So, you're an experienced project manager who has done well in your career so far. You're either extremely good at managing and motivating people, or you've managed to climb the ranks out of sheer ambition, dumb luck, or organizational necessity.
Either way, you're here and you like it! But where to next? How do you build your reputation within the business, position yourself for a major promotion, or convince the board that you're the person who should lead the project management team?
Here are three things you need to be doing if you want to catch the attention of your organization's leaders.
#1 Build your network
Someone once said that "your network is your net worth". That's a bit extreme, but not completely outlandish. We all know someone who is super connected, who has wonderful opportunities handed to them all the time.
A wide network opens so many doors for everything from mentorship and advice, to building your reputation internally and in the industry, and to job offers and promotions.
How do you do it? Be warm and friendly - and be nice. Not too complicated, but certainly underrated. Get into the habit of getting to know your co-workers, or fellow event attendees. Try to visit your clients on site, or build relationships with them as you discuss the progress of a project.
And use social media! LinkedIn is a hugely powerful tool for any professional. Update it, add a professional photo, and get online. Post interesting articles, comment on posts from others in your industry. A little online goodwill can go a very long way!
#2 Get certified
Once you've acquired the necessary number of project management work experience hours and formal training hours, you can sign up and sit for the PMI certification exam.
Getting there is no small task. First, there’s the cost of actual training classes, which can range anywhere from close to free to more than $3,000 per class. Do your research and figure out what works best for your needs AND meets the training certification requirements (just be sure you aren’t wasting time on money on something that won’t qualify.) Next comes testing which costs $400-600 range depending on whether or not you are a PMI member. If you are really dedicated to the PM career path and gaining certification, it would be advisable to signup for PMI membership, which runs $130/ year.
Read more: Your guide to PMI certification
There are other PM certifications that do not require the experience up front. Of course, no certification will guarantee success or even advancement - unless your company has built certification into some sort of career action plan for you - but it looks great on a resume as you seek out a new, expanded role and it serves as an indication to others that you are dedicated to your profession, knowledgeable, and can speak a common language with other certified project managers.
#3 Put yourself out there
Have strong opinions, speak up in meetings, suggest new ways of doing things, publish articles in online forums or offer to blog for your company (your marketing team will probably appreciate the interest), present at conferences, or publicly mentor other project managers. All of this will help you to establish yourself as an expert in project management.
You'll be surprised at how many leaders suddenly recognize your name.
It’s normal for anyone who is dedicated to their profession, interested in capitalizing on their experience and building upon it to want to continue to advance their place in the field. Whether that’s at your current organization, testing the waters in another company, or even going out on your own as a consultant, there are many ways to show the world that you mean business and want to expand your role in the project management field.
Some of those ways don’t come without considerable effort and - in the case of certification - potentially high cost (hopefully your organization will pay most or all of these costs) but they're all certainly going to help you take your project management career to the next level.