Day 1 in a new project management job can be daunting, whether you’re joining a new company or being promoted into a managerial role with project responsibility at your existing organization.
Here are our 7 tips for when you get your new project management job.
Tip #1: Get To Know Your Team
On Day 1 you might be meeting your colleagues and fellow project managers, or you might be thrown straight in to meet your project team.
And if it doesn’t happen on Day 1, make sure it’s scheduled for as soon as possible.
These are the people you’ll be working alongside day-to-day so you want to make a good impression and get to know them as soon as you can. Set up individual meetings with each person to talk to them about their role in the team and what your role is, and what they need from you right now to help them continue or get started with their work.
Take it further: It can help start your relationship on a good footing if you share with them your experience and expertise. As you won’t have had much project management experience to date, think about what you can share with them about your previous leadership, managerial and project experience. Consider how best to frame this: you never want to exaggerate your credentials, but equally you know you’ve got the traits required, or you would never have got the job!
Tip #2: Introduce Yourself To Your Sponsor
Project sponsors are busy people. Your sponsor is the person who gets the benefit from the project. They typically control the budget and manage the people whom you’ll be using to get the job done.
While they’ll probably want to spend lots of time supporting you and helping you on the project (it’s in their interest, after all), in reality, you’ll often find that you don’t get a lot of time with them unless something is going wrong.
Take a moment now to seek out and introduce yourself to your sponsor. It’s a good idea to start your relationship as early as possible so that they trust and know you well before you need to draw on them for any support.
Book a meeting with them to talk about how your working relationship is going to function. For example, what sort of reporting about progress do they require? How often do they want to hear how things are going? Sorting out these things now will save you time later on and makes you look professional from Day 1.
Take it further: Busy sponsors will appreciate reporting by exception. Keep them abreast of issues but set the expectation that if things are going well, you won’t bother them.
Tip #3: Put Your Project in the Bigger Picture
Your project is only one of many initiatives that keep the business moving forward. If you can find out how your project contributes to the bigger picture, then you’ll understand the ‘why’ behind the project: why the company is bothering to invest in this work in the first place.
Don’t underestimate the value of knowing why you are doing what you are doing! It makes work much more satisfying if you see how your tasks contribute to helping the company achieve its strategic objectives.
Take it further: Don’t know how to find this out? Ask your sponsor to help you understand the business context of your project.
Tip #4: Be Clear on the Objectives
So what is it that you are working on exactly?
If you can’t explain your project simply in a few sentences to someone else, then you probably don’t have a good enough idea of what it is you are trying to achieve.
Find out what the objectives are. You can do this by asking your sponsor. If they take half an hour to explain it, the chances are that they probably don’t have a good enough idea either.
You should be able to hone in on the project objectives so that you know exactly what you are trying to achieve and how you will get there.
Take it further: This is how you define success on the project. If you don’t know what the end looks like, you’ll never get there, so work out what your sponsor feels ‘success’ is going to look like and aim for that!
Tip #5: Get Familiar with Company Tools
Whether you’ve just joined the company or moved within a company to a project management role, there will be tools and processes that are new to you. In your first days and weeks in the job you need to work out what those are and how you are going to fit in with them.
Start with the Project Office, if there is one. What software is standard and do you already have access to it? What collaboration tools are available and is everyone else on them? Is there a standard methodology or library of templates that you are expected to use?
If there isn’t a central place to go to ask, like the Project Office, ask people around you in similar roles or your new manager.
The point of doing this is to first make your life easier by reusing what’s already existing – essential for the new PM so that you don’t have to struggle to create documentation from scratch – and to make sure that you are fitting in with the company way of doing things.
Take it further: It’s likely that you’ll miss something in your early days in the job, and not follow a particular process correctly. Don’t worry about it – it’s likely that people who have been there 20 years make the same errors from time to time! Be open to feedback and learn from your oversights. However, never be afraid to challenge processes if you can think of a better way of doing things. Sometimes companies are stuck in a rut and it takes a fresh pair of eyes to help them improve.
Tip #6: Plan Early
You can’t afford to take too much time with your own onboarding to the role. Project management is often a highly pressured job with sponsors and line managers wanting to see results quickly.
Start putting together the project plan for your project as soon as you can. It will change with time, but once you’ve met your team, met your sponsor, and understood your goals, you can get straight on with planning the work.
Take it further: If you feel nervous about diving straight in, make the first tasks on your plan to do with the activity of planning itself. Schedule in some time to review what the last incumbent in the job did. It shows that you are still planning and moving forward, but you aren’t leaving yourself open to getting on with the work tomorrow.
Tip #7: Smile!
A new job can be daunting, even if it is a role you’ve looked forward to for weeks. Make an effort to be cheerful, smile and get on with your colleagues. Setting a good impression as someone it will be easy and pleasant to work with will go a long way in securing your reputation for years to come.
Looking to take that step into a project management role? Get in touch with us and let us help you find the perfect first PM position for you.