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Becoming a Project Manager by Accident
By Michelle Symonds

How did you get to be a project manager? Chances are it wasn’t a straight step from education into project management unless you are one of the rare breed to have completed a degree in project management; and it may even have been that you never dreamed that this would be your chosen career. Many project managers work their way up in companies and eventually get to run successful projects as a result, whereas others seem to simply be in the right place at the right time to secure a prestigious project of their own.

Whether you set out to become a project manager or simply fell into it by accident, you will, no doubt, know what an interesting and challenging career path it can be so you cannot neglect your own development and qualifications just because you already have what you want. Becoming an accidental project manager can mean you are unprepared for the stresses and strains of running projects, so you need to ensure you are developing yourself alongside your day to day duties so you can do your job well.

On the other hand, if you are still waiting for that perfect opportunity to drop into your lap, there are a few things you can do to help speed the process along. Here are the top things any accidental PM or wannabe PM should be doing to keep them at the top of their game:

  1. Perfect your pitch

    Being able to speak up and put yourself forward to manage big projects is critical if you are going to get noticed in the workplace. Work on an ‘elevator pitch’ to use with any executives or high ranking managers when you see them, to demonstrate you are capable and keen to run prestigious projects for them.

  2. Look for windows of opportunity

    Don’t overlook in-office networking when the opportunity presents itself. People go sick, ladies go on maternity leave and new projects are in the pipeline. Make time during lunch or in the staff room to probe colleagues about what’s happening in the business, and when you see that window of opportunity make sure you have step 2 ready to go with the person in charge of that department.

  3. Make it work

    When you do get that golden opportunity to prove yourself, don’t blow it. Use a proven methodology to manage your project, keep the lines of communication open and don’t be afraid to ask for support when you need it. Nobody expects you to be perfect the first time, but they do expect you to be able to admit if things are getting out of control.

  4. Get qualified

    Getting that all important certification means you will be taken more seriously as a project manager. It doesn’t really matter which certification route you choose, as they all build solid management foundations and are complementary to one another. PRINCE2, Agile, APMP, PMP and others are all excellent places to start, and with luck your employer won’t mind which methods you use but will just be very pleased you are qualified and delivering more successful projects.

Michelle Symonds is a qualified PRINCE2 Project Manager and believes that the right project management training can transform a good project manager into a great project manager and is essential for a successful outcome to any project.

There is a wide range of formal and informal training courses now available that include online learning and podcasts as well as more traditional classroom courses from organizations such as Parallel Project Training.

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