Hacks for New Project Managers

Hacks for New Project Managers

If you are a green, wet-behind-the-ears project manager about to set out on your first project, you might be wondering how and where to start, and what will get you off to a great start. Of course, you want to make a great first impression and you want your first project to be a smashing success. Here are eight tips and tricks to help ensure you have smooth sailing (or as smooth as possible) as you begin your career.

  1. Become a Certified Project Manager
    If you are serious about your project management career, certification will definitely give it a big boost. Not only will the formal training and education help refine your skills, it will make you extremely attractive to potential employers. And it will give you some “fake it till you make it” credibility with team members, stakeholders and sponsors. Some companies will even reimburse or pay for certification…what a benefit!
  2. Understand the Full Scope of the Project
    Don’t go into a new project unless you know it forwards and backwards. Take the time to thoroughly research the entire project scope and understand every detail. It might be terribly exciting to dive right in but unexpected surprises can cost time and money down the road. That will affect the project and end up affecting your reputation. Preparation pays off.
  3. Identify the Project’s Top Priorities
    Once you completely understand the scope of the project, you can begin to map out the top priorities. This involves identifying the tasks that need to be handled first, ones that can be done later and ones that will take some planning. This method of prioritizing will help you because tasks won’t fall through the cracks or sneak up on you. A delay or a bottleneck of deadlines is the worst possible outcome.
  4. Set Realistic Goals
    Under-promise and over-deliver is always the way to go. You don’t want to set goals that are going to make the project drag out and take too much time, money and resources. But don’t be so ambitious from the outset that you attempt the impossible. Set your goals, then break those goals into smaller, measurable goals that are easily achievable. As those goals are achieved, your team, your sponsors and your management will be encouraged and motivated.
  5. Get Comfortable with Leadership
    You need to be OK with having a team looking to you for direction. You need to be at ease with taking charge when there are problems and big decisions need to be made. You need to exude confidence and continually provide the guidance and advice your team needs to ensure project success. If this isn’t something that comes naturally to you, talk to your manager, seek outside classes or a coach who can bolster your skills and confidence so you can truly take charge.
  6. Know Your Project Management Software
    We mean really KNOW it. Like you know the back of your hand or your favorite pair of shoes. Don’t be afraid to ask for training or help. Get a mentor if necessary so you have a go-to person to ask questions as you get deeper into the software. Using it to launch or manage your project means it’s going to be a huge part of your life for the duration of your project and key to the project’s success.
  7. Be A Team Player
    Yes, most of the time you’ll have to be a manager, but taking some time to connect with your team will pay big dividends during the project. Building relationships both collectively and individually will help you determine the best use their skillsets. And the more they feel you care about their success, the more they will care about yours.
  8. Do an End of Project Evaluation
    We can always be better. Keeping track as you go, or doing a debrief at the end of what went right and what went wrong will help you the next time around. Make sure you spread the high-fives among the team so that everyone feels rewarded for a job well done.

Hopefully these will help you jump in and be a success in your first project manager experience. It may be exactly what you think it will be (almost never) but at least you’ll be as prepared as possible. Good Luck!