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How to gain experience when you’re new to the world of project management

Entering the field of project management can be both exciting and challenging. It’s a career offering many opportunities, with the Talent Gap: Ten-Year Employment Trends, Costs, and Global Implications report estimating the need for 25 million new project professionals by 2030.

For those new to the industry or considering a career change, the prospect of entering project management can seem daunting. However, the good news is that there are numerous entry points and many ways to gain hands-on experience. This variety of paths ensures that there's a route that's just right for you.

Understanding project management

Before exploring the steps to gain experience, it’s essential to understand what project management entails. Project management is the application of processes, methods, skills, knowledge, and experience to achieve specific project objectives. It involves planning, executing, and closing projects, ensuring they are completed on time, within scope, and on budget.

Key skills for project managers

There are many skills that all project managers need to possess, these include:

  • Leadership and team management: Leading and motivating a team to achieve project goals
  • Communication: Clear and effective communication with stakeholders, team members, and clients
  • Time management: Prioritising tasks and managing time efficiently
  • Problem-solving: Identifying and resolving issues that may arise during the project
  • Risk management: Assessing and mitigating potential risks to the project

How to gain experience in project management

Education and training

Formal education

While not always mandatory, obtaining a degree in project management, business administration, or a related field can provide a strong foundation. Universities and colleges offer undergraduate and postgraduate courses specifically tailored to project management.

Certifications

Certifications can enhance your credibility and knowledge. One of the most well-known project management certifications is PRINCE2®, a globally recognised framework covering the fundamental aspects and skills required for successful project management.

Explore our PRINCE2 courses.

Self-study and online learning

Online learning can offer introductory courses in project management that you can complete in your own time. These courses can help you grasp the key concepts at your own pace. Many of these online learning options come with a certification of completion.

Discover our Introduction to MS Projects online learning.

Gaining practical experience

Volunteering

Volunteering for non-profit organisations or community projects can provide hands-on experience. You can offer to manage small projects, such as organising events or fundraisers. This not only builds your knowledge but also demonstrates your willingness to take initiative.

Entry-level positions

Applying for internships or entry-level positions in companies can give you practical experience in a structured environment. Roles such as project coordinator, project assistant, or project support officer are excellent starting points.

Networking

Join professional bodies

Joining professional bodies like the Project Management Institute (PMI) or the Association for Project Management (APM) can provide networking opportunities. These organisations often host events, workshops, and conferences where you can meet experienced project managers and learn from their time in the industry.

Attend industry events

Conferences, seminars, and workshops are great places to network and learn about the latest trends in project management. Engaging with industry professionals can open doors to mentorship opportunities and potential job offers.

Seek a mentor

Finding a mentor can significantly accelerate your learning curve. A mentor can provide guidance, share insights from their experiences, and help you navigate a suitable entryway to your project management career. Look for mentors within your network, professional associations, or through formal mentorship programmes.

Start small projects

Starting with small projects within your current job or personal life can help you apply project management principles practically. Whether it’s organising a team outing, leading a small work project, or planning a personal event, these experiences can help you build confidence and skills.

Keep up with industry trends

Stay updated with the latest trends and developments in project management by reading industry blogs, listening to podcasts, and subscribing to newsletters. This continuous learning will help you stay relevant and improve your knowledge base.

Document your experience

Keep a record of your project management experiences, including the projects you’ve worked on, your role, and the outcomes. This portfolio will be valuable when applying for jobs or certifications, showcasing your practical experience and achievements.

Start your project management career

As a newcomer, there are many routes into project management, and you can choose the best steps to build your experience depending on your time, resources and capacity. By following these steps and actively seeking opportunities to develop your skills, you can build a solid foundation in project management and set yourself up for a successful career in this dynamic field.

If you need support getting started, check out our resources, which include podcasts, webinars, blog posts, and even interactive e-learning games to boost your learning as a newcomer to the world of project management.

Explore our project management resources.