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Planning to Become a Project Manager?

Few people dream of becoming a project manager, but if you are someone who wants to start, or move into, a sometimes frustrating but always challenging career, then read on...

1. Role: The project manager manager's job can be summarised simply. It is a series of tasks within a narrow scope that culminates in an output, such as a product. The project manager overseas planning, resource requirements, reports and so forth so that the product is produced on time and on budget to a specific and defined plan. For anyone wanting to embark on this career, the complicated part comes in knowing if you have what it takes.

2. Multi-talented: A little soul searching might help: ask yourself if you have, or have the ability to develop, the raft of knowledge, skills and attributes needed to deliver a successful project. Can you plan, organise, communicate, motivate, multi-task, organise, manage your time - and a whole lot of other things under pressure?

3. Qualifications: When you know you have the right stuff, the next step is to get the qualifications. Training could include project management methodology and knowledge, it could include soft skills such as presentation and communication and it could include new kids on the project management block, such as agile. The links section at the bottom may help you hunt down the right course and right route for you.

4. Experience: Once you have the qualifications, how do you encourage employers to let you cut your project management teeth in a recession? Try your education and experience capital. Some people start off in their area of expertise, say finance or engineering, before persuading their company that the next obvious and logical progression is into project management in that sector; companies consider it worthwhile investing in someone with experience in their chosen project management field.

Some managers volunteer to help when a project manager is away and in proving their skills become first in line when new openings arise. Some even build on experiences gained as volunteer project managers for charities. Raleigh, for example, uses volunteers to lead expeditions or support projects from field bases; if you plan to follow this route though, be aware that charities only want committed individuals.

There are of course some who are lucky enough to work in a project support role within a team and gradually match increasing responsibility with the qualifications that will allow them to move on. The Programme and Project Support Office Specialist Interest Group has useful information for those who are interested in, or are in this position.

5. Sell yourself: Gather evidence for your CV that shows how your qualities, abilities and experience fit the profile of the role. For example, even if you were not overall project manager on a project, you could point to any tasks you were given and which you delivered to specification, you could highlight any collaboration you had with clients or you could draw attention to any reports you wrote.

Finally, match the evidence of your achievements to elements within project management methodologies, knowledge and approaches, and you will prove you are fit for the job.

Your best project management qualification route:

  • Start building your project management skills with the APM Introductory Certificate in Project Management
  • Then gain the internationally recognised PRINCE2 Foundation & Practitioner qualifications
  • Develop your all-round project management technical, organisational and people management skills with the APMP Qualification for PRINCE2 Practitioners
  • Learn how to Manage Successful Programmes with the MSP Foundation & Practitioner course

Useful links (updated for 2017):

ILX Group - Largest PRINCE2 Accredited Training Organisation

Association of Project Management (APM)

AXELOS - PRINCE2's developer and governing body

The PMO Specific Interest Group (SIG)