Hi there! If you're interested in a project management career path, one of the things you may struggle with is documenting your relevant PM experience. That experience may be useful if you're applying for a PM role or taking certain types of PM certifications (e.g. the PMP certification).
Many people think that PM experience translates to senior roles which are in charge 50 to 100 man teams.
That's not true. If you're a technical application developer leading 2 to 3 junior developers, to me that counts as viable PM experience.
You still need delegate, monitor and deliver work products. You still need to manage stakeholders, communicate and get sign-offs on your work. The same goes for folks who are in Business Analyst lead roles, or Test Manager roles - all those roles have aspects of project management in them.
Just what is considered project management experience?
In this article, I want to give you some guidelines on documenting project management experience - this will be very useful if you want to further your PM career.
The first thing I'd do to document my project management experience is to write down all of my work history - what jobs I've been in, along with the roles I played, the projects involved and the timeframe.
Here's a good example of what I had in mind:
Take note that you should list down ALL of your work history from the time you came out of school until now. We will delete experience that is irrelevant later.
Tip: This exercise is also good for writing resumes. For example, if you're writing a résumé for a project management role, you can use first list out all the jobs you've ever been in, then slowly whittle down the list to just the relevant ones.
When listing down your project management experience, one useful tip is to think in terms of PM processes, according to the PMI - these include Initiate, Execute, Monitor and Control as well as Close.
Which part of those PM processes were you involved in? Many employers would want project managers who have done "end-to-end" work, meaning that they have gone through all of the phases listed above.
If a PM has only gone through the Initiate phase, it would mean he or she has only expertise setting up a PMO or project frameworks, but may not have got his or her hands dirty doing testing or deployment.
Tip: If you want to gain more end-to-end project management expertise, remember that it doesn't happen overnight. Typically, I see lead BAs or Test Managers who have led significant work streams in their projects who, over time, begin to take on a project manager's role.
It takes time to gain end-to-end project management experience
So a BA or Test Manager role is always a good option to start with if you're looking to become a project manager.
One of the things you should take note is that not ALL experience counts as project management experience. I've seen many a junior employee, anxious to prove that they have PM experience, document things like programming and data analysis under the project management.
That's clearly not right and will very quickly get your resume chucked into the "no thanks" bin.
You should review your experience and pick out ONLY PM related work. Don't try to "wing it" as employers or evaluators can always tell if you're trying too hard.
I'm still surprised that many folks out there do not know how to structure their resumes or work experience documentation.
One of the rules you must follow when writing down your project management experience is to list down the company, role and period for each bit of PM experience you had.
For example, in my PM resume, I use a format like the following. This has helped me structure my resume over the years into identifiable bits of experience and I recommend you use something similar.
Now that you have a list of your relevant PM experiences, culled from your work history and structured according to Company, Role and Period - you should apply the "3 Point Rule".
Here's what I mean. The "3 Point Rule" is tremendously useful for elaborating on specific points. Let's take an example. Let's say you've worked as a project manager in a small software project, say delivering 10 new reports to the business users via a reporting tool. I'd elaborate on that experience as follows:
Mr Gary Tan was the Project Manager for a reporting solution deployed within the bank. He led a team of three developers to create 10 reports based on Business Objects to various business users.
The reports were delivered on time and on budget and garnered positive feedback from business units for their flexibility of use.
These reports also formed the basis for a more comprehensive, strategic business analytics solution adopted by the bank.
Can you see the "3 Point Rule" at play here? To elaborate on the role I played as a PM, I made use of three short points.
The first described the developers I led and gives some background on the solution.
The second point says the reports were delivered to the satisfaction of the business users, while the third says the project helped to spearhead another strategic solution downstream.
Use the "3 Point Rule" to elaborate on your PM experiences
Often, I find that thinking in three points helps you overcome writer's block. This is true not just in documenting your project experience, but also in other types of writing.
For example, i write a lot of content on this website, and I often use three points to further illustrate each high-level point I might have made.
Documenting your PM experience is important if you're applying for a project manager role, or if you're taking up a certification like the PMP. I hope the above has given you some pointers on what makes up project management experience and how you can best represent it in your write up.
You start by listing down your work history, then culling out all instances of PM experience, leaving out anything non-relevant.
Then, you structure your write-up by including the company, role and period for each piece of PM experience you have.
Finally, you elaborate on the write-up by following the very useful "3 Point Rule".
Once you've written this once, make sure you continue to update your PM experience. If you finish a major phase of a project, it would be a good time to update your resume or PM experience credentials.
This way, over the years, you'll build up an impressive repertoire of PM experiences which will impress any employer!
That's all I have for now. Until next time, have fun documenting your PM experience!
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