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Tips for Starting A Career in Project Management

Posted in Jobs • Written by Shawn2 Comments

Your first internship was to be an executives personal assistant.  You scheduled, you ran errands, you mailed packages, you made sure that things ran smoothly.

You started using Google Calendar your freshman year in college.  At your first temp job, they taught you the ins and outs ofOutlook.  Maybe at some start-up that you freelanced at for awhile you became acquainted with Basecamp.  You’re obsessed with the rhythm and flow of work-schedules, making sure that a tough project comes  through with all of its moving parts working together, on-time, flawlessly moving through the processes and stages you’ve set up.  You think you’re ready for a career in project management.  But how can you tell?

Before deciding on a career in project management there is one thing that we need to decide –could I carve out a successful career in this field? To answer this we need to ask the following questions need answered.

  1. Do I like working under pressure to challenging deadlines?
  2. Do I plan my activities, setting priorities and working in a structured way?
  3. Am I a people person? Can I communicate successfully with different people?
  4. Do I possess the necessary interpersonal skills to deal with a wide range of different individuals?
  5. Can I organise people into high performing teams? If the need arises can I work equally successfully on my own?
  6. Can I be assertive when the need arises?

If the answers to the above questions are ‘yes’ then the world of project management beckons you.

So how does one get started, embarking on a career in project management? Where do we begin?  If you ask people who already have a job in this field you’ll find out that some became project managers by accident – one day they were told they were running a project by their employer and found that they enjoyed it so carried on. Others were employed because they graduated with a Master of Science in Management that they got online, started as a trainee or junior project manager and progressed their project management careers from there

Either way, it is important to realise that you will be entering a profession and therefore the onus is on you to increase your professional standing. How can you do that?

  1. Get qualified! Having chosen project management as a career you have endless opportunities to get some form of certification which will show your level of attainment within the profession. There are introductory certificates offered by the Association for Project Management, and the Project Management Institute. You can also go to school online and graduate with a Master of Science in Management which will open up endless possibilities. There are also advanced awards offered by the same bodies and by the Association for Project Management Group such as Prince2 certification.
  2. Make every effort to continually grow in the profession. Learn from every project. Look for lessons in your current project that will help you to be more successful in the next projects that you undertake. Thrive on continuous improvement and never stop learning. Mirror success and ignore failure – learn from the project managers who have delivered successful projects and study how they did it. Ignore those who fail. Remember the old sales adage – if you want to soar with eagles you don’t walk with turkeys.
  3. Be aware of your professional responsibilities as regards cultural diversity and equality. As a project manager you will work in a number of different environments where the cultural norms may be different from your own experience. You need to be able to cope.

It is a rewarding career.   But is it for you? The choice is yours.

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2 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Lindsay Scott - Arras People December 20, 2011 at 12:52 PM - Reply

    Interesting post yet I have to disagree with the advice around failure:

    “Mirror success and ignore failure – learn from the project managers who have delivered successful projects and study how they did it. Ignore those who fail.”

    Don’t ignore failure – accept that this happens sometimes in projects (because it does and often) but learn from it. Ask any successful project manager about their career and the failures they’ve had. They’ll tell you that those failures have helped them become more successful in the long run.

    And talking about failure – defining failure in projects is difficult. It’s not always down to the project manager. Research and learn about the common causes of failure – you’ll be prepared and spot the warning signs before failure becomes an option.

  2. Paul Brown May 6, 2012 at 12:23 PM - Reply

    I would agree with the importance of getting qualified, but I would consider all of the options before necessarily choosing Prince2. We work with the provider mentioned (QA) to place individuals onto appropriate project management training courses and would suggest that the APM route may be more suitable for some professionals. This may be heresy, but we still get many clients telling us that they find Prince2 somewhat ‘prescriptive’ and perhaps better suited to large scale projects.

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