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‘Career Focus’ Series #1: Climbing up the Project Management Career Ladder

We often get asked the question “How do I become a project manager?”

With many answers for that question freely available online, would-be PMs can sometimes be left feeling overwhelmed. We thought we’d help by outlining some handy hints and tips to help start your climb to the top today – whether you are currently working in a project environment, or starting from scratch!

For those already working in a project environment and looking to progress

  • Initiative: Look at your current role, think about how you could improve your own efficiency and effectiveness in terms of assisting the rest of the team in delivery of projects.
  • Responsibility: Try and take on more responsibility in your current role, especially where this includes project management elements.

    Expertise: Develop professional project management skills through learning on the job and consider supporting this with courses that encapsulate the best practice across industry sector and size – PRINCE2® and APM courses being particularly useful here of course!

  • Complementary skills: Hone communication skills so you are clear and direct, be organised so you are on time and prepared, cultivate a calm and analytical approach that allows you to tackle difficult tasks and face problems and take with you to work a positive attitude to people and projects.
  • Mentoring: Find a project manager in your current team or in your company who would be willing to share her or his expertise.
  • Networking: The internet has opened doors that could not have been dreamt of 20 years ago. LinkedIn groups , forums and communities bring project managers and their world to your mobile or laptop. Take advantage. On LinkedIn there are general and sector-specific project management groups; accrediting organisations have communities and special interest groups; learning providers, such as ourselves, provide forums to ask questions about getting into project management and the dark arts of the profession!
  • Research: Examine project management job advertisements within the company to see what they are looking for, and ring to understand the sub-text of the job advertisement. Get some background into what HR and the PMO are looking for and build up a relationship with them so that when you are ready to apply for a project-manager role, they are primed and already aware of you.
  • Indirect path: Whatever your role, you may find that the best way to become a project manager is to find a similar job in your own organisation which specifies project management skills within the job description. Sometimes taking a different route can be the best way forwards!For those wishing to enter project management

Understand: First, understand what a project manager is and what it is not; if you are basing it solely on the television show The Apprentice, you need to think again. The role of a project manager can be complex and demanding, but is always satisfying.

Skills: It’s not just about the qualifications and work experience. Work to develop the necessary personal and business skills that you will need as a project manager too: improve your communication, organisational, management, budgetary, leadership, planning and problem-solving skills.

Experience: Get relevant experience through putting yourself forward to manage projects at work, local schools and charitable and voluntary organisations. Review and apply your experience in other projects.

Education: Learn the art and science of project management through a degree or through professional short courses that allow you to learn whilst continuing to work. Take a look at some of those on offer to you here.

Mentoring: Try to find someone in your firm, family or amongst friends and acquaintances who can share their knowledge and expertise with you. Learn from their experiences.

Network: Use the internet to make contact with project management professionals who frequent LinkedIn, chat rooms, forums and communities and then learn, discuss and share.

Inform yourself: Project management books, podcasts, videos and much else can be found to give you the necessary depth and breadth of knowledge you will need.

Project-management skills: You don’t necessarily have to be a PM to use project management skills on the job. Many roles utilise elements of project management – that’s why it’s such a useful skill set to have! Whether you work in construction, accountancy or technology – hone your project management skills every day, and demonstrate this to any future employers.

Want to find out more?

Check out our Career Focus Fortnight! From 18 to 31 March, we have tons of advice, information and offers for everyone interested in project and programme management. Don't miss out! Click here to get involved now!

Useful Links:

  • For a complete picture of PRINCE2 and what it can do for your project management career make your way to the Cabinet Office where you can also find out about the links between its various processes.
  • Utilise your social media profiles! LinkedIn has some fantastic user groups that offer a wealth of information and networking opportunities. Some of our favourites:
  • ILX Group – keep up to date with our project management articles and news
  • Project Manager Community – Best Group for Project Management
  • The official group for Association for Project Management (APM)
  • The Project Manager Network - #1 Group for Project Managers
  • The APMG provides a slew of useful information about PRINCE2 accredited training options.
  • Navigate your way through PRINCE2 with a raft of useful downloads that include a glossary, quiz and templates.
  • ILX Group deliver PRINCE2 Foundation and Practitioner digital learning, classroom and blended learning.
  • The PRINCE2 e-learning experience may be the perfect option for those with an eye for cost-effective, rich and collaborative training that includes a blog, a forum and social media such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook.
  • PRINCE2® is a registered trade mark of the Cabinet Office.