So you’ve decided you’d like to become a Project Manager, what now?
Firstly, don’t despair if you feel you lack the experience and / or skills to progress along this career path – we all had to start somewhere. There is no easy formula, but there are things you can do to develop your skills in this area.
Here are some first steps you can take:
How to Become a Project Manager?
1. Get some experience:
Most aspiring Project Managers have the dilemma of not having any experience of Project Management. You may currently work in a different area of an organisation which runs multiple projects and aspire to be a Project Manager (e.g. Software Developer, Quantity Surveyor, or you may be stepping into a completely new career path) – that’s fine.
If you do step from a specialist field such as software development, engineer, or any such technical role in your industry, into a project management role, there is one key point to remember.
Your specialist area will form a small part of the overall project which you will have to manage, so (for example) whilst your knowledge of IT networks will help you in your new IT Project Management role, it will form only a small part of the puzzle, and you will need to manage a broader set of specialist roles.
There are definitely roles which will help you build your skill set and experience – look for opportunities such as a Junior Project Manager, Project Co-ordinator, or within a PMO group (Project Management Office). Any of these roles will allow you to work closely with a Project Manager and observe how they operate.
I’d also recommend volunteering to help with tasks normally outside of your current role, e.g. offering to help draw up the project plans, or take minutes at project meetings. This will give you extra work, but will also give you valuable experience and an broader insight into how it all fits together in your industry. It will also add value to your CV / resume.
2. Get a Qualification:
Will training and achieving a Project Management Certification help you?
Yes, it most certainly will.
In fact most Project Manager roles will require applicants to have a Project Management Qualification relevant to the industry (see other blog post).
Even if not specified, having a current certification from an accredited Project Management body such as PMI (Project Management Institute) or APM (Association for Project Management) will help you to a greater understanding of the framework within which projects operate, and will at the very least demonstrate to prospective employers your commitment to personal development.
3. Develop your Skill Set:
If you’re targeting a move into an industry in which you have little or no experience, don’t be put off. The skills required for a Project Manager are more general in terms of People Management, Budget Control, Planning, Problem Resolution, and tend to be transferable between industries.
If you have experience in a particular industry that’s fine, but if not, don’t let it be a blocker – just be willing to learn fast!
For any specific technical issues there will be someone on the project team who understands it and can resolve it better than you ever could – it’s just up to you to push it towards resolution, ensure all the relevant resources are lined up, and assess the impact on other areas of the project/organisation, and manage it accordingly. See also my other post – What Skills do I need to become a Project Manager?
Get to know the key people in your organisation, such as other Project Managers, Programme Managers, PMO Managers. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about what projects / Project Manager roles are coming up, and make it known to them that you’re interested in getting involved.
Also, keep your ear to the ground about who’s off sick / going on maternity leave / going off to tour the world :-), and make it know you’d like to volunteer to cover for them in their absence. This can be a way for you to gain valuable on the job experience which can work well for your employer also, as they can cover an important role by providing you with some support / training.