10 Career Goals for Project Managers
Question: Where will you be 5 years from now? Yes, the dreaded question. The one that makes you sweat because you’re a project manager and you’re just not sure.
You often can’t think 5 years ahead because you’re so focused on getting your projects wrapped up successfully. That’s well and good—you should focus on your projects. But don’t forget to think about yourself.
Whether you’re looking to make yourself a better project manager or you want to figure out where you’ll land in 10 years, you should come up with some actionable goals to check in on.
Where do you want your career to go?
Before you get to the 10 project management goals you can use for short- and long-term improvement, think about where your career is headed and where you want to steer it. Do you think project management is your true calling?
Take some time to consider these opportunities.
Short-term career opportunities:
- Have I received any positive or negative feedback from my colleagues? If yes, how can I act on it?
- Where do I feel least confident? How can I be better?
- What are my strengths? How can I use them to be better in other places?
- Where does my organization need me the most? Am I living up to that role?
- What is the next step in my organization, and am I interested in that role?
Long-term career opportunities:
- What do I love about my job or role?
- What do I dislike about my job or role?
- Do I see myself managing projects for the rest of my career? If not, what do I want to do?
- What is my dream job, and how can I get there?
No matter the answers to these questions, stay true to who you are. If you’re a project manager at heart and want to gain more responsibility and grow within the role, that’s awesome! If you want to take on a different role long-term, be sure to capitalize on your strengths and find ways to tie them into a future career.
In the end, you want to be happy—and you’ll be happiest if you’re doing something in your domain of expertise you truly like. Why? Because it feels easy and you have fun with it—so it never feels like work.
Project management career goals: A starter list
Short-term career goals:
These first 4 goals are ones ANY project manager should adhere to.
1. Finish projects on time
Every project manager wants to be on time. It’s a core value for any project management role—probably one your company is holding you to.
Of course, you can’t control every factor that will make your projects late. But if you make it a goal to get ahead of those delays, you’ll find yourself wrapping up projects on time. TeamGantt’s Project Health Report makes it easy to identify and address project delays early by giving you a quick, at-a-glance view of projects that are on time, running behind, and overdue.
2. Be a good communicator
It’s been said time and time again that effective communication is critical as a project manager.
If your communication skills are lacking, set a goal to get better. Devise a plan for how you’ll make project kickoffs smoother, status reports easier to digest, scrum meetings short and actionable, internal communications frequent and valuable, and so on.
If you diagnose a problem and dedicate yourself to fixing it with communications, you can test tactics and eventually meet that goal.
3. Control budget and scope
Keeping a project’s budget and scope in check is another core project management value that’s tough to control. If you make it your goal to have a better understanding of your budget and scope—as well as the impacts outside factors could have on them—you’ll tune yourself into the right details to stay on top of scope creep issues.
With TeamGantt’s hourly estimating and time tracking features, you can monitor actual time spent on tasks and spot potential overages before they wreck your project budget.
4. Ensure quality
You can—and should—be a quality check on your projects. If you’re truly invested in your projects, you won’t let something faulty go out the door. Sure, it happens sometimes. But if you commit yourself to ensuring quality, you’ll ensure your clients, stakeholders, and teams are happy with the work that’s being produced.
Long-term career goals:
These final 6 goals will help you be a better project manager and design a career path that’s exciting for you.
5. Be strategic
If you’re a project manager, you should get out of that to-do list mentality. It’s not just about checking tasks off a list—it’s about doing what’s right for a project given the path it (or its team and stakeholders) are taking.
Focus on the goals of the project and how you—as a team—can better serve that goal through the project. Maybe that will lead you to rethink process and deliverables, maybe it won’t. Either way, it’ll get you to look at project success through a different lens—one that will show long-term impacts and decisions rather than the short-term tasks.
6. Understand financial impacts
It’s easy to be the project manager and say, We have to meet the budget because it’s what was scoped and is in our contract. But it’s far more meaningful to be able to say, If we go over budget, it will have X, Y, Z impacts on our business and our relationships with our partners and clients.
