by Cyndee Miller
As a newbie, it can be tough to push back, even if you know deep down you’re right. What’s a project manager to do—without sabotaging their career?
Back when he was just starting out, Justin Fraser, PMP, was working with a team member insistent on doing work that would have pushed the project out of scope. When Mr. Fraser pointed that out, he was dismissed. So he called in backup from a more senior team member, who endorsed Mr. Fraser’s point and convinced the stubborn team member to drop the work.
“I was able to keep the project in scope by using someone with more credibility,” says Mr. Fraser, now project manager and founder of 88 Real Estate Capital, Milltown, New Jersey, USA.
Being the new kid on the block is tough in any career. But project and program managers have the extra-daunting task of commanding respect and fueling collaboration up and down the org chart from day one.
Fear not. For the latest issue of PM Network®, we recruited project professionals of all backgrounds and levels of experience to weigh in on what every rookie should know. (Even you grizzled veterans might learn a thing or two.)
It’s good timing. With talk of an impending global recession looming, project management is looking like a pretty darn futureproofed career option. By 2027, employers will need some 88 million individuals working in project management-oriented roles, according to PMI’s research.
Still skeptical? Understood. But consider this from Thabang Molefe, CAPM, project manager at SHL, Johannesburg, South Africa. “To be honest I wasn’t really sold at first, from my research on what project managers do. It took working on a project firsthand for my love of the profession to take root, and I haven’t looked back since,” she tells PM Network. “On the first big project where I reported to a project manager, I watched this lady work her magic and move mountains every day, and I thought, “This is what I want to do. I want to make things happen.”
Ready to work some magic and make things happen? The PM Network Project Manager’s Starter Kit has everything you need.
“Going digital” has been the transformation goal in many sectors for some time now. But there is one industry that has just recently jumped on the digital bandwagon. That industry is real estate. An article in May PM Network® examines this newly opened playing field.
Both startups and established companies are launching projects to bring technology into the realm of selling and renting property, homes and offices. That technology runs the spectrum, from use of big data to more accurately assess a home’s value, to virtual reality platforms that will enable prospective buyers to view offerings without actually being there, to crowdfunding that will allow people to invest in international real estate.
The numbers show the growth of “proptech”: Investment in this field rose from US$1.8 billion in 2015 to US$9.6 billion in 2018. And 97 percent of real estate executives told KPMG that they expected digital and technological innovation to significantly impact their businesses.
Bringing tech into real estate is a little different than bringing tech into other industries. The resistance to change and lack of awareness of emerging technologies makes it difficult. And testing products with minimum viable products generally doesn’t work because of the high value of transactions, the article reports. Project managers might consider testing products in simulated transactions.
Software dealing with mortgages have similar considerations. In this part of the real estate industry, automated helpers for approval decisions have to take into account variables on loan applicants’ income that might affect these decisions.
Proptech project managers walk a fine line between designing their products to accommodate variables and keeping the cost down to prospective customers. But that might be a line worth walking because of the growth opportunities in this late-to-the-digitization party sector of the world economy.
PMI members can turn to PM Network every month for trends news that you can use in your career.
Right from the start, a project manager’s goal should be creating and maintaining a cohesive, engaged team. As noted in an April PM Network® article, this can be challenging—even more so if the team hasn’t worked together before and the deadlines are tight.
What project managers are working against is a greater lack of engagement. A Gallup survey indicated less than one-fifth of employees globally are engaged in their work.
It is possible to seed team members’ engagement right from the start of a project’s kickoff meeting. The trick is to create an engagement strategy that is tailored to the situation. One way to capture interest is through friendly competition that can be generated by use of a project storyboard to track the team’s major milestones.
Experts say there are other techniques to gaining engagement through the kickoff meeting. They recommend a large invitation list for the meeting as a way to unify the larger team around the project’s goal—as well as making sure that everyone knows their roles and responsibilities.
The kickoff meeting should be sharp and to the point, with the spotlight shone on key messages and headlines, not minutiae.
