New to the Game? Go Back to the Basics

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Voices on Project Management offers insights, tips, advice and personal stories from project managers in different regions and industries. The goal is to get you thinking, and spark a discussion. So, if you read something that you agree with--or even disagree with--leave a comment.

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I remember the first time I went to a supermarket in my new neighborhood. I felt a small sense of familiarity -- yet completely out of place. When I pushed forward to an aisle I assumed would have what I was looking for, I was shocked to find my product wasn't there. I was in a new world.
Many new project managers get the same feeling when they start on the job. You sit at your desk and wonder where to even begin. You've organized the office holiday party. You've planned the family vacation. Yet the scale of project management you're tasked with now is much more rigorous.

You've been here before in a sense, but not like this. Some of us had never been in leadership positions before the call to manage a project came along. Some of us have never managed other people or someone else's money. More than some of us have never formally run a project.
Project managers just starting out or with only a few years of experience may regularly feel out of place in this world of methodologies, frameworks and processes.

There are dozens of new terms to learn and discussion about which method is the best. The key is to not let the unfamiliarity overwhelm you. If you focus on what you know -- even in the face of all that you may not know -- you'll be on much surer footing as you move forward.

Go back to the basics: You know how to listen, observe and ask questions. You know how to speak to people. You know how to get information and keep that information handy and organized. You may not know what to plug into (BAC - EV) ÷ (BAC - AC) = TCPI or even what any of those letters mean. But until you find out, rely on what you do know.

Soon enough you'll be making your way around a project with ease and, in time, the unfamiliarity will start to fade. And you'll feel right at home in your new world.
Posted by Taralyn Frasqueri-Molina on: November 23, 2010 12:25 PM | Permalink

Comments (7)

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Graeme Fraser
Thanks. I'm in exactly this position. The common sense is refreshing. Thanks again.

Taralyn Frasqueri-Molina
Hello Graeme! Thanks for being the first to leave a comment! I feel sometimes, as new project managers, we tend to get ahead of ourselves and forget that there are actually things we are good at. You can feel clueless easily as a new PM, but if you hold onto a few basic things, things you can always count on, you won't feel so out of control or lost.

Pick three things you're always going to be good at when it comes to project management. Three is a good number because it's easy to remember three things! When times get tough, when anxiety strikes, write down, sing, even dance to those three things you know for sure about yourself.

My three things are: Sense of humor, sincerity, ask questions when I don't understand.

Welcome to the PM world and good luck!

Ahmed Sherif
Two months from now, I'll transfer to a project manager position for power generation sector in my company.

As I much as I'm excited, I'm a little bit worried about the size and scale of these kind of projects, which is quite new to me. I'm wondering if I stuck to PMBOK processes would I be in safe heaven?

@Ahmed - thanks for leaving a comment! In my opinion, regardless of what framework or methodology you end up choosing (or mixing up and making something new), starting with the PMBOK's set of defined processes will give you a great foundation for managing projects.

At the beginning, absorb all the info you can from all kinds of sources. With more practice you will find what works and doesn't work for you. You'll be able to pick and choose what processes work and which you can do without.

Like a sculptor with a lump of clay, you refine and refine until you get exactly what you're looking for. You just have to start somewhere, and the PMBOK is an excellent place to begin.

Thanks Taralyn for sharing. This is very valuable information:-)

Valerie Gordon
Taralyn, what advice do you have to give to someone such as myself who has recently graduate with a MS in Project Management/Construction Management, and is looking for an opportunity for employment?

I am studying for my CAPM, but I need employment and or an opportunity, but most are looking for people with PMP's?

Can you help?

Naveen Rao
Taralyn, thanks for the article. I will be transitioning for PMO role into project delivery space within a large organisation. Although I am excited about the new role, I am definitely conscious of the culture in the new team. I have been anxious about 'fitting in' as I will be the working with seasoned PMs.

I feel that your advise on paying attention to the basics is the best form of preparation for the new role. Thanks

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