7 Easiest Ways To Advance Your Career

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Has your career in project management started to seem a little….redundant?   Like there isn’t any way to reach that next step to improve your skill set and increase business?   Avoid the plateau of complacency by following these steps.

1. Get certified.

To be taken seriously in the project management field, credentials are a necessity, and the more the merrier.   Don’t have one lonely PMP title.   Add some PgMP and PRINCE2 in there as well.   If you’re a technical PM, getting ITIL certified is also a good idea.   Portfolio managers have yet another option:   PMI’s PfMP credential.   These specialized credentials can help you get a step up in your field by demonstrating and promoting your specific abilities.

That said, your certifications should complement your experience.   For example, if you are a mid-level PM, getting a CAPM certification won’t help.   If you’re a senior project manager, go for PMP and PgMP.   Certifications only enhance your standing if applied appropriately, so do your research and determine what will help most.   Also keep in mind that you shouldn’t overestimate your talents.   If you’re a novice project manager with fancy initials after your name, you may find yourself in a bad spot later on when expected to handle something outside of your abilities.

2. Experience matters.

More important than any fancy initials however, is your level of experience.   You’ll only grab high level jobs after a significant amount of time working in the area you’d like to specialize in.   Not much else to say here.  Work on padding that resume!

3. Work on your communication.  

Two-way communication is the most useful skill in any project manager’s toolbox, considering that’s what you’re doing 90% of the day.  Listen attentively and then deliver your ideas and suggestions in clear, concise ways.

Also, use the language your clients use.  Nothing is worse for communication than speaking in a tongue your business partners can’t understand.  Stay away from project management jargon.

4. Utilize PM tools efficiently and effectively.

Don’t feel like you have to use every piece of advice you hear, every tool that’s available to you, or every best practice your particular methodology believes in.  Use only what is appropriate for the project.

Project managers have the habit of stubbornly clinging to the methodology they certified in, even when it isn’t the right approach to a project.  The idea that project management isn’t useful or doesn’t work comes from this hesitation to try a new approach.  Problems are avoided if a project manager learns best practices in a few different methodologies and applies them when suited to each individual project.  The diversity protects against errors.

5. Be responsible and resilient, and see tough assignments as valuable challenges.

Don’t be afraid to take on the hardest projects.  Be the one who steps up when other project managers run away.  This will set you apart from the rest and garner respect.

When your projects experience delays or setbacks, don’t back down or assign blame.  See these problems as challenges that can help prove yourself and your abilities.  Problem solvers get promotions.  Work with your team to get the project back on track.

6. Make sure your career goals are clearly stated and demonstrated.

Your coworkers, your supervisor, your mentor, and your peers should all know where you want to be in your career in five years.  Your goals should be apparent from the way you act and pursue achievements everyday.

Performance reviews and frequent meetings with your supervisor can be beneficial, ensuring selection for the opportunities to advance your career.

7. Do what your father always told you, and build some character.

Who you are as a person (as opposed to who you are as a project manager) will not go unnoticed.  Strive to act with integrity and respect at all times.  Be consistent in your actions, ethics, and principles on each project.  Demonstrate your character by making good decisions, being honest, and upkeeping ethical standards.

Build trust by building positive relationships with your team, stakeholders, and sponsors. You’ll gain credibility and respect from your coworkers by having researched your business, treating others well, and managing projects with integrity.

Sara Border is probably a pen name, probably a person who doesn’t exist, and definitely an American living in a country no one knows about.  She likes to have tea with her coffee and practice saying something while rambling about nothing all at once, sometimes in conlangs.

Learning From Mistakes: Project Management And Recovering From Failure

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Michael Jordan didn’t hit every shot he took at the buzzer.  Warren Buffett has admitted to making poor investments in the past.  Muhammad Ali lost five of his fights.  On rare occasions, Bobby Fischer had to admit he was in checkmate.  Albert Einstein’s doctoral thesis contained a critical mathematical error.  And yes, even the best project managers can have a bad day.

The thing is, in a world where the failure rate for IT projects alone runs at an estimated total monetary loss of between $50 billion and $150 billion per year in just the United States (and a failed project’s effects aren’t necessarily limited to just the financial sector), bad days aren’t really something most project managers are able to have.  Project management can be a high stress job, where sometimes the only real acknowledgment of excellence is silence from the higher-ups while those rare mistakes are trumpeted from the mountaintops.

So, project managers of the world, what do you if the worst does happen?  What if a missed opportunity leads to a dramatic rise in the cost of completion?  What if a careless error causes a catastrophic drop in efficiency?  What if someone you assigned to complete a task is, to put it nicely, a bit underwhelming?

Well, that’s when it’s time to turn to the wisdom of others, and remember these fine quotes.

