How to move through a project manager career path
Being a project manager can be highly rewarding, with the opportunity to work in different business sectors, such as IT, construction, engineering and retail. There is plenty of job variation, interaction with people, working with new technologies, improving your skills and opportunities to train and further your career. We’ve highlighted below a project manager career path that can be followed, along with some useful tips to help you progress.
Step 1: Get qualified
Gaining a recognised project manager qualification or a degree in management is a good first step. Many project managers started their career path via progression through a company, often studying for their qualifications as part of their wider career.
Aside from PRINCE2, anyone can study project management as part of an undergraduate or Master’s degree course. Depending on your time and budget, it might find it easier to learn PRINCE2 through an online course.
Step 2: Take on project management support roles
Most project managers, with or without qualifications, start their career as project assistants, IT and management support staff, coordinators and analysts. They gain experience in their industry and learning from other project managers. Some people volunteer as a project coordinator or support member of staff; often there are more opportunities.
If you entered into a project management role without getting qualified, as in Step 1, but feel comfortable applying for, or getting promoted to, a project manager position, now’s the time to study for a qualification. The general timescale for moving from project support to project management is around five to ten years. It is recommended that a record of your project management work is retained which can go a long way towards a future qualification.
Step 3: Run smaller projects
A great way of showing initiative is to suggest and run small projects, i.e. developing a new process or adapting a current process that is more efficient. Map it out and identify what can be automated or even deleted. Test your new process to ensure it is an improvement over the original one and follow up with a report to management on how time can be saved, as well as any cost efficiencies.
Step 4: Beyond project management
From here, there are opportunities to progress up the corporate ladder into roles such as program or IT director, chief operating officer (COO) and chief executive officer (CEO). Another career path is to establish an outsourcing project management company.
Project management career advice
Network: Project Insight offer valuable insights into a project management career path from successful project managers such as Bertrand Duperrin of Emakina and Dan Pink, author of To Sell is Human, who champions networking as a great way to progress a project manager career.
Be flexible: Ranstad believe that communication, delegation and flexibility are key to developing a career in project management. Managing clients is not always an easy task and learning to compromise between what the client wants and the practicalities of what is possible is a good platform to work from.
Communicate: It can be all too easy to do everything yourself but that defeats the objective of being a project manager. Great communication and relationship building are crucial, as is learning to delegate jobs to team members, particularly specialist tasks.
Keep learning: Self-development and learning from others, particularly in the early years of a project manager career are vital. Keeping up-to-date with new technologies and the latest thinking help you to stay ahead. Above all, always be prepared to expect the unexpected and learn from the mistakes of others.
Stay positive: A career in project management can be diverse and rewarding. One project manager role won’t necessarily reflect that of another and there are no strict rules on the path you take as you progress on a project manager career. But adopting the right attitude, developing the right skills, taking opportunities as they arise and learning as you go are all great steps in your career.