“It’s that time again. Has it already been three years? It can’t be!”

This is the voice that plays in the PMP’s (Project Management Professional) mind as the three-year renewal deadline approaches each cycle.

For anyone reading this who is not familiar with the “PMP”, the PMP certification is issued by the PMI (Project Management Institute) after training and an extensive exam process and it must be renewed every 36 months with credits or “PDUs” (Professional Development Units) to keep it active. Keeping your PMP credential in active status is a must in the PMP’s mind, as you do not want to go through the PMP exam again.

When my first renewal was coming up many years ago, I panicked. What I am going to do? What classes can I take in a condensed time?  How much money do I have to spend to keep my certification active? After that first round of panic, I made a promise to myself that I will not put myself through that again…and I did not.

There are countless and unlimited ways to earn the needed 60 PDUs over the 36 months to keep your PMP credential active at almost a zero budget and no stress! Below are just a few. You will want to check the PMI CCR handbook (Continuing Certification Renewal System) at the PMI website (WWW.PMI.ORG) for the actual number of PDUs that you can submit for each given area below.

#1 – Attend a meeting

You are probably on a committee in your local city, church or school. This counts! Participate in meetings, activities and local events in your area. There are also professional Project Management organization meetings for your PMI chapter in your area. Check the PMI web site (WWW.PMI.ORG) for your local chapter information.

#2 – Give a presentation

You most likely do this at least a couple of times a year already. It could be a small presentation at a team meeting at your employer or an update at one of the local meetings from above in your city. As long as you document your talk in a summary to submit towards your PDUs to the PMI, you are golden. PMI stresses the positives of presentations sharing knowledge that relates to your certification. By sharing your Project Management knowledge and sharing your skills with others, you are helping others learn and grow and also helping grow the profession. This enhances the practices that are essential to your certified role. Whether you are mentoring, teaching or applying your subject matter knowledge toward an activity, others will benefit from your experience and perspective.

#3 – Read a book

It is as simple as that! Reading is a valuable component of learning, and there are countless reading materials pertinent to Project Management. You can read books, articles, whitepapers, or blogs like this to stay informed and support your ongoing professional development.

#4 – Audit a class or meeting

This is considered informal learning but it still counts! You can earn PDUs by attending and engaging in structured professional discussions with others – for example a “lunch and learn” session with your organization.

#5 – Take credit for your employment

The PMI considers this “giving back”. They want you to share your knowledge and apply your skills to contribute to the Project Management profession and advance the goals of organizations you value and work in. If you are working in the Project Management area of your organization, this allows you to apply your knowledge and skills in a practical setting. Using these proficiencies actively contributes to sustaining and growing the Project Management profession.

#6 – Create content

Create new knowledge resources for use by practitioners and the public. By developing knowledge resources, you can share your skills and insight with others and contribute to their ongoing learning. There are many ways to create new content such as authoring books, blogs like this, articles, or creating webinars or presentations.

#7 – Volunteer

Seriously, think about it…you do this all of the time. By providing volunteer services to non-employer or non-client organizations in your community, you can earn PDUs! The PMI also has an active community of thousands of volunteers who support the PMI and the profession in a wide range of roles so you can serve on a PMI committee or team if you desire. You can also volunteer your job-related services to other not-for-profit organizations.

#8 – Further your education

You can always take continuing education at little or no cost. Most employers these days offer tuition reimbursement and these credits are PDU eligible if related to the Project Management arena. There are many outlets for these activities offered by PMI and also third-party providers such as online or digital media classes, self-paced learning conducted online or through varied forms of digital media, or live leader led classes. The possibilities in this are endless. Technology allows you to cater learning and educational opportunities to your schedule and needs.

To close, I would like to share my personal guidelines to achieve your 60 PDUs in 36 months utilizing the above concepts and resources:

Tip #1: Do not wait until month 35

Make a realistic goal. My goal is that I complete 5-7 PDUs each quarter. This will keep you on track with the needed 60 units by the end of three years.

Tip #2 – Select items that you enjoy

Maybe reading and presenting is not your thing, but volunteering is. Choose the PDU fulfillment area that works best for you and your schedule.

Tip #3 – Stay close to your PMI account

Log in at least once a month to check your approved PDUs and also to keep your finger on the pulse on any new updates or announcements PMI has for you.

Tip #4 – Stay focused on your career in combination with your PMP credential

As long as you follow the above tools, resources and my simple guidelines (that work for me), I guarantee this next round of renewal will be stress-free.

Your Project Management career is a journey and you will need to stay on top of the Project Management profession as the needs of employers grow and change. This is the primary reason PMI requires the PDUs every three years. A PMP certification gives you a significant competitive edge over your Project Management peers in the industry, so keeping it current and active is so very important. It keeps you relevant and helps you to better position yourself as ‘the asset’ to what companies are looking for and require.

Melissa Wold is an experienced Certified Project Management Professional who has worked in the telecom industry for over 27 years. For more information on Melissa’s tips, or if you have any comments or questions related to this post, please contact her at mwold@renodis.com.