Tips for the Novice Project Manager

I often get asked by junior or novice project managers for any tips I can give them as they begin their careers in project management. I don’t always have time to think things through on the spot so I have taken the time to note my top 8 tips. I would love to hear what tips you would also give.

  1. The first job you take may be the one that takes you to the job you want. I always see people entering the profession complain when they see job advertisements asking for a minimum of 3-5 years experience. There is a reason for this. You need to get some experience under your belt. You may have just come out of university with a project management degree or got an entry level certification but this doesn’t translate well to actual on the job in the real-world experience. Go and get that experience by taking a job as a project administrator. Then see point number 4 for quicker way to get the job you really want.
  2. Always be honest. There may be times where you are pressured to bend the truth a little. Don’t do this. This may mean standing up to senior practitioners or demanding clients. If you are honest you will never need to remember what you said previously. Also, your personal and professional reputation depends on honesty. If you find yourself working for or with people who expect a little dishonesty you may be better off elsewhere.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. This actually applies all through your career not just at the beginning. If you don’t know something, then ask someone who does. Mistakes, both small and large, happen because someone thought they would look stupid by asking a question. In fact, the opposite is true. We generally think that people who ask questions are smarter. So, go ahead and ask those questions.
  4. The deep end is where the action happens. Don’t be afraid to put yourself forward for things that seem complex and out of your comfort zone. If you are as smart as you think you are you will rise to the challenge. If you don’t succeed, then take an optimistic view of it and realise that failure is a great teacher. Either way you will learn fast.
  5. Keep gathering experience and qualifications. Don’t think that learning stops once you get your first job. You must always keep your knowledge up to date or you will get left behind in a fast-changing world. Keep up the professional development units, get that next credential, attend that conference (even better, present at the conference) and keep learning in order to get the most from your career.
  6. Share your experiences. There will always be someone with less experience than you so don’t be afraid to mentor them. Don’t be afraid to share your experience with more senior people too. It may be the case that you have a unique viewpoint and experience that they don’t. Value yourself and your experience (just don’t over value it – see point 1).
  7. Put in place good work habits. Good work habits are things like turning up on time to work and to meetings, acting professionally and respectfully at all times, being honest (see point 2) and expecting to get out of your career what you put in. Do these things on day one of your career and every day after and you will soon have them locked in place.
  8. Start getting to know people. You can call it networking if you want but that word is probably better suited to describing how computers are linked together, not people. Introduce yourself to people and listen to what they have to say. If they ask about you then share a little about yourself. Follow up occasionally with an email or a coffee invitation. Over the years these relationships will be extremely valuable to you on a personal and professional level.

So that’s what I think are 8 important tips for novice or junior project managers. What did I miss?