How to Become a Project Manager
As the gulf between the demand for project managers and their availability widens, the opportunities to embark on a project management career rise to the forefront of the job market. This shortage could be your chance to take on a role that is reported as having bigger financial rewards and job satisfaction than many other professional roles.
With the global economy becoming increasingly project-oriented, and employers in various industries waking up to the benefits of having project management professionals within their teams, there truly hasn’t been a better time to sink your teeth into a career in the field. A reputable survey tracking professional global trends worldwide, Pulse of the Profession, projects the demand for project management professionals to soar in the next five to eight years. The increase is estimated to be as significant as 22 million new jobs emerging in the field. If this is indeed the path that appeals to you, then read on and find out how to land that project management job.
What Do Project Managers Do Anyway?
Whether it be in business, engineering, IT or the pharmaceutical industry, good project managers are the holy grail of all project-oriented sectors. They are key to the smooth and effective running of projects of all scopes and sizes. The breadth of their required skill set and responsibility is easy to underestimate, however. The truth is that they fulfil an impressively wide range of tasks and functions. And though the crux of the role is to oversee projects from start to finish and complete them on time, there is so much more to the job of a successful project manager than meets the outsider perspective’s eye.
Delivering a successful project always starts with a thorough project plan. This is, however, only the first step in the journey that project managers go on with every project they are assigned. That journey also includes things such as budgeting, general management, regular record-taking in addition to distributing amongst and delegating work to other team members. In the meantime, it is also the project manager’s responsibility to ensure each team member is sufficiently motivated and perked up and working to the best of their ability. After all, the project can only be as good as the sum efforts of all its members. The job doesn’t end here, though. While they’re directing the project’s course and its numerous elements, the project manager also needs to strive to maintain productive relationships with people from other departments as well as making sure all stakeholders are kept up-to-date on the project’s trajectory.
Do You Have What It Takes?
There is no denying that the ability to get your head around budgeting, planning, risk management and using relevant software to aid with your project management goals are all important hard skills that all successful project managers must have. However, it’s mostly the right combination of soft skills that blur the line between a good project manager and a great one. The most critical soft skills are:
At Coursesonline, we understand that it’s easy to feel daunted by lists of skills that often seem vague at best and don’t really help you identify whether you have those skills or not. For this reason, we’ve designed a short quiz you can take to get a better idea of whether you currently boast the kind of skill set that can be found amongst experienced project managers.
Okay, I Get It, But How Do I Become One?
Workfront, a project management software company, stresses that there is no single path to becoming a project manager. This is great news as it means that you’re not confined to a one-size-fits-all avenue that might not agree with your personality and learning preferences. Let’s have a look at some of the paths available to you.
If going to university has always been part of your long-term plan, then this might be the right option for you. Interestingly, Prospects.ac.uk reports, those hankering after a general project management career are not required to study a specific course; any degree is fine at this stage. It must be noted, though, that while all university programmes have the potential to demonstrate your overall competence, degrees in project management or business would be most fitting. Do not despair, however, if halfway through your Sociology degree you were struck by the idea of becoming a project manager.
On the other hand, if what you’re after is a project management job in a more specialised field such as IT or engineering, then a degree in that area is a must. It is crucial that you have in-depth knowledge of the field and understand its complexities in order to be able to deliver successful projects. Again, if this is indeed your aspiration but for one reason or another, your decision to work in the given field arrived after you enrolled in an unrelated area of study, then you could always do a master’s degree in that field and fill the gaps in your knowledge that way.
If the idea of a three to four-year university course never held much appeal to you, there are still several other options that could help you on your way to landing a project management job. The most common problem for people in your situation is knowing what course to pick. After all, the right course can make all the difference to your student experience and even be the deciding factor in whether you stick with it and obtain a project management certification or not.
For project management especially, the choice of available courses and methodologies can be truly dizzying. From the dynamic Agile, the meticulous Waterfall to the cautious PRINCE2 that leaves nothing to chance, there are many styles of management you could be adopting on your way to becoming qualified. While this is something you need to decide for yourself to see which of them is the best fit for you, our project management course listings can be a good place to start. Head over to our course website and have a good read of the descriptions provided for each methodology.
For more information, you could also visit the Project Management Institute’s website, which contains in-depth information on project management methodologies and certifications.
Even university graduates have a lot to gain from getting certified. See: refined project management skills, increased ability to deal with the unexpected and overall higher earning potential.
Becoming a project manager without formal qualifications is not uncommon. Sometimes people get hired to do one job, but then end up gradually taking on a set of responsibilities different to that outlined in their original job description. Unsurprisingly, within every professional field, there are project managers, team leaders and even directors whose job titles were different upon starting their employment to the one they hold now. You might be able to take advantage of this fact and make a conscious choice to teach yourself the skills needed for your desired role by emulating experienced project managers at your company, asking for explicit guidance and waiting for the right opportunity to appear, giving you the chance to apply the things you’ve learnt.
While this avenue offers no guarantees, especially in terms of its timeline or the possibility of pulling this off at your company, this is for you to assess and decide whether it’s worth pursuing over the certification route. Should you decide this is indeed a viable path, there are several things you can do, such as:
If, at any point, you conclude that this cannot be done within your current role, the easiest and fastest way of boosting your chances is getting certified. Not only will this make your career path easier and less uncertain, but it’ll also simplify and take the pressure off the learning process. With the experience route, it’s also likely you might end up only getting the gist of what the role requires and miss out on gaining an in-depth understanding of the many complex project management processes it entails. It is this understanding that often distinguishes a great project manager from an average one and will be of undeniable benefit to you when you take on your first project.
With the predicted increase in project management positions in both London and other parts of the country, committing to a project management course might be the natural next step for you and many others. Work in the field and its numerous perks, such as lucrative salaries and above-average job satisfaction, serve as a comforting contrast to the otherwise uncertain modern job market.
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