career advancement for PMs and portfolio managers by [helping them] demonstrate their proven ability to manage and align a portfolio of projects and programs that realize their organization's strategic goals."

All that said, though, "get certified only if it complements your experience," says Te Wu, PMP, PgMP, CEO of PMO Advisory, experts in project management. "This means do not go for CAPM when you are already mid-level; in this case, PMP is better. And if you are already a senior project manager, target PMP and PgMP," he says. "Certification enhances one's credential when applied appropriately," he explains. "I have seen too many 'novice' project managers with fancy certifications," he says, who were not up to the task, despite the initials after their last name.

2. Remember that experience matters."Hands-on project experience is more important than certifications," says Chris Mitchell, principal & manager, Technology Contract Staffing, WinterWyman, a recruitment firm.

"Yes, certifications like PMP, Six Sigma, Agile Scrum, etc., are nice to have but most [companies] looks for real world experience geared toward the specific pipeline of work they have," Mitchell says. "So the more experience you have in the area you want to be in, the better your chances of advancement.

3. Speak the language of business, not just project management. "Skip the jargon when dealing with non-PM people who don't live in the world of Work Breakdown Structures, Gantt Charts and Monte Carlo analysis," says Joe McElhaney, director of the accounting firm Aronson LLC.


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