Team cohesion, of course, is a key element of engagement. It’s worth taking the time to get team members acquainted with each other and finding the common threads that can create cohesion. Fancy ice-breakers are not necessary; something as basic as a team lunch can do the job. And site visits to remote team members are useful for this purpose. This cohesion—especially that between the project manager and the team—may come in handy when conflicts arise regarding shared resources.
If the project timeline is going to be long, maintaining engagement is key. One expert advises scheduling frequent, short meetings to gauge both engagement and progress.
And, of course, very important to the project is the engagement of the project’s sponsor. Make sure you understand their views on the project landscape. Don’t be shy about communicating, and make sure messages come over in the way the sponsors prefer them. And let sponsors know that while they will be kept in the loop, there may be a time or two that critical needs will require their attention and action.
How do you gain and maintain engagement on your projects? Please share your techniques.
Used to be, the job interview was something you prepared for in a certain way. Perhaps you memorized some responses to questions that always came up, such as “What’s your greatest weakness?” Or “What project were you most proud of?”
Organizations have gotten wise to this type of preparation and are inventing new ways to evaluate job candidates that really separate the finalists from everyone else.
The April edition of PM Network® provides a guide to new interview formats you might currently encounter in your career journey. These include digital assessments, often done as online surveys. The object of the survey is to evaluate key applicant skills such as grit, curiosity, polish, rigor and initiative. This technique is called predictive hiring, and satisfies the corporate urge for quantitative data in the hiring process.
Another new interview technique, auditions, is the project management version of what happens in the performance arts. Candidates are asked to perform some sort of project task such as mapping a work breakdown structure or managing a test project. This gives the interviewer a more thorough look at how the candidate might perform.
Virtual Reality simulations are becoming part of the hiring process. Recruiters are bringing headsets to job fairs as a new way to find talent by immersively showing what the job is all about. VR is also used in the interviewing process to assess candidates’ styles in, for example, teamwork and leadership style.
Finally, some companies are loosening up candidates by holding conversations in less formal venues, such as coffee shops or restaurants. The goal is to gain a truer sense of the candidate’s engagement.
For each of these selection techniques, PM Network provides “prep talk,” advice on what to do and what not to do in these new interview styles.
Have you had a unique job interview experience? Please share your insights in the comments below.
Back in the old days when people rarely switched jobs, references were not particularly a priority for career management. Before you left a company, you might have asked a coworker, mentor or even your boss to write a reference—or else, this might have been left for the potential new company to do, with contact information you provided.
Well, it’s not the old days any more. A reference strategy must be part of your career management planning. And this month, you can turn to PM Network® for advice on how to make references work for you.
First thing you need to know is that you don’t need to have a new opportunity in mind to ask for a reference. If you have references in your pocket ahead of time, so to speak, that makes it easier when that new opportunity comes along.
When should you ask for a reference? Right after closing a successful project is an ideal time, the article says. This way, your teammates’ memory of working with you is fresh. And as you manage the project, keep in mind that providing extraordinary service to stakeholders will pay off in great recommendations later.
Whom should you ask? Experts say diversity is paramount. Get colleagues, sponsors, bosses and peers to “write you up.” If you already know what opportunity you are seeking, try to match the desired recommendations with the needs of the new job, such as skills in a particular tool or strategy expertise.
How do you ask? In person is always best, but if that can’t happen, a phone call allows for full explanation of what is needed. Once the potential reference agrees to help, urge him or her to provide specific project details, positive anecdotes and relevant metrics.
Where do you put recommendations? Written ones are always great, but public references on LinkedIn will help you show up on recruiters’ searches.
The article also covers what to do if your reference wants to help but does not have the time. Either you or the reference might suggest writing your own recommendation to be endorsed upon completion. As long as you maintain objectivity, this should work. Another possible way around the time conundrum is to provide your reference bullet points to expand upon.
Finally, one sure way to meet the need of having a recommendation written for you in the future is to write recommendations for others. Offering it before being asked and extending your reference role beyond the usual places (such as people you interact with in volunteer work) are sure ways to strengthen relationships. And good relationships mean good recommendations in the future.
We’re here to support your career journey, so be sure to read PM Network every month for practical and helpful information.