1) “A hero is one who knows how to hang on one minute longer.” – Novalis

First and foremost, don’t just throw your hands up in despair.  Unsolvable problems are far more rare that most of us think, and it’s entirely possible to salvage a situation that most would see as impossible.  Hang on a little longer, keep pushing, and solve that problem.

2) “No problem can withstand the assault of sustained thinking.” – Voltaire

Don’t let yourself be overwhelmed.  You and your team are more than capable of fixing whatever problems life throws your way, so long as you keep your heads on straight and avoid falling into a panic.  Gather your team and focus on finding a solution.  Once you find that solution, execute it and move forward.

3) “When solving problems, dig at the roots instead of just hacking at the leaves.” – Anthony J. D’Angelo

Treating the cause is far more important than treating the symptoms.  Thoroughly investigate anything that might crop up in order to find its source, then make sure your solution revolves around taking care of that source before worrying about any after-effects.

4) “Inside of every problem lies an opportunity.” – Robert Kiyosaki

You started out well by not letting yourself get discouraged.  Then, you and your team put your heads together and came up with a solution that focused on the source of the problem.  The lessons learned from the experience about how well you and your team can perform under pressure are just as important as the ability to enact similar solutions in the future.  Remember, if you’re committed to learning from mistakes and determined to keep moving forward, what seems like a setback can become a triumph.

Joseph H is a blogger for Copper.  Why yes, he does have a shelf full of books of quotes, why do you ask?

The Many Uses For Copper Project Management Software

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You know what?  We at the Copper Blog think you deserve an apology.

See, we spend a lot of time here creating articles specifically aimed at assisting those who work in the tech industry with time management, effectively building and leading project teams, and all of those other issues that might crop up during day to day operations.  Here and there, you’ll find hints to assist with keeping calm in a crisis, methods for improving productivity, or assorted recommendations for preventative measures to help keep things flowing as smoothly as possible.  Basically, we’d like to think we’ve done a pretty good job so far of having you covered, and we’re going to keep right on doing just that.  No apologies necessary there.

On the other hand, while all those articles might come in handy when it comes to the primary use most of our readers might have, we haven’t really touched on how to get the absolute most out of Copper Project Management Software.  Oh sure, it’s great having a bit of organizational stress taken away while on the job, but those effects are by no means limited to your work life, nor are they bound to only the tech industry.  There are a wide range of uses for Copper that have nothing whatsoever to do with keeping your clients happy, and we would like to apologize for not discussing this earlier.

That having been said, here’s but a small sampling of interesting and creative uses for Copper that we hope will greatly improve your life.

1) Producing a Movie

Create a project under the name if your movie’s working title.  Then you can assign users to whatever tasks you need them to take care of (script writing, procuring sets, casting, lighting, what have you), share scripts, and offer scheduling and location information so everyone knows where to be and when to be there.

2) Creating a Graphic Novel

Start a project for your comic, just like usual.  Assign your users according to their function, then just let them do their thing.  Your writers can write and edit, your artists can create cells and provide ink and color, and the whole thing will be organized in whatever way you choose.  This is particularly nice when collaborating online, when you can’t necessarily just wander over to someone’s desk and see how things are progressing.

3) Running A Fantasy Sports League

For those who dislike using a major sports site to run a fantasy sports league, Copper can help you organize and schedule drafts, share information about statistics and key injuries, and keep up-to-the-minute records.

4) Recording An Album

Let’s say you know a few people online who have some serious musical chops.  Start a project, add the users, and assign everything from instrumental and vocal recording to editing and cover art design.  Then, when you’re done with all that, you can use it to notify your fellow recording artists of upcoming tour dates and interviews.

5)  Organizing School Activities

Copper can be used to schedule field trips and assign chaperones.  It can assist in collaborative lesson plans.  It can help with preparing for pep rallies, proms, and sporting events.  It can even be used for both short-term and long-term assignments.

Keep in mind that this is only a small sampling.  If you have anything you’d like to add to the list, feel free to comment below and let us know what you’ve got going on!

Joseph H is a blogger for Copper.  He’s convinced that if he’d had access to Copper Project Management Software back when he was in college, he would have had a shot at ruling the world by now.  He might not be completely wrong.

Drawing Water When The Well Runs Dry: Maintaining Excellence In Your Projects

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There are times when you’re working on a particularly difficult project when you might find you’ve worked yourself into a corner.  During those stressful times, maintaining excellence at your usual standards can be trying indeed.  It can feel as if the well of brilliant ideas you’ve been drawing from and pouring into your work has suddenly dried up, and you’re left with nothing but mud and grit in the bottom of the bucket.

There’s a moment of panic that goes with that feeling, particularly if you’re working under a tight deadline.  That’s fine.  It’s a normal reaction to an abnormal situation, and nothing to really worry about.  After a few slow breaths, the feeling will fade and your pulse will return to normal, so just let it run its course and all will be well.

