I knew I always wanted to be either an architect or engineer. But I think I’d be hard pressed to find a child who, with a wonder and gleam in their eyes, said “I want to be a PMP!” Dream big, little ones, dream big, because that credential is a rather tough one to obtain. Perhaps you should rather set your sights on being an astronaut or a doctor.
Okay, yes, I’m exaggerating here. But it IS a world-recognized credential, which will be great for when I plan on my career moving to the Fiji Islands. It’s just that the trip to get those initials after my name was rather hellacious. Let me open the door so you can peek at the journey.
Prepare to be utterly dumbfounded: First, you need either a four-year degree from an accredited college with three to five years’ end-to end (not overlapping) experience managing projects. Next, you need to take thirty-five credit hours of education with a credentialed school on the PMBOK (Project Management Book of Knowledge). This part is tricky because they change the book every year or two, so you need to make sure you’re studying the correct version. Next, forget anything you’ve learned in your real-world experience as a Project Manager, because you need to take a four-hour test related to the roughly 400 pages doled out in the PMBOK, where your experience counts for nothing. Nada. Zilch. In fact, your real life experience will screw you over, and you will get questions wrong if your answers do not match what is taught in those stoic 400 pages. What counts is rote memorization of the PMBOK.
SO! After studying four hours a day for two months and taking enough practice tests to put a nice dent in the tropical rainforest, you may be ready for the test. Go ahead and take it. Chances are—brace yourself—you won’t pass. You’ll walk out of that testing facility dazed, confused, and angry that you just blew $400 to fail a test. If you do pass, I don’t know who you robot people are. I met one person who passed their first time, and yes, I do believe that person was a robot. She had no people skills whatsoever. The good news is that you can take the test three times before having to go through the application and education process again. It took me (and many PMPs I know) all three tries to pass.
On the bright side, those who ultimately attain the PMP (usually after taking the test numerous times) are good Project Managers who want to better themselves, even if it means momentarily putting aside what they’ve learned in real-life project management and memorizing the book to pass the test. I write this article sarcastically, but by having a common denominator of practice—by allowing the PMBOK to be the be-all, end-all bible to which PMs refer—we bring a very special value to the table. That value is the ability to manage any type of project consistently from Initiation phase through Closing phase with a well-defined degree of accuracy for any field in any country. This accomplishment is something I value greatly. And after going through the rigor on my journey to PMP status, I am confident that I have the skills necessary to manage projects from Tokyo to Timbuktu, in fields from construction to software implementation to (dare I say it?) working on an Imagineering project with Disney. (Squeal!)
Indeed, folks, the PMP credential is extremely difficult and frustrating to attain. But in the end it feels good to have, and I know it will pay me back tenfold!