I've been wondering lately: what IS the next step as a project manager, and how do people typically grow in their roles as PMs?
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Issue #7

Career growth as project managers

I've been thinking a lot lately about what I want to do "next" in pretty much all varieties of ways: what new client work I want to take on, project process improvements to apply to work, new hobbies, the next TV show I'll binge on to say, I have some thinking and planning to do.

After the conference I was a part of last month, I realized that career-wise, I'd like to gain more experience in a few key areas related to project management, which means a good amount of research, education, and business development is in order. Listening to speakers talk about their work as team managers, entrepreneurs, and project leads really made me think about leveling-up some of my people and project skills. It's also made me wonder what IS the next step as a project manager, and how do people typically grow in their roles as PMs?

Continuing education in project management
There are lots of things available to us that can grow our project management skills and take a small-to-medium investment of time and money with a pretty immediate payoff. Personally, I want to focus on as many of these as possible in the coming months or year. Shorter-term continuing education we can participate in includes:

  • Getting a certification in project management for deeper training, or reading up on more of the many project management methodologies out there
  • Reading more "classic" books about estimation, processes, and project management
  • Focusing on finding and working through projects that stretch existing skills, teach us new processes and take us out of our comfort zones
  • Attending project management conferences, workshops, and local meetups

Build on cross-functional skills and interests
The work we do as project managers pulls together all of the various people and skills that make a digital project happen. Additionally, our work can affect a business's bottom lines, operational processes, and new business. Because of all of these things, it's in our interests to broaden our knowledge and skills to include things that our work touches, by doing things like:

Career advancement paths
Career advancement in our field should really be driven by individual preference and skill—similar to how each of us found our way to project management in slightly different ways, we'll find our next steps to be based on the skills we've grown through the years, our specializations in project technologies or niches, and our ultimate goals for ourselves.

That being said, I find it interesting that people in our positions tend to be just as varied (at least anecdotally) in where they go as a PM as how they got to project management in the first place. I have friends who went from project management to consulting and freelance gigs (like myself), CTO, Director of Client Services, Creative Director, Director of Operations, and business owners after working in project management. There are so many overlaps in our field with other major fields and positions that the options really are open to many things.

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