Personal development as a project manager

An essential part of the project manager's self-organisation is his personal qualification. He must spend time on further training and also invest money for his professional future. Those who further qualify themselves as project managers improve their chances of being given projects to work on and then being able to complete them successfully for the project-supporting company. Professionally trained personnel are the capital of every successful organisation. In order for projects to achieve their goals and for project management to be optimally anchored in the organisation, special measures in the area of qualification and certification of project personnel are helpful.
Several flowers with buds opening to varying degrees until flowering.


Expand knowledge and improve skills

There are a variety of ways in which project managers can expand and improve their own knowledge and skills. An important pillar of personal development is deepening knowledge of project management tools and methods. This involves the knowledge and application of techniques for analysing and planning, controlling and monitoring projects. But also the question of which type of project management (traditional, hybrid or agile) is suitable for project processing and which software can be used to support it. A successful project manager is able to select the most suitable methods and tools for the respective project and to apply them in his project team.
A project manager must be able to set goals, communicate a clear vision for the project and thus motivate his team. He must avoid or resolve conflicts within the team or with stakeholders. A forward-looking project manager is able to identify and resolve conflicts before they lead to major problems. In addition to technical knowledge, this also results in important factors of his social competence. These include his team leadership skills, usually without a disciplinary superior function, his support for teamwork and, as described above, the resolution of conflicts. Overall, it is always important for the project manager to expand and improve his knowledge of motivation and communication.
Of course, it is helpful for a project manager to have a good knowledge of the industry in which he will be working on the project. Industry knowledge enables him to better recognize the requirements and needs of the clients and to align the project accordingly. Regular exposure to the latest developments and a broad network also have a competence-increasing effect. The project manager should regularly keep up with the latest trends to ensure that he has the knowledge and skills to best lead his project to its goal.
In order to expand and improve all these skills, continuous training is necessary. This can be done by reading specialist literature, by participating in basic training courses or by attending special seminars. But participation in trade fair events also offers good opportunities for personal development. Through regular further training, the project manager can ensure that he stays up to date.

Networking and exchange of experience

Networking and sharing experiences are essential for successful personal development as a project manager. By having a strong network and exchanging ideas with other project managers, he can make valuable contacts that can be helpful in overcoming challenges or finding new projects. Sharing experiences helps to work more effectively and efficiently.
An important part of networking in project management is attending association events and conferences. Here, project managers have the opportunity to exchange ideas with colleagues, learn from their experiences and make valuable contacts. Membership in online communities can also be helpful in networking with other project managers.
Equally important is the exchange of experiences with colleagues in one's own company or in the project team. Through open dialogue and the exchange of feedback, new ideas can emerge and solutions can be found to make projects even more successful. It also helps to make better use of potential and resources.
Therefore, a successful project manager should not only pay attention to professional competence, but also to networking and the exchange of experience.

Mentoring and coaching

In addition to expanding knowledge independently and building networks, mentoring or coaching can be beneficial for the personal development of the project manager. This means personal support in developing skills and competencies. A mentor or coach can provide feedback, problem-solving support and valuable development opportunities tailored to the project manager's specific needs. Mentors and coaches can also help build the project manager's confidence and encourage them to step out of their comfort zone to gain new skills and experience. Such personal support helps the project manager mature into a successful leader. Such a project manager can motivate and support his team to perform well even in difficult situations.


Mentoring is a valuable tool for promoting the personal development of the project manager. A mentor is an experienced colleague who supports the project manager in his professional development, gives him valuable insights into the practice of project management and helps him improve his skills.
Mentoring can take place, for example, through regular meetings or telephone calls. The project manager can pick up feedback and tips, be supported in the development of his skills, in his career planning, but also in strategic decisions.
A successful mentoring programme promotes the career of the project manager, but also strengthens the project-supporting company as a whole. After all, a well-educated and trained project manager contributes significantly to the success of his project and thus also to the success of his company.


Because projects harbour many conflicts and challenges, e.g. (resource) conflicts with the line in the matrix organisation, problems in team building, lack of leadership experience or even lack of experience in managing complex situations. A coach can provide valuable services in identifying conflicts and resolving them. This is probably why coaching is becoming increasingly popular in companies.
On the one hand, coaching is an instrument for qualifying experienced project managers and junior project managers. On the other hand, it is a special, holistic form of project consulting. Coaching can be used in all project processes and if it is organised to accompany a project, it represents a form of quality assurance for a project. In particular, it takes into account the psychosocial aspects of work situations. Therefore, coaching can be a far-reaching help, especially for stressful project work. Coaching can also be understood as a qualification concept. In this case, the coach advises the team or a manager in everyday project work and makes himself available as a discussion partner. He supports the team in dealing with difficult situations and helps to understand the background of certain behaviour patterns in order to recognize and break them. The aim of coaching is to help people to help themselves.

