Breaking into project management – could it be the career for you?

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    Michelle
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    If you have a strong attention to detail and exceptional leadership skills, a career in project management could be ideal for you. As a project manager, you will play the lead role in all aspects of a project, from planning to delivery, working to a number of objectives and goals that have been pre-determined. If this sounds like the right sort of career for you, read on…

    Determining whether you would be a good fit

    Before we reveal how to break into project management, you first need to make sure that you possess all of the qualities that are required or could learn and develop them. To determine whether you are going to be a good fit for project management, ask yourself whether you would enjoy doing these types of things on a regular basis:

    –    Communicating progress with stakeholders
    –    Facilitating status meetings
    –    Delegating tasks
    –    Planning out projects in minute detail
    –    Setting up organisational systems

    If this sounds like something you would like to do, a career as a project manager is ideal. You will need a wide range of skills for such a varied job. This includes being an effective communicator and leader, as well as being meticulous, passionate, enthusiastic, and organised.

    There is no denying that the role of project manager is challenging, but there are many benefits too. This is an exciting job, which is different every day, and you are going to be working with all sorts of interesting people. Not only this, but demand for project managers is growing, you can earn a high salary, you will never stop learning, and you will have transferrable skills, which will make it easy for you to transition into different jobs in different industries.

    Getting the experience you need

    In order to secure a job in project management, you will need to have recognised qualifications and some relevant experience. There are a number of different project management qualifications available. This includes APM Project Fundamentals, APM Project Management, PRINCE2 Foundation and Practitioner, and the PMI Certification.

    When choosing a project management course, it is important to select one that is right for your current knowledge level and for the sort of organisations you expect to work for. For example, if you are new to project management, the APM Project Fundamentals course comes highly recommended. This is suitable for new project managers who wish to learn about project management principles. For something more advanced, the APM Project Management Qualification is better.

    One of the most effective routes into project management is a higher apprenticeship. By doing an apprenticeship, you will achieve a project management qualification and you will also benefit from valuable experience. You will learn on the job, which can make a massive difference. Let’s take a look at the benefits of a project management apprenticeship in further detail:

    –    You won’t have to worry about university debt – Let’s be frank; no one wants the £30,000+ worth of debt they are likely to get if they go to university. With an apprenticeship, you don’t have to worry about tuition fees or student loans.
    –    You have a job but with support and guidance – The great thing about having an apprenticeship is that it is exactly like having a job. The only difference is that you will have expert guidance and support to help you through it. This is the perfect platform to launch your career.
    –    You will benefit from a qualification that is recognised throughout the UK – As mentioned, you will also get a project management qualification when you do an apprenticeship. This can be a nationally and even internationally recognised qualification.
    –    You will become a key part of a team – A lot of people have the misconception that an apprentice is simply going to be doing all of the tasks that no one else wants to do, like making cups of coffee! This is certainly not the case. You will become an important part of the team. This will give you a great understanding of team dynamics, which will help you when managing your own team in the future.
    –    You can build up your network – Networking is of huge importance in today’s competitive world. This is especially the case for an aspiring project manager, as you never know who you could need the assistance of in the future. Plus, you never know who could open up a door for you, which could kick-start your career.
    –    You get to apply theory to an actual job – One of the big disadvantages of going to university is that you only learn theory. When this happens, people can feel overwhelmed when starting their first job, as they have no experience in applying this theory to real working life. However, with an apprenticeship, you will get to apply theory to the job, which gives you a huge advantage.
    –    It will look impressive on your CV – Nowadays, the first thing employers look for is experience. By having an apprenticeship on your CV, you will improve your chances of getting called forward for an interview.
    –    You can effectively transition into a new job – Whether you are looking for your first job or you are moving jobs, an apprenticeship can make the transition easy.
    –    You may get offered a job at the end of it – There is always the chance that you may get offered a job if you impress during your apprenticeship. The key is to work hard to show that you will be a real asset to the firm.
    –    Learn with an experienced project manager – Last but not least, you will learn with someone that has already achieved what you want to achieve. You will see how they operate on a day-to-day basis, picking up tips and approaches that you can use yourself.

