Make Me a Project Manager

Role of the Project Manager | By Duncan Haughey | Read time minutes

Red-haired girl thinking with question marks beside her

Are you embarking on your career or considering a career change? Where do you want to be both personally and professionally? If the Project Smart forum is any indication, plenty of people want to pursue a career in project management.

So how do you go about becoming a project manager?

First, a dilemma. Many aspiring project managers find that employers are unwilling to recruit a project manager without experience, and without being given a chance, there is no way to gain experience.

Where should you start?

Seven Steps to Becoming a Project Manager

These seven steps can help move you towards your goal.

1. Get Certified

There are many project management certifications. It doesn't matter which you choose, as long as you obtain a recognised qualification. The process of studying and getting a certification shows you are serious about a career in project management, enough to invest your time and money.

Some of the most widely recognised certifications are PRINCE2, APMP, CAPM, and Certified SCRUM Master. When deciding which to go for, check which are most commonly asked for in your chosen profession or industry.

2. Look for Related Jobs

Look for jobs related to project management that allow you to network with project managers. Working in a project management office (PMO) or as an admin for a project manager can help you learn about the profession and take advantage of any opportunities.

3. Find a Low-Profile Project

Look for low-profile projects in your organisation. Are there any projects you could suggest to management? What needs doing? What does the organisation lack? Once you find a project, suggest it to management and volunteer yourself to head it.

4. Volunteer

Project management in the voluntary sector will give you the principles and tools needed to manage projects successfully. Would-be project managers should explore any opportunities they can find to gain experience.

5. Projectise Your Current Job

It is worth considering whether your current job lends itself to project management techniques. These techniques can be used to add structure to your daily, weekly, and monthly work plan.

6. Find a Junior Project Manager Role

As a University graduate, you may be able to find a position as a trainee project manager. This post would give you the opportunity to cut your teeth on some low-profile projects before progressing to more important projects.

7. Develop Your General Skills

It's important to develop your project management skills in the workplace long before you become a project manager. Project management expert David Litten identifies eight necessary skills:

  1. Be a Leader and a Manager
  2. Be a Team Builder and a Team Leader
  3. Be a Problem Solver
  4. Be a Negotiator and Influencer
  5. Be an Excellent Communicator
  6. Be a Good Organiser
  7. Be a Competent and Consistent Planner
  8. Set-up and Manage Budgets

Seek opportunities to develop these skills in your current role. Start small and build these skills over time. Look for opportunities where you can offer to lead small projects.

Final Thoughts

Becoming a project manager requires good planning and determination. Create a plan with SMART goals (specific, measurable, agreed upon, realistic and time-based), a requirements list, and a schedule. Work your plan. Remember, perseverance is important. Keep trying, don't give up, and eventually you'll reach your goal.

Abandoned dreams litter the pathway to a career in project management. Nurture your dreams on the journey.

Recommended read: Is Project Management a Good Career Choice? by Duncan Haughey.


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