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Be a Better Project Leader with These Ten Tips!

written by: Michael Guerrero • edited by: Jean Scheid • updated: 6/28/2011

When developing and maintaining a professional image in project management there is a lot you are able to do that will not only improve your image, but will also further your experience and opportunities the longer you stick with it. Learn ten tips here to boost your professionalism.

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    Develop Yourself and Your Resume

    Resume The first step on any professional journey will always be the resume. The resume serves as a consolidated sheet of years of experience, hard-work, and dedication to your craft you need to present to any potential employer. Your resume will encompass all of your past accomplishments, not only showing that you have the know how to get your job done, but also that you will do it better than anyone else and you will be doing so with a smile. Developing your resume is the hardest part of developing a professional image for yourself in project management, but it is also the most crucial and after all is said and done, it will last you a lifetime.

    Another thing to be aware of is even if you've cemented your future at the greatest company, doing the best work available in the field of project management, you should continue to improve upon your resume. This is incredibly simple and requires very little up-keep but will show you still treat the work you are doing very professionally.

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    1. Get Educated

    The first step to keeping a professional image should be continued education beyond the high school level. Whether it's college, training, or certification courses, you will need these to create a solid foundation for your image as a project manager.

    There are several accredited online colleges such as PM College or the Project Management Institute that offer courses and certifications. The courses are often varied allowing you to specialize in the various elements of project management such as Scheduling, Risk Management, or Agile Project Management --to name only a few.

    These colleges also offer more seasoned project managers the option to mentor course participants as they go through the various courses offered. This experience is an incredible fit on any resume as it shows you have the skills to guide someone with hands-on experience

    In addition to project management courses, be on the look out for any sort of training or certification that will augment and enhance your project management skills. Leadership, interfacing with clients and employees, and software certifications that are relevant to project management are all skills that you need to be proficient in to be successful.

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    2. Attend Conferences

    A software conference being held in Ft. Lauderdale. Just like with education, you need to find the time to attend conferences focused on project management. These conferences will allow you to meet up with other project managers with whom you will be able to share experiences and develop a list of contacts you will be able to get advice from should you ever need it.

    Attending conferences on a regular basis will show your commitment to your work and that you're able to adapt and change with the rest of the project management population. This allows you to stay on the cutting edge of developments in techniques, concepts, and skills as the ever-shifting business environment integrates more of the latest technologies and practices from other disciplines of business.

    The most ideal way to utilize a conference is to become a speaker. Conferences will only allow the most experienced and proficient members of the community speak. Speaking to your peers from all over the globe about a section of project management you are specialized in is the epitome of building a professional image for yourself. Not only will your own company see you are one of the most capable people on the planet based on the work you're doing, but so will every other company and project manager in attendance.

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    3. Get Published

    Getting published is another way to build up your professional image as a project manager. The best place to start is to creat a personally owned, professional blog that is solely dedicated to your experiences as a project leader and keeping it strictly about the concepts and ideals of project management you enforce. With most blogging websites you are going to be able to share and network with other project managers and gain recognition the longer you keep up with posting new content.

    Write for professional publications either in magazines, journals, or websites that center around business and project management. This will expose your experiences to a larger and potentially more diverse audience. This is a fantastic way to become recognized by a professional among your peers.

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    4. Gain Job Experience

    Job recruiters looking for potential employees. Whether it's a smaller management position in a company or working closely with a project manager, job experience is an excellent way to get some professional momentum built up before you become a leader yourself. Working closely with another manager will help you build early contacts and give you a mentor you will continue to learn from.

    Another benefit to getting some job experience before you search for a project management position is that it puts you in the shoes of someone working for a project manager which is beneficial when dealing with your own employees later on in your career.

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    5. Make Contacts

    Making friends with other project managers will guarantee you a support group for the rest of your career. They will be able to help you as long as you're willing to in return. This creates professional business relationships that have the potential to blossom into opportunities for work. Your contacts will also reference you in resumes, for consultation work, and to some of their own contacts that will make you more well-known.

    Having a lot of meaningful business relationships will show you are person that is dependable, polite, and either experienced or doing as much as you can to gain knowledge from your contacts.

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    6. Your Workplace Image

    Though a snazzy suit does help complete the image. Crafting a professional image at work isn't just being punctual, wearing a stylish suit-tie combo, and keeping up with the latest office politics. The rest comes from how you carry yourself and how you interact with your co-workers.

    Developing this image at work is important because it will set the tone for how your projects are handled by you and those working under you. A soft and friendly project manager will breed projects that are rushed and potentially unfinished due to lack of discipline. A hard and strict project manager will actually bring about similar results.

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    7. Keep Calm, Carry On

    You will have to manage several people at one time while juggling your own responsibilities which will no doubt create a high-stress environment for you. As a project manager, you cannot let the stress bring you down or your entire team will feel it and your project will suffer as a result. Letting emotions take over at work is a surefire way to tarnish your professional image as a project manager or even worse get fired.

    Remember to take breaks, vent to people detached from your work such as family and friends, and pace yourself when dealing with these large tasks. Never let anyone that works with you see you when you are weak. Only show them your strongest characteristics so they know you are reliable when push comes to shove.

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    8. Be Honest and Honorable

    The Stonegate Walk Honesty Jar. Professionalism begins and ends with how honest you are with yourself and your co-workers. Always own up to your mistakes no matter how insignificant they may seem. Do not take credit for the work of one of your employees as your own. You may be leading and managing the project, but it doesn't entitle you to the praise they worked for and deserve.

    Don't buy into office politics or gossip because it will only distract you from the work you could be doing and will make you seem like a person who is going to do anything to gain a foothold within the company, labeling you as an unfavorable person among your co-workers.

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    9. Make Your Employees Want to Work For You

    Creating a balance of friendship and discipline with employees is difficult, but finding that balance will guarantee excellent work from your employees and respect from your superiors. You should maintain a friendly, pleasant, and politeness when interacting with co-workers because an office space full of tension is a difficult place to work in for both employees and managers. While establishing yourself you will also want to set your standards high for the work you and your team produce and have them earn your respect rather than you having to earn the respect of others.

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    10. Welcome Critique With Open Arms

    Portfolio critiquing at the Mosaic Career Fair 2010. I like to think of critique like cold medicine. It's harsh and hard to swallow, but it makes you feel better fast if you utilize the advice. Critique is going to be coming at you from a lot of sources and you should take into consideration every bit you're given. Welcoming critique is like saying, "I want to hear what you have to say and I can take it no matter how harsh it is." You will be viewed as a very strong person as a result and by actually taking the critique you receive into consideration, you will improve your image that much more.

    You may not find every bit of criticism useful but if you don't keep yourself open to it you will ignore the helpful parts too. Just remember to learn from your peers, bosses, and co-workers whenever you possibly can with a smile on your face. Doing so will showcase your maturity and willingness to listen to alternatives or fix your mistakes.

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    Bonus Tip: Don't Fake It

    Don't lie about experience or education because it will inevitably come back to bite you. Just go with what you know and always try and learn more and improve yourself. Being honest is the only way you can truly develop a professional image for yourself.

    Even if you don't end up speaking at a conference or getting something you've written published, you can still remain competitive with those that do by simply doing the work given to you, getting experience, and continuing your project management education as you work through your career. You shouldn't feel any less professional than the people that do get to do those things because you will still be carrying yourself and your work with high regard.

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