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7 Keys to Building an Impactful Career in Project Management

Having an impactful career in project management requires a combination of technical skills, leadership skills, and the right mindset. As a leader with a wealth of insight and experience to share, Management Solutions Founder and CEO Misty Mayes was recently interviewed by the University of Tennessee’s Tickle College of Engineering as an ‘Alumni Legend.’

The interview was part of a new Pathways to Success for Engineers program designed to kickstart students’ careers. Mayes had advice for graduating seniors, but her guiding principles for making an impact in project management are applicable to any career stage.

Here are seven key takeaways from the interview:

1. Do the best you can with where you are with what you have. Have that as your mantra, especially when you’re just getting started in your career. Your first job -- or any job -- might not be your dream job, but there’s always something to learn. Take the opportunity to build whatever skills you can. Observe and emulate effective communication styles and behaviors that lead to advancement.

2. People like working with people they like. Likeability isn’t just about smiles and chitchat, it’s about cultivating relationships by being friendly, engaging, and treating people well. The better you are at building these relationships, the broader your network will be.

3. Communicating well is a game-changer. Project success may be based as much on good communication as it is on good engineering. Quality work is a top priority, but engineers and project managers need to put thought and effort into clear, effective communication with stakeholders.

4. Control the controllables. In engineering and project management, there are so many complex variables that are beyond a person’s control. But there’s much that you can control that will have a huge impact on your success, such as: How do you show up? Are you passionate about every opportunity you get? Are you a good listener? What is your attitude?

5. The five people you surround yourself with dictate the way you see yourself. Few things are more indicative of a person’s character than the people with whom they choose to associate. The people closest to you will not only influence how you see yourself, but they’re also either building you up or holding you back. If they are not supporting the person you want to be, you need to reflect on whether you want to spend time with them.

6. Go in with a growth mindset. To have an impactful career, you don’t have to know everything – but you must be willing to grow, learn, work hard, and listen. With a growth mindset, you can view challenges and difficulties as opportunities for improvement.

7. Have a short memory for failure. Learn resilience early on. Failure is inevitable, but there’s a quick and easy recipe for how to deal with it: name it, feel it, learn from it. The important thing is to figure out what went wrong, how to fix it, and how to move on. Despite the obstacles and setbacks that might knock you down, if you figure out a way to fight through it and be passionate about improvement, your career trajectory will be onward and upward.

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