Shortening The Learning Curve

One of the interesting (and fun!) things about being a project manager is that you can transfer your skills to different teams, functions, companies, and industries with ease.

When I started out in my career, I thought I would have a long tenure in Human Resources, perhaps specializing in Talent Management. But when I became a project manager, I found myself not only leading projects in almost all Human Resources functions, but then transitioning those skills to a Marketing team, and then transitioning again to a Corporate Strategy team. And those shifts were between three different companies in three different industries – pharmaceuticals, insurance, and retail.

Sure, there was a learning curve as I got to know different parts of the business in completely different environments. I had to network and build new working relationships. But I have come so far from where I started, and I would not have had the chance to make these moves if I did not choose a career path that was as flexible and universal as project management.

As you make your own career transitions, take the following steps to shorten that learning curve so you can get up and running as soon as possible in your new adventure.

  • Meet with key leaders at all levels to learn the basics of your new environment – Meet with your manager to understand who the key stakeholders are, and set up short meet and greets with them over the first few weeks in your new role. Getting to know them, their priorities, and their struggles will help you piece everything together and identify how you can partner with and support them.
  • Follow the product or service from start to finish – No matter what industry you are in, it is important to know what the company has to offer. As a project manager specifically, getting to know the product lifecycle will help you understand who needs to be involved in what projects as you think about interdependencies and affected stakeholders.
  • Subscribe to relevant newsletters or read the latest business book – You may not have much time to read everything from start to finish, but browsing newsletters, websites, or books that have to do with your product or industry is a good way to get to know the language and the hot topics.
  • Participate in company-sponsored learning events – Look into whether your company has an orientation program, training opportunities, or lunch and learns, all of which would be provide great exposure to not only relevant content, but also to other people in the organization who are interested in learning. Stay connected with those folk, too!
  • Attend conferences related to the industry or function – Once you get to know your new role a bit, think about whether there are any conferences or outside learning events that would be worth your time and the company’s money. While you are there, take in all of the great ideas and also network with other attendees.
  • Ask questions – You knew this one was coming! As you engage yourself in all of the above activities and you find you do not know something, raise your hand and get yourself an answer! Or write down your questions and bring the to your manager each week for discussion. The latter will show great initiative and interest on your part.

Your learning curve will last a few months, so definitely take that opportunity to absorb as much information as possible. Who knows where your project management road will take you, and this newfound knowledge will certainly help you down the road as you begin managing projects and working with stakeholders throughout the business.

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