How to Become a Project Manager

Project Management

Becoming a project manager involves developing skills, gaining experience, and often obtaining certification. Whether you’re starting from scratch or transitioning from another role, this guide will help you navigate the process.

 

What is Project Management?

Project management is a profession that transforms ideas into reality. Project managers apply their knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to deliver a product, service, or outcome within a defined time, scope, and budget.

Through planning, organizing, and executing tasks, project management drives change that impacts our work, our communities, and our world.

 

Why Pursue a Project Management Career?

A career in project management is about more than managing tasks and timelines; it’s about making a positive impact. Project managers are at the forefront of transformative efforts, leading teams who are tackling complex challenges and opportunities.

The demand for skilled project managers is rapidly increasing, with the global economy needing 25 million new project managers by 2030. This presents an opportunity for those early in their careers.

Project management offers a dynamic and rewarding career path, with the ability to work in a multitude of industries, opportunities to advance, and competitive salaries.

 

Skills Required for Project Management

Project management skills are valuable no matter the stage of your career. Here are the skills needed for success in today’s evolving world of project management:

Ways of Working: Learning different ways to get the job done is important. Whether it’s predictive, agile, design thinking, or new practices, project professionals need to know when to apply the right techniques at the right time.

Business Acumen: Project professionals should understand the macro and micro influences across an organization and how their projects align with the big picture of the broader organizational strategy.

Power Skills: Also called “soft skills”, these are the abilities and behaviors that facilitate working with others and help project managers succeed in the workplace. The top four power skills identified as critical for project success are:

  • Communication
  • Problem-solving
  • Collaborative leadership
  • Strategic thinking

 

Step-by-Step Guide to Becoming a Project Manager

Step 1: Understand What Project Management Skills You Already Have

If you’ve ever planned, led, budgeted, scheduled, or documented the progress of a project, you’ve done some elements of project management.

Reflect on your past experiences where you’ve planned, led, budgeted, or documented projects. These could be events, volunteer activities, or previous job responsibilities.

If you find you have quite a bit of experience already, you may be ready to apply for project manager positions, or approach your manager to state your interest in becoming one.

If you have a combined three years of experience, you’ll also be eligible to apply to take the exam for the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, which may create opportunities for you in the project management world.

 

Step 2: Gain Practical Experience as a Project Manager

Many project managers get their start in non-managerial positions on a team. For example, IT project managers may work for several years as an IT associate, or perhaps as a business analyst supporting the IT team.

Their roles may gradually expand as they gain industry expertise, take on managerial tasks, develop organizational skills, and learn to work with the members on their team.

Look for opportunities to manage projects in your current job. If you’re new to project management, start with smaller projects to build your experience. Consider roles such as:

  • Project Coordinator: Support project managers with monitoring progress and scheduling.
  • Assistant Project Manager: Assist in scheduling, note-taking, and reporting.
  • Junior Business Analyst: Conduct data analysis and define project requirements.

 

Step 3: Develop Essential Skills as a Project Manager

Enhance both technical and soft skills through continuous learning. It’ll be a good idea to sharpen the technical and workplace skills involved in project management. Key areas include:

  • Risk Management
  • Budgeting
  • Agile and Waterfall Project Management
  • Scrum

 

Step 4: Enhance Your Project Manager Resume

Tailor your resume to highlight relevant skills and experiences. Use action verbs and quantify your achievements where possible. Regularly review job listings to understand what employers are looking for and adjust your resume accordingly.

 

Step 5: Look for Entry-Level Positions

Gradually working your way up the ladder from within a team isn’t the only way to become a project manager. Many project managers get their start in entry-level organizational positions to build key skills. Keep an eye out for these titles in your search:

  • Project Coordinator
  • Operations Coordinator
  • Associate Project Manager
  • Junior Project Manager
  • Operations Associate
  • Administrative Associate

 

Step 6: Obtain Certification

Certifications can significantly boost your credibility and job prospects. Consider the following:

 

Conclusion

Embarking on a project management career involves a blend of education, skill development, and practical experience. By following these steps and continuously learning, you can position yourself for success in this fulfilling field.

 

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