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Building a Portfolio for Your Career as a Project Manager

written by: Tara Duggan • edited by: Jean Scheid • updated: 7/10/2011

Building a portfolio for your career as a project manager involves cataloging and tracking your efforts as a successful team leader. Learn how to create your own to ensure a great track record of a successful career.

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    Why Track Your Career?

    Project Management (phases) Many new to project management need advice on how to build a portfolio for project managers to display their efforts and show successful outcomes. A great portfolio also enhances your reputation, encourages management to assign you to more challenging assignments and presents a standardized mechanism for sustaining your value to the organization. Additionally, to apply to take the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, an industry standard credential exam, you must document your project management experience. Then, using tools such as the Project Management Institute Continuing Certification Requirements system, you must also record your development to maintain your PMP credential.

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    Creating Regular Status Reports

    Document your contributions by generating weekly, monthly or annual status reports for project work, depending on the scope of the project. By providing one page summaries of work in progress, effective project managers keep their sponsors, stakeholders and team members informed about project risks and dependencies. When you use a consistent format, recipients know where to look for relevant information. Attractive, color-coded status reports help successful project manager demonstrate effective project tracking and monitoring. By listing the most important items first, you convey critical details where readers are most likely to see it. You should also include a section on risks and proposed solutions. Effective status reports typically list three to seven milestones and a two or three sentence summary about the product or service development. Keep track of the number of hours you spend on initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling and closing processes.

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    Writing About What You’ve Learned

    Typically, to build a comprehensive portfolio of your project management experience, you need to organize your work according to the standards exemplified in the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) published by the Project Management Institute. Start a blog or newsletter to communicate the lessons you’ve learned about project management processes. For example, write tips for defining the scope of a training course based on the department’s need for developing communication skills and gather requirements for this performance deficiency. Describe how to interview subject matter experts, conduct an online survey or observe high-performing personnel to establish the learning objectives and related practice exercises. List the operational metrics the training impacts.

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    Talking About Your Experiences

    Recording a short podcast about how to manage projects effectively helps you establish your reputation as an expert. For example, provide guidance to new employees about how to coordinate and supervise a team of resources dedicated to building and maintaining websites to advertise clients’ businesses. Describe how to share highly-trained resources effectively across multiple projects. Explain how to ensure consistency and make cost-effective decisions about resource allocation to ensure quality. Interview other project managers on this subject to create engaging and entertaining podcasts. Talk about problems and how you solved them. For example,discuss topics such as cost budgeting, estimating, leading global teams, negotiating with suppliers, networking, scheduling, risk management and team building. Start with an introduction, describe a situation and then provide details on how you handled it. Summarize your podcasts with a simple but compelling call to action.

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    Leading Workshops

    By sharing your knowledge with your co-workers, you can contribute to their career development as well as build your own portfolio and repertoire. Run focus groups with colleagues, clients and consultants to discuss the best techniques for handling project challenges, such as vendor selection, management and monitoring. Demonstrating your ability to explain successful policies and procedures helps to establish you as leader and expert in handling problems and capitalizing on opportunities reduce costs, eliminate waste and improve customer satisfaction.

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    Mentoring Subordinates

    Volunteering to mentor or coach a subordinate provides you with another way to build a portfolio that demonstrates your expertise as a project manager. By meeting with a less experienced co-worker to learn about his career plans, you can help him establish an action plan and set of development objectives. Over the next few months, by observing your actions in meetings, reading communication you send and listening to your conference calls, the mentee gathers important information about how to function successfully. Through this partnership, you also gain exposure to the newer employee’s perspective on the business, which may contribute to timely adjustments in your own attitudes toward strategic business planning.

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    Wrap Up

    By documenting the details about the project tasks you successfully manage and talking about the positive outcomes of your work, you establish yourself as an accomplished project manager. Whether your work involves conducting research, creating planning documents, building teams or managing quality assurance activities, document your ability to handle details and manage risks to establish your competence as an experienced project manager. Establishing and maintaining a comprehensive portfolio for project managers helps to sustain a lucrative career in the dynamic world of global project management.

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    Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons - Alphamu57

    Milosevic, Dragan Z., Peerasit Patanakul, and Sabin Srivannaboon. " PMI - the World’s Leading Professional Association for Project Management." PMI - the World’s Leading Professional Association for Project Management. (accessed July 7, 2011).