One early challenge for becoming a PMP is successfully filling out the application! Documenting experience can be especially time consuming. The minimum experience required at professional project management, leading and directing project tasks, is:
-3 years/36 months and 4,500 hours with a bachelor’s degree
-5 years/60 months and 7,500 hours with a bachelor’s degree
The challenge is digging up all of the information on that past experience and getting it into the right format for the PMI.
As per the Project Management Professional (PMP®) Credential Handbook, applicants need to document the number of hours that they led or directed project tasks. Applicants need to consider all of the projects that they have worked on, and identify how many hours they led or directed project tasks. For this section of the application all hours spent leading and directing project tasks on multiple concurrent projects count toward the total. This exercise is, in itself, an educational experience, as it makes applicants to think about their experience in terms of the PMI framework, the Project Management Body of Knowledge, or PMBOK.
There is an experience verification section on the online application to document and report the experience leading and directing project tasks. Projects need to be documented individually regardless of the number of projects. Within the total hours of project management experience, experience in each of the five process groups is required. However, experience in all five project management process groups is not required on each and every single project.
8 Pointers for Documenting Project Management Experience
Project Managers and applicants for the PMP need to remember that delivering on projects is all about getting tasks done. It is all about task management. Many people assume that because they were not the overall project manager, their experience does not count. However, PMP hopefuls need to think outside the box and review their projects and tasks through the lens of a project manager, using the PMBOK framework – specifically the Project Management Processes: Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring & Controlling, and Closing – and begin to understand where their tasks and efforts fit into the overall process of managing a project.
Here are some great steps for doing this task:
1. Capture all work experience of the past so many years, including dates, regardless of what it was. A spreadsheet is an ideal organizational tool for this.
2. Applicants should learn to think in terms of the Project Management Processes: Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring & Controlling, and Closing. For each of their experiences, they need to record which of these processes they were working.
3. At this point, applicants should discard the experiences where they were clearly not working on any of the 5 Project Management Processes.
4. The next step is to peruse through all the experiences to make sure each and every one of the 5 Project Management Processes, is represented at least once in all the identified experience. This is required.
5. Now all of the experience data should be ready for computing a preliminary number of months of project management experience, to be compared against the requirement. Hopefully there is enough experience to meet and actually exceed the requirement, should anything be questioned.
6. The next task is to do a short description of each of the experiences, illustrating especially how “leading and directing project tasks” was taking place within the specified project management processes.
7. This deserves repeating. Extra experiences totaling more than the required time should be kept as a buffer.
8. Optionally as a final step, the experience can be broken down further into detailed descriptions for each of the appropriate processes.
Finalizing the Process
It is acknowledged that often times there are gray lines between work on one project or another, or even one process or another. Applicants need to ensure that any claims they make are credible and that they can readily explain them and feel confident with the information they are providing. In their descriptions, a good technique is to try to paint a picture of the project by providing a succinct description with information of level of responsibility, including the role played, deliverables produced, size of project, and bit about the stakeholders, and the impact. Each experience must be described uniquely, which means avoiding copies or repeat descriptions of assignments, as all projects are different!
To finalize an experience worksheet, applicants, of course, need to remember to check grammar, and run a spell check! The following should go without saying, but 2 overlapping experiences cannot be considered to each be full time! Applicants also need to determine the appropriate level of detail for their particular situation. They should simply feel comfortable that the reader will find their organization of the information and descriptions of the project work experience understandable and credible. All of this shows a high degree of professionalism and speaks as much as the content about the person.