How to Start a Career in Project Management – 10 WaysPosted on March 10, 2023
There was a time when anyone with project management experience and a PMP designation could get any job they wanted. But that was when the PMI was 30,000 members large, and project management, worldwide was still a bit of an unknown. Today, the PMI consists of over 800,000 members and there are very few organizations in the world that don’t understand the importance of project management.
The bad news that comes along with these numbers is that getting the next job—either inside your organization or externally——has become very difficult. It is no longer a given that the experienced project manager with their professional designation will get the next job.
In this blog post, we’ll explore 10 ways to get started on the path toward a successful project management career. Whether you want to become a strategic leader, work on agile development teams or start your own business, there are plenty of options out there. Ready to get started? Let’s dive in!
Let’s start with education. The day is gone when project managers can get away with just ‘winging it.’ At Schulich ExecEd, we run an 18-day program called the Master’s Certificate in Project Management. Without fail, at least half of our class on opening day will tell us that they are there because they want to stop winging it. They really want to start building a toolbox that can address the needs of today’s projects and keep them ahead of the crowd.
Education at any level is critical to your project management career. Beyond the formalization of the steps you take,the processes you use and the tools you access, just taking the program tells the audience, those reviewing your resume or profile, that you have committed to your career as a project manager.
2) Skill Sets (Softs & Hard Skills)
Building a project management skill set requires you to be proficient in both technical and hard skills, such as portfolio management and project scoping, as well as soft skills, like adaptability. Developing and honing these skills is essential for performing well as a project manager. Good project management also requires excellent communication skills and motivating team members toward achieving common goals. Understanding risk management, budgeting operation cost-saving measures, and strong leadership qualities are also key elements of successful project management.
Mentorship is an invaluable tool for starting a career in project management. Having access to an experienced project manager’s insights and advice is a great way to gain the knowledge and skills you need to succeed in the field. With a mentor’s guidance, you’ll be able to get up-to-speed on key concepts such as resource allocation, scheduling, budgeting, and team dynamics much more quickly than if you were trying to learn on your own. A good mentor can also provide important moral support when things don’t quite go according to plan. Mentorship relationships are highly beneficial for both parties and are key to getting started as a successful project manager.
Is the PMP from the PMI worth the time, cost and effort?
Right off the top, if you are running your own business or in a position in your career where you don’t need to be selling yourself to any organization going forward, then the answer is no. Don’t waste your time. However, if you are in the early stages of your career and project management is going to be a part of that path in any way shape or form, then yes – this designation is known throughout the world and well worth the effort.
To earn your PMP, you require 3 or 5 years of project management experience (depending on your post-secondary school education), 35 hours of related education, and you need to pass a fairly rigorous exam (4 hours and 200 questions). It will cost you $405 for PMI members and $555 for non-members. Complete details can be found at http://www.pmi.org.
This designation will not guarantee you anything, but it will sure help. On the other hand, if you have been a project manager for many years and a successful one with a good track record then it might not be worth it. Your experience should speak for itself.
At Schulich ExecEd, we encourage all of our Master’s Certificate in Project Management students, if they qualify, to go on to write their PMP exam. In fact, we have most recently added 25 hours of online PMP prep education to our core program. It’s important to us as an education institution that we provide our students with any opportunity they can to advance their careers.
5) Strategic Thinking
Start to educate yourself about strategy, strategic thinking and strategic planning. Start to connect the dots between the project work that you are involved in and the strategic plan. Strategic thinking is an essential skill for any project manager looking to succeed in their career. Strategic thinkers are adept at developing plans, setting goals, and making decisions that result in a positive impact on the organization. They are also skilled in maintaining focus on long-term objectives while responding quickly to short-term needs. By adding strategic thinking to your toolkit, you can ensure projects are completed on schedule, within budget, and in line with business goals.
6) Agile Methodology
Educate yourself on Agile, a methodology to manage a project by breaking it up into several phases. The agile methodology is not taking over the world, but it has certainly become a strong alternative to the very traditional waterfall method of managing projects. Even if your organization is not practicing agile at the moment, you should be aware of what it can do and understand how to identify the opportunities for an Agile approach. This will absolutely put your profile on top of the list. This is exactly why we’ve added a two day Agile module to our Master’s Certificate in Project Management program. It is essential that we introduce our students to today’s tools and not stay in the past.
Become a really good communicator. Communication skills are essential for all project management professionals and non-professionals. Learn how to write well, present well and most importantly, learn how to structure your message to the right audience at the right time, in the right format, for the right reasons. Read your audience well and understand what their needs are before you get to the keyboard or the podium.
Understand that good communication skills won’t set you above the crowd. Poor communication skills will definitely help you stand out in all the wrong ways. Coming into a presentation poorly prepared, delivering a poorly structured or chaotic session, delivering a report that rambles all over the place can seriously damage your reputation.
8) Business Value
Understand the meaning of business value and benefits, making the link between what your project will produce and a measured value or benefits to the organization. With the ability to develop plans, coordinate team members, manage resources, and track progress, project managers are essential for ensuring that projects are executed smoothly and efficiently. They provide a measure of oversight and accountability to ensure that objectives are met on time and within budget. Through their knowledge and expertise, project managers help organizations to identify goals, create strategies for achieving them and deliver the results desired. In short, having an experienced project manager onboard can make all the difference when it comes to successful outcomes.
Networking is truly a great way to enhance your career. Networking gives us opportunities to gain new relationships and new connections that we can possibly leverage going forward – both personally and professionally. When talking to large audiences about networking, the most exciting part of this experience is that quite possibly the next person that walks in the door could change your life – forever. One person, one conversation, one chance meeting could introduce you to opportunities that you never knew existed. That new person could be your next employer, employee, customer or friend. To me that makes the art of networking well worth looking into.
To maintain success and relevance in a project management career, it’s important to stay up to date on the latest trends and best practices in the field. This means actively engaging with new technologies and methodologies and pursuing opportunities for professional development. With the rapid pace of change in the industry, being an early adopter of new processes is essential if you want your team to remain competitive. As a project manager, it’s also critical that you stay open-minded and think outside the box in order to discover more efficient ways of working. By constantly innovating, you’ll be able to create value for your team and organization.
A career in project management is a great way to make an impact in the world of business and technology. With the right knowledge and skills, you can make a positive difference for your organization and yourself.
As more and more companies look for candidates with specific skills, adding the Schulich ExecEd Masters Certificate in Project Management and its badge on your CV will be a credible assurance of your achievements and expertise, allowing the right roles to find you faster. Speak to an advisor to learn more about how to get started.
By following the tips outlined above, you can set yourself up for success in this exciting and rewarding field. Don’t be afraid to take risks, seek out feedback, and continue learning – these are all key elements of successful project management. Good luck!
David has been educating and inspiring Project Managers and helping Project Management content providers to promote themselves and their brand since 1995. He is the President of Solutions Network Ltd., Group Conference Director with Diversified Business Communications Canada and Program Director at The Schulich ExecEd, Schulich School of Business at York University.View Profile