Home Career Your First-Hand Guide To A Career In Project Management

Your First-Hand Guide To A Career In Project Management

by Steve Danforth
Project Management

Are you thinking about becoming a project manager? Project management experts usually have two paths – planning to become a project manager from day one, or following the route via your existing career or job.

If you want to become a project manager, these are the steps you can follow:

  1. Decide to commit to this career and plan your further actions. It will involve deciding on the right learning steps,whether you want to complete a structured degree or if you would rather complete part time or short courses.
  2. When picking a degree or course, make sure to choose a reputable educational institution that issues a prestigious certificate or degree upon completion. It would be great if the certificate is internationally recognized.
  3. It is time to start your education. The learning process will probably last for months or even years, but it is important to improve your knowledge as much as possible. If you are employed, you can even look into certain educational or training programs sponsored by your current employer.
  4. Once you have gotten a sound understanding of the project management basics, you can begin looking into employment opportunities within the project management field.
  5. Please note that some certifications you may receive during your search for knowledge, require some form of maintenance. You will need to repeat certain tests on a regular basis, often yearly, to maintain your credentials.  

The “Accidental” Path to Becoming a Project Manager

Did you know that becoming a project manager “by accident” is a more common path these days? Many individuals started out in various other positions in multiple industries, but at some point in their career they either lead a project or was part of the implementation of a project. This experience made them aware of the usefulness of project management skills and thus they decided to improve their own.

This could have either led to them pursuing a career in purely project management or finding ways to use their new found skills in their current role to improve their performance.

If you are thinking about switching careers and focusing on project management, or you just want to expand your skills so that you can add more value to your current or future role, you will want to identify what skills you already have and what you still need to develop.

Let’s take a look at the steps that you can take to improve or develop your project management skills.

Assess Your Existing Experience

First, you need to cover the project management basics. According to experts, you should consider several knowledge areas:

  • Integration management – it involves utilizing methodologies, systems, and processes to ensure the team works together seamlessly.
  • Quality management – it is important to maintain quality throughout the project, and notice where changes are required.
  • Scope management – at any point, you need to make sure you covered all areas that should be a part of the project.
  • Communications management – how do you plan to communicate information? That includes procedures and other processes of collecting, storing and distributing data throughout the project.
  • Time management – it involves scheduling tasks and determining how much time each of them requires for completion.
  • Risk management – you should be able to foresee most things that could go wrong and identify ways of counteracting them.
  • Resource management – each project has limited resources, and it’s the project manager’s task to ensure they are used effectively.
  • Cost management – it is crucial to stay within the given budget, which is why cost control is a big part of every project.

If you have previous experience in leading projects, try to assess your success in these areas. Some leaders might be better at managing resources, and others put communication as a top priority. However, it is important to have all-round knowledge about leading a project successfully. It is the only way to ensure you will complete it on time and without exceeding the given budget and other resources.

Find Suitable Learning Opportunities

Based on the assessments made in the previous step, it is time to choose suitable learning courses. You have two paths here, and the first one involves starting with a course dedicated to general project management. You can find a project management online short course and get all-around knowledge from the comfort of your home. If you want to cover everything thoroughly, this is a great way to start.

Alternatively, you can focus on knowledge areas you believe to be missing. For example, you might be poor at communicating, and this skill is important for leading your employees and creating a positive environment. If this is the case, you can find a course that focuses on improving communication techniques and helps you to develop better business relationships with others.

Those who would like to improve their cost management skills should consider learning more about financial management. If you learn how to analyze financial reports and read data, you could become better at planning your future project budgets.

Use Your New Skills

Once you acquire new skills, it is time to apply them. It might take a bit of trial and error before you learn how to apply these skills in practice. That is why you should find an opportunity to practice them. That will give you the necessary confidence to apply them once the actual project starts.

You should also practice how to adjust the required work and steps based on the specifics of your team. The idea is to use their strengths to your advantage and get the most out of every member. Additionally, communication techniques might vary depending on team members, which is why you should work on identifying the right approach.

Continue Improving Your Skills

Just because you are ready for a career in project management, doesn’t mean you should stop learning. These skills need constant development, and a successful project manager relies on both knowledge and personal experience.

The whole idea is that you should always adapt to the requirements of your current project and company. Working in healthcare is a lot different than working on developing a new PC game. It is all about accepting the values of the organization and transferring them to your team. This is the best way to ensure that any project you complete can be successful.

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