Roles as project managers are required in such a wide variety of industries that you could find yourself working within an industry that you hadn’t previously considered once you have the relevant qualifications. Because project managers can work in any field, there is always a need for new project managers for new projects. So if you have the skills required to lead a project through to successful completion then your ideal project management job could be out there just waiting for you.
Of course, landing a project manager role isn’t always easy because many companies require you to have certain qualifications and experience before they will entrust the success of their projects to you. The success or failure of a project can have far-reaching implications and can affect the profitability and reputation of companies large and small so it’s not surprising that project managers need to be able to demonstrate their capabilities to a prospective employer.
This guide will provide the steps to follow to help you climb the career ladder to help you to get the project management role you are hoping for. It isn’t an easy ride but by following these tips you can ensure that you end up with the qualifications and skills required to lead a team and manage a project through to successful completion.
Starting On The First Step
Getting your foot in the door with any industry can often be the hardest part of getting your dream job. Many employers are looking for candidates with the right experience which, if you’ve never worked in project management before, you are unlikely to have. This is the catch 22 that many hopeful candidates find themselves in; they cannot get the experience without the job opportunity but the employers are looking for candidates with that vital experience.
For school leavers or recent graduates, there won’t have been the chance to gain valid experience in the working environment in similar roles and so often the best first step on the project management career ladder is a project management apprenticeship. An apprenticeship offers a fantastic opportunity to learn the fundamentals of the industry and the role in which you are interested in as they combine knowledge with practical experience as you put everything you learn in to practice immediately.
For apprentices who are new to the work sector, 24-month project manager apprenticeships offer an extended period not only to learn the necessary skills required in the role of project manager, but also the time to gain the vital skills to be successful in the world of business and industry.
Apprentices will also gain priceless advice and guidance from experienced project managers and also given the opportunity to attend workshops where real-life skills and project management techniques can be taught and tested before being applied in the working world.
More people than ever before are choosing to follow careers in project management and an apprenticeship offers a unique inside perspective to anyone new to the industry or looking to gain the vital experience which so many employers are looking for in their candidates.
Not Just For Youngsters
While apprenticeships are traditionally thought of as the way for school leavers and graduates to gain entry into the workplace, a project manager apprenticeship has plenty to offer an older candidate too. Someone who has experience in the workplace but is looking for a change of career may also face the same obstacles when applying for a role as a project manager when employers are looking for that all important experience. Taking on an apprenticeship can give you that working experience necessary to show that you would make a capable project leader.
Project management apprenticeships for those who already have experience of a working environment can be shortened to around 18 months and during that time you will be given all the knowledge and confidence you need to build the required skills to become an effective project leader. You will gain these all while working on real-life projects; giving you the valuable experience that employers are so desperate for when filling leadership and management roles.
Gain The Skills Employers Are Looking For
Companies are looking to entrust their valuable projects to PMs who they know are capable of handling the task and delivering satisfactory results. If you are hoping to land a role as project manager then you are going to need to be able to demonstrate that you possess the skills and the knowledge to be able to manage your given project through to completion on time and with a successful outcome.
In order to instil confidence in your skills from your potential employer, you must be able to show them that you have what it takes. Take time to find out as much as possible about the company you are applying to; their history, company values, previous projects and so on. This will give you a good idea of the skills the company value in their employees and also what traits they are likely to be looking for in a successful candidate. Armed with this knowledge, you can shine in your interview and also ensure that you are going to be a good fit for the company with which you are hoping to gain a new position.
While each company is likely to vary slightly in exactly what they are looking for in their next project leader, there are a few traits which will always be valued by employers:
Good Communication Skills
Being able to work and communicate effectively is vital for a good leader as you will be required to interact with a range of people from all levels of the company.
Employers will want you to be able to show that you are capable of leading a team by building effective relationships with colleagues and being able to create a strong foundation and positive team dynamic.
honesty, integrity and a strong moral compass are solid attributes that will make you an attractive prospect to any employer looking for someone to take on their next project.
Initiative and Drive
A good project manager can be trusted to use their initiative to overcome problems and solve issues without needing to be guided through every tough decision by someone more senior. You should be able to demonstrate that you have the passion and drive to succeed, making you an ideal candidate for a project leadership role.
Look Good On Paper
With so many people looking to work in project management roles, employers are often overwhelmed with responses to any job advertisements so it is vital that you stand out from the crowd. However, standing out in person is easy, but in order to meet your potential employer face-to-face you first have to get the call to interview.
Employers will be bombarded with CV’s from people vying for the same role and you need to make sure that yours is the one which they are most impressed by. It is a good idea to tweak your CV before you send it to any new job application and tailor the wording to suit the job or industry to which you are applying.
Including key words and skills which pertain to the role you are applying for can catch the eye of the reader and help you to secure that all important interview. You should ensure that you include any and all experience on your CV which you feel will help you to excel in the role of project manager, even non-paid experience such as volunteering or extra-curricular experience.
In a world where employers are valuing real-world experience just as highly as academic success, you should include as much experience on your CV as you can.
For example, have you worked on a joint project where you have been called upon to make tough decisions? Have you volunteered for an organisation where you have had to develop your communication skills? Adopted a leadership role or responsibilities in or out of your work/studies? All of these examples can be used as evidence to show that you are ready for a role as a project manager.
One of the most helpful things that you can do to help you secure a position in project management, is to obtain recognised project management qualifications. Almost every employer now is looking for qualifications to back up job applicants’ experience and there is a wide variety of courses and qualifications which can give you a head start in the hunt for your perfect job.
Some specific roles may require industry specific qualifications before you can apply for project management roles and so you should look into this if there is a certain industry in which you wish to work. However, most roles simply require that you have a project management qualification and there are several available for you to study such as the APM qualifications.
There is no age restriction on learning and it is never too late to gain extra qualifications. Many project management qualifications can be completed online and around current work or study commitments. Some of these courses will have entry requirements which you will need to meet but then you can study and take examinations in a time and place that suits you.
Gaining project management qualifications is an essential step in getting the leadership role you are hoping for.
Be Prepared To Work Hard and Step Up When It Counts
As mentioned before, project management is one of the biggest growing sectors in the job market but as each new opportunity arises, more and more people are hoping to turn to project management as a career. There is fierce competition for every available role and it is next to impossible to simply walk in to an entry level role; you are going to have to work for it.
One of the biggest things to remember and focus on when hoping to get a role in project management is to be persistent and be positive. With such intense competition for every available opportunity, you may not get the job you want right away but employers are impressed by positive employees who work hard and keep trying. Whether you are looking for a career change, an industry switch or looking to climb the ladder at your current company; you must be prepared to work hard and keep working.
As well as showing your commitment, you should also look for any opportunity to step up when it counts. If your employer is looking for volunteers for certain tasks you should look to step up where you can. These types of opportunities give you the chance to catch your employer’s attention as well as show that you possess such skills as good communication, organisation, leadership and delegation. Positive attributes such as these, combined with reliability and a willingness to help when called upon, will ensure that your boss thinks of you the next time they are looking to promote someone to lead an important project.
Always Strive For Greatness
The path to senior project management isn’t an easy one but once you have proven yourself with your first successful project completion you will be well on your way. The key to working your way to a senior position is to never rest on your laurels. There will always be someone else wanting a promotion or competing for the most exciting and challenging roles.
In order to remain on the top of your game and in line for senior roles it is important that you keep your project management skills up to date. You can do this by taking your project management qualifications to higher levels and earning yourself the title of Registered or Chartered Project Professional after 7 years working in a project management role and obtaining previous qualifications. This will open up opportunities in senior positions to you and help you to gain more responsibilities within your current position.