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The Path to the PMP (Part 1)

By Bruce Garrod

Via ProjectManagement.com 01/31/2013

You can’t put it off any longer. Last spring you said you would do it before summer vacation started. But as the season wrapped up, you thought: “I will absolutely write the exam before the holidays!” Now the holidays are done and we’re into a new year...and that PMBOK® Guide, Fourth Edition is still sitting on the table begging to be cracked open. “I should get this done before the new exam kicks in,” you say to yourself. Or maybe you’ll just wait for the new exam and then for sure you’re going to do it!

It seems there are as many reasons not to bare down and start preparing as there are not to exercise. But now it’s time, and as many of my ProjectManagement.com colleagues have pointed out, it’s absolutely worth the effort. We know there is no guarantee of a promotion, salary increase or fame and glory. But we do know that an investment in oneself is the most important investment you can make. I can’t help you get fit (well, I could...but do you really want some middle-aged guy telling you to push yourself away from the table and get outside?), but I can help you get ready to write the PMP exam.

Will it be easy? No. I tell participants in the PMP bootcamps I run that I wish I had worked as hard in college as I did when I prepared to write my certification exam. Alas, those were different days...and who knew that being first to the college pub would not lead to career success?

Where do you start? If you haven’t been to PMI’s website to download and print their PMP handbook, you need to do that immediately after reading this article. It outlines exactly what experience and project management specific training you need. It clearly outlines the format and level of detail that PMI expects to receive. It also outlines important elements like fees, code of conduct and the audit process. It’s all spelled out and, like the rest of the prep process, it will take some effort on your part to understand.

Two of the most challenging parts of the application are the training and experience elements. Training is interesting...all you need do is provide proof, perhaps through course certificates, that you have attended 35 hours of training from a PMI-approved education provider. An important question you have to ask yourself is, “Is that enough?” I can’t count how many people have attended my bootcamps and asked if the 35 hours of training they get during the bootcamp will count toward the application (it does)!

When providing their Day 1 introduction, many people say that they took an “Introduction to Project Management” course a few years ago--but now feel they are ready to write the exam since they now have the necessary hours of “leading and directing projects”. (These folks are in for a tough week!) Contrast them to a fellow participant who completed a series of courses where significant time was spent learning about important theories such as the Tuckman model of team development, Maslow’s hierarchy, Project lifecycles, free float, quality checklists and contingency reserves (if that sentence makes you scratch your head, you’re not alone).

Don’t get me wrong. Lots of people immediately realize they are at a disadvantage, then hunker down and work their way through the methodology and successfully write the exam. They simply have to work that much harder than the person beside them who, as the week progresses, has a number of moments where they think to themselves, “Oh yeah, I remember when I first learned about that in a previous class...”

The Experience Element

The experience element that PMI is looking for can be challenging to capture. I recently helped a participant rewrite his work experience a number of times before he submitted (successfully) his application. The first thing to realize is the individual receiving your application has read (at least) hundreds of them. You also need to know they do not know your business, acronyms or terms that are commonly used in your line of business. They do, however, intimately know the PMI methodology and they want you to demonstrate that you do as well.

In only 500 characters, you need to be able to articulate you not only know the PMI methodology, but that you effectively applied it to your projects. You need to demonstrate you have experience in the five process groups and clearly have been in charge of “leading and directing” your projects. I don’t suggest you try to sound like a walking PMBOK®; just be yourself, but know your audience. Make it easy for the application reviewer to say to themselves, “This person clearly knows and practices the methodology.”

Whether it was Confucius or Lao-Tzu who over 2,500 years ago wrote that “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” doesn’t really matter. You know that getting your PMP certification is the right thing to do. The personal satisfaction and pride you will feel will make the effort worth every step.

Take the first step by going to PMI’s website right now to get the handbook. Make Step 2 getting the application done within the next week (seriously, get at it!). In my next article, you are going to read about the areas of the PMBOK that are too often ignored. Then we’ll start making our way through the knowledge areas together (don’t forget to push yourself away from the table and get outside, too).

For more information on this topic, as well as how Corporate Education Group can help optimize your organization’s performance, contact us or call 1.800.288.7246 (US only) or +1.978.649.8200.

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