The IT project manager role is a funny kind of job. You need to understand technology and be able to make technical decisions, but the job isn't about completing technical tasks. You need to understand people, but the job isn't about supervisory skills. You need to understand business needs, but the job isn't about completing business tasks. Being an IT project manager requires knowing how to work with people and help them work with technology to get a project completed and provide the functionality the business needs.
These seven skills will help you combine those traits to be a standout project manager:
Keep technically current.You need a strong technical team you can rely on with answers about technology, but you also need to be able to evaluate their answers. Developers are always over optimistic about how long it will be to complete a task and how easy it will be to integrate a new technology. You need to know enough about the technology to evaluate their input and weigh it against other business concerns like cost and schedule.
Be a leader.There's a difference between managing and leading, and both are part of this job. Managing requires paying attention to the details and ensuring the necessary work is completed. You also need to lead up, down, and sideways: you need to get buy-in from your team, your management, and your end users that the strategy you're using is the most effective one to deliver the project.
Be a communicator.One of the most common reasons projects fail is because people don't know what needs to be done. You need to communicate with your team about the work and its priorities. You also need to communicate with management and end users about their priorities and project status.
Multitask.As a project manager, you're never looking at a single moment in time. You need to be evaluating work that was done in the past, responding to crises in the present, and planning the work that needs to be done in the future. Being able to calmly juggle multiple demands for input is necessary to get through your day.
Negotiate for what your team needs.Management doesn't always know what it takes to get a project done. If the resources allocated to the project – people or hardware – aren't adequate, you may be able to negotiate beyond those limits.
Be proactive.Small problems grow into big problems. Don't micromanage your team, but pay close attention so you become aware as soon as an issue develops. Step in as soon as necessary to help your team overcome obstacles.
Pay attention.People don't like sharing bad news. The staff who report to you may hesitate to let you know how difficult they're finding the work. Your management may delay letting you know changes in budget, staffing or priorities. Watch for the subtle signs that let you know there's a problem, so you can address it even if no one explicitly tells you about it.
When you're at a job interview, your goal is to convince the interviewer that you can do the job. Part of the way you do this is by backing up the credentials listed on your resume with strong answers to the interview questions. Part of the way you do this is by simply appearing confident that you can do the job – nonverbal communication is an important contributor to the impression you make.
Dress the Part
It used to be necessary to wear a suit and tie for every job interview. In tech today, that's no longer the case. Try to find out what's appropriate for the company before your interview. Wearing the wrong clothes will undermine your confidence; wearing clothes that make you look like you fit in will help the interviewer picture you doing the job. Whatever style of dress is appropriate, make sure you wear something you like and feel comfortable wearing.
First impressions form almost immediately and carry a lot of weight. Make eye contact, shake hands firmly, and don't be hesitant when you walk into the room. Sit up firmly in your chair – a chair with a firm back where you'll sit up straight will help you present better than a comfy chair where you slouch down. Keeping your feet solidly on the floor will help you maintain good posture. You don't want to be rigid, but don't be fidgety, either.
If you don't seem interested in the position, the employer probably won't be interested in you. Lean forward during the conversation, but be careful not to intrude on the interviewer's personal space. Avoiding eye contact makes you seem hesitant, but don't engage in a staring contest. Be aware of your voice: tone and speed can make you seem either bored or engaged.
Try not to cross your arms; it's a defensive gesture. It's better to keep your arms loose and to talk with your hands, as long as you don't wave them around crazily. It's also fine to smile; if you look like you're enjoying the topic, the interviewer will enjoy talking with you.
When you do practice interviews, practice your body language as well as your responses to interview questions. It may be harder to overcome habitual behaviors than to come up with answers for tricky questions, but presenting yourself well is an important part of succeeding at interviews.
If your search for a permanent position isn't progressing as quickly as you'd like, you should consider taking a temporary position. Besides the immediate benefit of filling a hole in your wallet, a short-term job can also help you find a long-term role. Here are five ways a temp job works to your advantage during your job search.
1. Having a temporary job on your resume can be better than having a long gap that needs to be explained. The temporary role lets you demonstrate that you're serious about working. If you hold the temporary position for more than a few days, it also demonstrates professionalism and commitment.
2. If you aren't sure exactly what you want to do, taking a temp job lets you try out a position without either you or the employer expecting a commitment. If it turns out not to be the right job for you, you can move on and try another type of job. If the role is a good fit, you'll have directly relevant experience to list on your resume and emphasize in interviews for permanent jobs.
3. You may be able to turn the temp job into a permanent position. Sometimes companies hold out the possibility of a job becoming permanent, when it's listed as a temp-to-perm position. Even if the specific position you're working in can't become permanent, you'll have contacts within the company who can let you know when there are permanent positions available. If the manager who oversaw your temp work recommends you, you'll be in a stronger position than unknown external candidates.
4. The contacts you build can also serve as references when you apply for a job with another company. References who've seen you recently and can speak to your recent work help you make a positive impression anywhere you apply. They may also have contacts elsewhere in the industry and be able to recommend you for opportunities they become aware of.
5. Your temp job may let you develop new skills or become more adept at skills you already have. Being able to cite real-world usage of these skills during an interview is much more impressive than book-learned skills you've never put to work.