A coach must be competent in many areas. He needs
  • many years of professional and team experience
  • extensive coaching experience
  • good project management skills
  • extensive experience in project work and project management
  • knowledge of relevant methods (e.g. team building)
  • process competence (e.g. project processes in projects with a high degree of novelty)
  • social competence (e.g. communication skills)
The project coach must be able to react situationally to changing problems. The decisive factor here is not the development of technical solutions; these must be developed by the team. The coaching process is much more about uncovering the core problems in project management, project work or the project environment relatively quickly. Particularly in the case of problems resulting from cooperation with the environment, the coach often takes on the role of mediator or advisor.

Qualification and certification

Qualification and certification must be based on a common foundation so that the learning elements and the certification fit together. At the same time, for certification of persons, it is clearly stipulated that the training and the assessment (evaluation, or examination) for the same participant must not be carried out by one and the same person.
Today, it is generally accepted that project management is an additional way to become more successful in a traditional profession. An engineer should be able to organise his own activities and those of his team members. A computer scientist can only adapt and implement a new programme for his client if he is able to organise and manage himself, the work of his team and the input of the client's team. The more complex the project, the more management skills are needed.


The project manager has the opportunity to undergo a customised qualification for his personal development. This is also advisable, because the individually different requirements for the management of projects result from the complexity of the respective project, the professionalism of the respective participants and the respective project environment.
A successful project manager has knowledge of applied project management, experience from completed projects and personal charisma as a person with responsibility and leadership skills (= personality).
The level of competence must increase with the degree of project responsibility.

Preparation for certification with the IAPM

Preparation for certification should follow the guidelines of the Project Managers' Guide, the Agile Project Managers' Guide or the International PM Guide 2.0. To ensure this, the IAPM has developed a web-learning platform as a qualification programme; in addition, project managers can make use of IAPM official training partners. The trainers facilitate the acquisition of knowledge in different formats (web-based or in face-to-face events, in individual coaching or team training).

Personal status determination as a project manager

The status assessment via pre-test or self-test acts as a bridge between qualification and certification. The IAPM gives candidates qualified feedback on the areas with potential for optimisation. Candidates are given the opportunity to learn in a bottleneck-oriented way, i.e. in which elements of project management knowledge gaps need to be closed, and to check which certificate level is most appropriate for them.


The Certified Junior Project Manager (IAPM) has a solid basic knowledge of the analysis and planning fields of project management. He can apply this knowledge properly and independently under supervision, e.g.
  • create and update a schedule
  • monitor project documentation and
  • organise reporting.
A Certified Project Manager (IAPM) has broad knowledge in the analysis and planning fields of project management and knowledge of the social competence areas. He can, for example
  • prepare the basic calculation for a project,
  • track deadlines and costs,
  • monitor project documentation with independent change management,
  • handle acceptance and handover of his sub-project,
  • coordinate the services of all the trades, suppliers and subsystems involved and
  • lead project personnel.
A Certified Senior Project Manager (IAPM) has proven that, in addition to comprehensive knowledge, he also has many years of project management experience.

A Certified International Project Manager (IAPM) also has comprehensive intercultural knowledge.

Certification with the IAPM

The certification of project managers follows the rules set by the IAPM, which are standardised worldwide. It consists of three sections:

Section 1:

Registration and application for certification including submission of an affidavit regarding the use of the test system.

Section 2

The knowledge examination is to be taken in German or English for the targeted area (traditional, agile or international area). The scope of the knowledge examination depends on the level of certificate sought. The Certified (Agile) Project Manager and the Certified Senior (Agile) Project Manager take a knowledge examination with the same topics. If a Certified (Agile) Project Manager aspires to the Certified Senior (Agile) Project Manager level at a later date, he does not have to take the knowledge examination again.

Section 3:

The proof of competence is only required for the Certified Senior Project Manager (IAPM) or Certified Senior Agile Project Manager (IAPM) degree. The proof of competence comprises the data of the curriculum vitae, the listing of project-related data for a maximum of five projects and the mention of the working hours in project management functions in the last five years.
The assessment criteria are checked using a point system (scoring). In this way, the individual assessments can be evaluated and recommendations for personal development as a project manager can be made. If the candidate's achieved score is within a predefined range, the candidate is admitted to the targeted degree.
The certificates of knowledge and competence issued by IAPM are not subject to recertification, but are valid indefinitely, comparable to a school or university degree.


Project managers who continuously develop their skills improve their chances of good project work, better project results and strengthen their company. Companies that support their project staff in their personal development with qualification, mentoring, coaching and certification programmes are perceived positively by future employees. Whether project managers themselves, their project team or the project-supporting company, all sides benefit from the personal development of the project manager.

Personal development - The author
Author: Dr. Roland Ottmann
Keywords: Project management, Self-management, Tips

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For better readability, we usually only use the generic masculine form in our texts. Nevertheless, the expressions refer to members of all genders.