Project Management is an exciting field to get into for many people. You might be considering it as a career, whether you’re just out of college or thinking about a change. Wherever you are in your life, it’s not too late to start thinking about a career in project management. How you enter into the discipline will differ depending on where you are now and where you want to be in the future. Some people may have just graduated from college; others may not have applied yet. Perhaps you have technical experience in your current job. But you have yet to make the leap to a managerial role. You might be looking to make an even bigger change from an unrelated career. Whatever your aims, this guide will help you make a plan to reach them.
Consider Your Starting Point
Before you can start building a new career, you need to take a look at where you are now. It’s important to think about your current skills and experience. You should identify where you need to plug any gaps. Most project manager roles require a four-year degree. So that’s something to think about from the beginning. If you don’t yet have one, you might want to consider going back to school. Perhaps you have just graduated, in which case you’re probably looking for a way to get your foot in the door. You might have some experience in work related to project management, but you haven’t yet taken on a PM role in your job. You need to work out what you need to gain regarding qualifications, knowledge and experience to move on.
What Are Your Goals?
You also need to think about what your aims are. You may have an overarching objective or building a career in project management. But beyond that, where are you hoping to end up and in how long? Do you have a specific industry in mind or do you want to end up in a senior position? Consider where you want to be in five or even ten years to help you formulate a plan.
Complete a Degree
The majority of project manager roles require a four-year degree to have a chance at them. However, keep in mind that a college education is not the be-all and end-all. You may have a degree, but it’s unlikely to put you ahead of someone with ten years of experience. A degree is important, but it’s not as important as having relevant experience. If you’re just coming out of high school or don’t have any professional expertise, going to school will be beneficial for you. Don’t worry if you’re unsure about which major to pick. Think about the industry you’re interesting in working in. If you want to go on and gain an education in project management, some colleges have specialized master’s programs.
Seek Professional Certifications
Another way to improve your education in project management is to consider a certification. There are a number of professional qualifications recognized by employers. Having one of these certifications can help to open doors to opportunities. PMP is one of the leading professional certifications. If you’re looking for a way to learn in your spare time, you can complete an online PMP certification course. Online courses make it easier to pick up new skills whenever and wherever is convenient for you. These project management courses can help to give you a leg-up. They’re especially useful if you need some experience. If you do have experience, they can be an excellent way to show your commitment.
Get Related Work Experience
Before entering project management, many people have some professional experience that ties into it. Perhaps you currently have a job, or you’re looking for some post-college work. Either way, you don’t have to move straight into project management. Filling the gaps in the skills and knowledge you need by working in other areas is a good idea too. You may be able to become involved in some projects in your current role. Alternatively, a new job could offer you opportunities to explore project management. It can be more important to concentrate on the industry and employers. It’s easier than trying to walk straight into a project manager job.
Learn About Project Management on the Job
If you’re already in employment, you could learn about project management while working. Speak to your boss about the possibility to shadowing someone, perhaps for a couple of hours a day. You can find a way to fit it into your usual work schedule, and one of the project managers may be able to to act as a mentor. This is one of the best ways of learning more about project management. You can see it in action, rather than learning all the theory and then trying to apply it later.
Choose an Area of Focus
Project management has a number of different focus areas that you could want to follow. Your current career or perhaps degree may give you a push in a certain direction. But it doesn’t have to be definitive. There are several focuses you could choose from. They include HR, risk management, communications and integration. You might already have settled on an area to set your sights on. However, if you haven’t, it’s something you should try to do sooner rather than later.
Work on Communication Skills
There are many core competencies you need if you want to work in project management. Communication is one of the most crucial, and you won’t survive without it. You need to be able to communicate openly and honestly with your team. You won’t get far without the ability to convey your wishes to the people working under you. Communication needs to be clear so that everyone understands the objectives of each project. It’s something you need to practice. Even though you can read about techniques, you need to put them into action to master them.
Build Business Sense
You need a certain amount of business acumen if you want to succeed as a project manager. As well as communicating with your team, you should be able to talk to the higher ups in an efficient way too. Experience in the boardroom will help with this, but you don’t have to wait to get in there. Taking business courses can assist you in this area. They can give you a better understanding of how to make sound business decisions. But you also need to use your skills and knowledge in the field. Look for opportunities at work that will force you to make quick decisions.
Improve Your Confidence and Assertiveness
Also connected to communication is the ability to be confident and assertive. You need to be able to make your voice heard and have your authority respected, whether at your desk or in a presentation. You have to deal with a variety of people, who all will have different approaches to their work. You need to be firm and authoritative but also know when it’s not your place to disagree. Learning the different roles within a company will help you with this.
Learn Leadership Skills
Leadership skills are essential if you’re going to manage a team of people. Many employees talk about the difference between a boss and a leader. A boss tells you what to do, while a leader asks you to follow them. Being a good leader doesn’t always come naturally. It can take a lot of work, and some people aren’t meant for it. Think about the best way to be a leader and how you want the people working with you to see you. It might help to do some research on the proven ways to lead people and which techniques are most effective. You can take leadership courses too, which you help you put your skills into practice.
Network with Project Managers
Talking to people who currently work in project manager roles can benefit you. Having a mentor at work or outside of work is one thing you can start with. They can be your primary source of information and advice. However, you can go beyond that and seek help elsewhere. Attending networking events or joining online communities will help you meet project managers. You can learn a lot from talking to people who are currently working in the role.
Finding a Project Manager Role
If you’re trying to move into a project manager job, it can often be easier to do so from your current company. Moving up through the ranks can be a good option for a lot of people. It’s often easier than getting your foot in the door from outside of the company. Networking with others is also a useful way of hearing about jobs. Many positions are never advertised. They’re filled very quickly by people with an in.
It can be a long road to beginning a project management career, especially if you’re a recent graduate. However, if you map out a plan, you’ll know what you need to do to get there.