That’s right—think about your project as a micro piece of the bigger business and assess the project’s risks. How will it impact larger pieces of business in your organization, and how can you keep it intact to help meet company-wide goals?
The more you think about the big picture, the more you’ll gain the trust of leadership and will be better prepared to move into roles with greater responsibility.
7. Follow your industry and plug into the PM community
If you want to make bigger career moves, you have to understand what’s happening in your industry.
Make it your goal to connect with others in your industry in ways that will allow you to learn and advance. Read project management books and trade publications, follow blogs and Twitter accounts, sign up for classes, attend a meetup, or join a community of practice in your area. Do everything you can to understand what’s happening in and around your industry.
Again, having a bigger picture view of your role in the greater organization and industry will help you carve out your own path and build a network of support you can turn to throughout your career.
8. Be adaptable
If you have an eye on your industry and your organization, you’ll be able to sense when things are changing. You can use that information to adapt practices as an individual or on your projects.
Project managers find the most success when they adapt to changes (and, yes, control them within reason). So when you see a change coming, make it an opportunity to pivot toward success. You don’t want to be a total chameleon, of course. But you do want to be strategic and find ways to adapt your skills and experience to new opportunities.
When you see a change coming, make it an opportunity to pivot toward success.
9. Gain experience and talk about it
You may not think that anyone cares about your perspective as a project manager—and you’re wrong! If you’re learning lessons on projects and it’s making you better, why not share them with others?
Speaking and writing will elevate your career, and you’ll be able to find your own community. While writing an article here and there may not turn into a major book deal, it will help you to gain respect among your colleagues. It takes guts to put yourself out there, and that says a lot! Maybe make it a goal to start with one blog post and see where that takes you.
10. Focus on leadership
You’ve got to be a good leader to advance your career in any direction. As a project manager, you’re well-suited to do just that. Take some time to discuss what leadership means to your teams, your managers, and your organization.
And do some research of your own: What, in your mind, is a great leader? Set a goal to be that leader. Maybe you can find a mentor to help you—or at least help you find the right opportunities. Remember, this doesn’t have to happen in the office. You can find volunteer opportunities that allow you to widen your horizons and strengthen your leadership skills.
SMART goals for project managers
Now that we’ve covered 10 career goals to consider as a project manager, you’re ready to put them into practice. One popular goal-setting approach is to use the SMART goals technique.
SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Let’s take a quick look at how SMART goals work:
- Specific: Use specific details to clearly define your goal.
- Measurable: Decide what metric or milestone you’ll use to track success.
- Achievable: Make sure it’s a goal you can reasonably attain.
- Relevant: Tie your goal to your career path or role as a project manager.
- Time-bound: Set a deadline for reaching your goal.
Sample SMART goal for project managers
So how do you apply SMART goals to project management? Let’s say you want to improve your communication with clients and stakeholders. Here’s a sample of a SMART goal you might set as a project manager.
Effective January 1, provide a weekly project status report that updates clients and stakeholders on the status of the project timeline and budget, key project milestones and/or deliverables, risks/issues and mitigation plans, and any important action items.
Where will your project management career take you?
If you set and manage professional goals, you’ll be the greatest catalyst in your career, so do some work on your own to figure out exactly what you want to “be” long-term.
Project management is a widely needed role that’s showing growth in terms of adoption and respect. That means growth opportunities in some organizations are bound to become plentiful. The options are truly endless for you, because as a project manager, you have skills that are needed and highly marketable.
Who knows? You may find yourself becoming anything from a better project manager to a CEO. Only you can decide that path.
Achieve your project management career goals faster
Want to be project manager everyone takes notice of? Let TeamGantt be your sidekick. We’re a-okay playing a support role so you can shine as a project manager and grow your career.
With TeamGantt, reaching your project management goals is a breeze. You’ll have all the features you need to ensure projects finish on time and under budget, including:
- Drag and drop simplicity
- Easy team collaboration
- Customizable views
- Team availability & workload management
- Planned timeline vs. actual timeline
- Dedicated mobile app
Best of all, it’s wrapped up in a simple and intuitive interface your team and stakeholders can easily navigate.