Project management skills are highly valued in virtually all professional organizations, and the good news, as we’ve seen in the four articles this week, is that you as academic scientists apply those same principles every day… or at least some of them! So lets just take a quick look at some of the most impactful skills that you can bring back to the lab that will either help you finish your project on time, build your body of experiences to cite while applying for jobs, or both.
1. Success Criteria: Define your success criteria with your PI- Having a clear mutually agreed success criteria should benefit both you and your PI. It gives you a roadmap to completing your project, and sets realistic expectations for your PI with respect to what he/she can expect from you while you are there. Additionally, we know that a shared sense of purpose (which this should advance) is a powerful motivating tool in team performance dynamics. And the good news is that next week, our topic for our continuing series will be communications, which should provide you with some specific tools and insights with which to have these conversations with your PI.
2. Risk Management: This is something that you do every day when planning expe
riments, controls, considering your “plan B” if an idea doesn’t work. Start inventorying how you go about identifying and managing risks throughout your project as these can be very powerful anecdotes during the interview process to demonstrate your knowledge and familiarity with project management principles. One really effective way to identify potential risks in your project is to draw a process map, or network diagram of your project that starts with your major goal at the top, and branches out to cover the major objectives (specific aims) as branches. You can then evaluate each branch from the bottom of the diagram to the top and ask the question “what could possibly go wrong”, and then apply appropriate risk mitigation strategies to address those concerns.
These simple steps can have a significant positive impact on your current project and help you see light at the end of the tunnel.