One of the benefits of being active in a global network of professionals such as that of the Project Management Institute (PMI) is that one is afforded the privilege to meet a variety of people.  Through global congresses and leadership meetings everyone has the opportunity to interact with colleagues from a variety of countries, industries, and practices.

With this opportunity comes a chance to gain knowledge and tap into a wealth of best practices and lessons learned.  Obviously personal experience in one’s career is critical, but as I have come to find out, so is other people’s experience.  Someone shared with me long ago that a professional does not have to personally make those mistakes to learn from them.  The smart practitioner is someone who is able to learn from other people’s mistakes and experiences.

Two days ago I learned that a friend of mine who I met through PMI circles recently passed away.  As I reflected on our friendship and our work together in various volunteer capacities I was astonished how much I was influenced early on by this colleagues’s temperament and his focus on relationships.

One thing that I find also interesting is that there are specific conversations that I recall where sage advice was given and certainly appreciated which ended up helping resolve potential conflicts of capitalize of various opportunities.  In fact, when I look at my career either through my professional activities or during my PMI volunteer leadership activities the pivotal moments that come to mind are those that are associated with key people.

These people are colleagues, mentors, managers, team members, friends and family, and many others.  One of the most important bits of advice that was shared with me was the fact that I should try and approach every situation as an opportunity to learn.  Every person that one meets can serve as a potential teacher and that is especially true in professional organizations.

Within our careers it is important to create professional development plans, set goals, and identify an overal map of where we would like to go.  However, just as importantly we need to keep an open mind that sometimes we might learn something unexpected that will have a significant influence on our careers and our lives.

For those professionals who consider themselves the “accidental project manager” I suspect that this is not only obvious but also a mantra of sorts to live by within the scope of their work.

So to all our mentors and colleagues, thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and experiences.