    Take alternative routes into project management

    It is important to be flexible in terms of how you get into project management. The truth is that most companies will not hire a junior project manager to take on the lead role. In fact, they are more likely to hire someone from within the firm. In some cases, they may headhunt a project manager from another business. Because of this, don’t be against starting off in a non-project management role. You can then make your case for moving towards a more project-centric role in your current organisation. A lot of people follow the natural career progression route, i.e. from project administrator, to project manager, to project director. Nonetheless, there are also a lot of people that simply pave their own route.

    Make sure your CV is on point

    If you want to secure your dream job in project management, your CV needs to impress. Here are some tips to help your CV standout from other applicants:

    –    Customise your CV for every job – You don’t need to put together a fresh CV for every job. Nevertheless, you should not send out a generic CV to every job you apply for. Instead, you need to tweak your CV to suit the job in question. The job application will have stated different traits and qualities that the organisation is looking for. Therefore, you need to make sure your CV shows that you have these skills, making you the ideal candidate.
    –    Show your leadership traits – Project management is predominately a leadership role. This is why you must clearly articulate the leadership skills that you possess. Many people make the error of getting bogged down with the technical aspects. While this is important, it is even more vital to show how you work with teams and stakeholders, lead projects, motivate, and guide people. Focus on your main traits, and how your leadership activities have been effective in the past.
    –    Play to your own strengths – Don’t try to be what you think a project manager should be. No one wants a copy of someone else. Your main strength is you – your unique strengths and traits. You will quickly get found out if you are pretending to be someone you are not, so do not simply clone another CV.
    –    Show enthusiasm – Finally, it is important to show enthusiasm in your CV. As a project management, you are going to need to have a positive attitude. You need to be motivated and enthusiastic, so that your team will feel the same way. Talk about your project wins and let your attitude shine through.

    Some final tips to help you land a project management job

    Hopefully, you now have some good suggestions that will help you launch your career in project management. Before you start editing your CV and getting the experience you need, here are some final tips to help you:

    –    Never stop learning – As mentioned, there are a number of project management training courses that are available. If you never stop learning, you will certainly benefit your career. Even the most experienced project managers regularly take training courses so that they can improve their knowledge base. After all, there are always new techniques, technologies, approaches, and methodologies to learn, and even a simple refresher can make a difference.
    –    Learn how to read people – This is otherwise referred to as emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is increasingly important in project management and you will certainly give yourself a better chance of getting hired if you focus on this. You should spend some time learning about human behaviour so that you can use emotional IQ skills to read your team. This will help you to ensure that the dynamic of the group is right, everyone is motivated, and ultimately, you are achieving your goals.
    –    Get the grips with various project management tools – There are a number of project management tools that are available today, from those that facilitate communication to those that help with scheduling. It is a good idea to get to grips with some of the most commonly used project management tools. You will then be able to add these to your skill set on your CV.
    –    Practice common project management interview questions – If your CV impresses, which it should now you have some top tips, you will get called for an interview. Being prepared for your interview is important, and one of the ways to do this is to practice common project management interview questions. Some examples include:    

    o    What was the most challenging aspect of your last project?
    o    What was your least challenging project?
    o    How do you handle a team member that is not productive?
    o    How do you allocate resources?
    o    What project management tools and software do you prefer using?
    o    What are the most important qualities of a project manager?
    o    How do you manage and monitor project risks?

    –    Be proactive – You need to be proactive in your search for a project management job. This is not an easy job, and it won’t simply land on your lap. If you aren’t proactive with your search and your efforts to improve yourself, you will miss out and someone else who has been more active will get the job over you.
    –    Review your experience and know your limitations – Last but not least, you need to have a good understanding of the qualities you possess. Pull up on your past responsibilities and roles so you can locate where skills overlap. Even if you don’t have a lot of experience, keep digging away. You will be able to find ways to accentuate the qualities you have that align with project management. Not only will this impress in terms of your CV and during your interview, but also it will boost your own confidence in your skills. What happens when you find skills gaps? Take the effort to fill this gap with extra training, reading books, and gaining real-life experience if possible.

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