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How Do I Become a PM? Part 3 (#3 in the series How Do I Become a Project Manager)
By Thomas Cutting

Note: This series builds on the conversation I had with Cornelius Fichtner, PMP, of The Project Management Podcast. To hear the interview visit www.ThePMPodcast.com and select Episode 062: How can I become a Project Manager?

In our attempt to become PMPs, we have checked to see if it really is what we want to do, decided that we should probably get some technical grounding and discussed preparation, positioning and performing. But how do we move it forward faster?

What might help speed up the process?

Of the 3 Ps from the previous article in the series (How Do I Become a PM?: Prepare, Position and Perform) the one that will move things along faster is position. Here are several suggestions to put you in the right place at the right time.

Networking. The saying “it isn’t what you know, it’s who you know” is alive and active. Just like auto mechanics and plumbers, people hire individuals that they either know or who have been recommended by someone they know. Join a project management group and make friends. Keep in contact with former co-workers. I still call people I have worked with in different states. You never know when those contacts will connect you with your next opportunity.

Move in the right direction. This actually has two connotations. First, take positions that move you toward a project management role. Roles like Project Coordinator or Project Administrator can be very valuable steps. You get to see project management up close and personal without the front line responsibilities.

The second is to physically move. I‘m not suggesting you go as crazy as I have. My family and I have moved from Cleveland, Ohio to Syracuse, New York and now we are in southern California. You can move within your own company while maintaining your years of service and other benefits.

If you are a consultant or work in a large organization this will be easier to do than if you are in a small shop. It can be difficult to break out of your job rut when you are with a small company. You become know as the Java programmer or, worse yet, the COBOL man. There aren’t as many opportunities for you to try your wings. I managed a project in a hospital that had a very small IT department. The people working there were not going to advance very far there because there wasn’t anywhere to go. They would need to seek opportunities elsewhere.

Raise your hand. Let your management know that you are interested in moving up. Show them the steps you are taking and ask them to help map out a plan. Be prepared for constructive criticism and, if you are lucky, mentoring. If they laugh really loud or consistently say “no” it may be time to move on.

Eat your vegetables. Actually that won’t help but your mother was reading this article and sent me an email saying to remind you.

Note: This series builds on the conversation I had with Cornelius Fichtner, PMP, of The Project Management Podcast. To hear the interview visit http://www.thepmpodcast.com/ and select Episode 062: How can I become a Project Manager?

Thomas Cutting, PMP is the owner of Cutting’s Edge (http://www.cuttingsedge.com/) and is a speaker, writer, trainer and mentor. He offers nearly random Project Management insights from a very diverse background that covers entertainment, retail, insurance, banking, healthcare and automotive verticals. He delivers real world, practical lessons learned with a twist of humor. Thomas has spoken at PMI and PSQT Conferences and is a regular contributor to several Project Management sites. He has a blog at (http://cuttingsedgepm.blogspot.com).

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