When you’ve gotten back to something resembling a bit of calm, it’s time to tackle the real problem, which is how to go about refilling the well.  The ideas are there, buried somewhere in your subconscious, but during times when you’re tired or stressed they just aren’t as easily accessible as they normally would be.  The longer you go without being able to produce, the more stressed you get, and the less likely you are to be able to unleash the full power of your creativity when you need it.

So how do you go about breaking through that wall?

During a multi-course meal, it’s not unusual to be offered a palate cleanser to neutralize your taste buds between dishes, thus enhancing the flavor of the next delicacy.  These foods are generally along the lines of various fruit sorbets, pickled ginger, or really anything with a bit of tartness to it.  When having trouble completing a certain phase of a project, a mental palate cleanser can refresh your mind in much the same way.

Spend a few minutes taking a shot at finishing a puzzle.  Sudoku, crosswords, and other assorted brain teasers are excellent ways to relax while stimulating your imaginative capabilities.

You could always reorganize your workspace, which serves as a distraction that results in a removal of distractions.  That’s pretty deep if you don’t think about it too much, and if that’s what you’re doing, you’re probably a bit too distracted and should get back to work immediately.

You might want to try taking some time out to brainstorm ideas for use in other aspects of your project.  This in particular has the added benefit of cutting down on the chances of the same sort of struggles in the future.

Even something as simple as going out for lunch can work wonders when it comes to replenishing your creativity, and not just because of the calories involved.  As we’ve mentioned before, a change of location is sometimes all it takes to get things going in a positive direction.

It’s far better to take ten minutes out of your day to sweep out the cobwebs than it is to spend hours staring at the screen in the hopes that something brilliant will magically appear in the midst of whatever internal crisis you’re accidentally building up to.  Give it a try.  You might be surprised at how much water the well still has left to give.

A Quick Checklist For Selecting Business Software Upgrades

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When selecting a business software upgrade, what you need is something that’s a comprehensive, easy to use, and will make your life easier on multiple fronts.  Picking up something like Copper Project Management Software is a no-brainer of course, but what about when it comes to upgrading the more specialized areas of your business?

It’s easy to get caught up in the next big thing when it comes to shopping for software upgrades.  With the exponential growth in the rate of new advances in project management tools, technical capabilities, and communications, the choices available when picking personal methods of running a company are becoming more and more comparable to being a kid in a candy shop.  Sure, you can grab everything in sight and immediately cram it into your mouth, but then you’ll be out of cash in a hurry with nothing to show for it but an upset stomach and the jitters while the specter of a huge dental bill looms off in the distance.

When starting to feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of options available, you should ask yourself the following questions:

1) Do I already have systems in place that efficiently cover all of the options the Shiny New Thing offers?

The old term, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” comes into play here.  Purchasing something simply for the sake of purchasing something is counter-productive financially, and at best will provide a few steps to the side in the progress of your business rather than the leap forward you should be aiming for.  Sometimes it’s best to save your money until something truly better comes along.

2) Does the Shiny New Thing do everything I need it to do?

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, you’re running a graphic design business.    You’re looking for an upgrade to your current software.  Buying a program that covers only 90% of what you need isn’t a good option, since you’re just going to have to go shopping for a specialized utility to cover the other 10% that the first program lacks.  Unless the new software is such a spectacular upgrade that it makes up for the difference in time and money involved in finding something that covers what the newer software lacks, it’s not going to be a good use of your finances.

3) Do I need everything the Shiny New Thing does?

A few years ago, a friend of mine gave me a pen with an attached adjustable flashlight for writing in the dark.  That’s all well and good, as I’m a frequent note taker, and I don’t always have the advantage of proper lighting.  It also had a laser pointer, which would come in handy when doing presentations or creating adorable cat videos.  That was really nice as well.  It also had a built-in black light, which could be used for…  I don’t actually know what I would use that for, since I don’t often use invisible ink.  As a gift, it was still a really neat thing, but if I were actively looking to purchase a pen that could suit my potential needs, I’d take a good long look at exactly how much I was paying for that black light option.  Your utility software should be treated in exactly the same way.  Basically, a program that can blow through 3D models with ease while wirelessly communicating with your coffee maker in order to brew that perfect cup might seem like as much of a really neat thing as the aforementioned pen, but is it really something you should be willing to pay a premium for if you’re not a coffee drinker?

4) When taking the answers to the three previous questions into account, is the Shiny New Thing cost effective?

If so, then by all means, pick the software upgrade that best suits your needs.  If not?  You’re probably better off saving your money and sticking to what you have.  If nothing else, it’s good to maintain a bit of financial padding in case of emergencies.

Joseph H is a blogger for Copper.  A long time ago, he spent around $70.00 at a candy store and had some serious regrets.  Oh, and by “a long time”, he means “about two weeks”.