This is Chapter 7 of a much more comprehensive post Project Management Guide: Starting Out. Depending on your situation (starting a project management career, switching or promoting) you may have various methods of accomplishing your objectives.
Starting your project management career.
If you are just starting up your career you might find these steps suitable:
- Find a suitable course at a local community college, make sure the course is what you need so that you are developing the right skills. Find out more about how to learn project management.
- Prepare a professional resume. If you don’t have any professional paid experience relevant to the field, write anything relevant that proves you have the necessary skills to develop into a PM. You can get involved into local community projects to obtain some experience. You can find a template for a professional looking resume on our site.
- Apply for positions within your field. Keep in mind that your applications should align with the level of experience you have, work history, and domain. Gather as much information as possible about the company, role and required skills.
- I want to point out that starting a project management career this way will entitle more effort and determination than any other way. Unfortunately employers look for experience and a set of skills that frankly are very hard to surface without any work experience. But if you are determined and passionate I am sure that the opportunity will present itself.
The idea of changing careers can be both daunting and exhilarating. If you know what you want to pursue, don’t become hindered by the challenges the career-change process presents. Here are some pointers that might help you:
List your skills and experiences that can help you leverage your switch:
- Experience – use any transferable experiences from the past as leverage when you interview for a new opportunity (examples: starting up, shutdown or merger of a company)
- Company Type – leverage you knowledge about a company type, be it for-profit business, corporation, family owned business or nonprofit organization.
- Transferable skills – skills developed in one career will be relevant in the next. Project management, sales, customer service, team leadership, and numerous other skills.
- Job environment – the type of environment you have worked in (high pressure jobs, working without supervision, dealing with unions)
- Network – leverage any of your current relationships to find an entry point in a new field.
State Your Case Effectively.
Make sure you have valid reasons for changing careers. If you know why you want the change and what you will gain by doing that, will increase your chances of success considerably. Also being able to articulate your reasons to future employers will prevent them from assuming that you are running away from something.
Find the Logical Entry Point.
Use your leverage points to establish what role fits you best and if a project management career will fit your style.
Avoid Over Analysis.
Avoid over analyzing your situation. Yes, developing a strong understanding of yourself is imperative, but avoid analysis paralysis. You cannot think your career change; at some point you are required to act.
Connect with People in Your Target Field.
When you’re changing careers, your resume will fall short. For that reason, building your network becomes even more critical. Connect with people in your target field to validate your interest and learn about opportunities.
Make an Impression.
On interviews, be the standout candidate by talking up the actions you’ve taken that prove your commitment to the field. Reveal your industry knowledge, and mention industry events you’ve attended or industry associations where you volunteer. If you write an industry-related blog, reference that as well. You could even present a white paper on an industry issue you’ve researched or a business plan that demonstrates the value you could bring to the organization.
Your goal is to make potential employers see you as someone already in their industry and in it to stay, regardless of whether they hire you or not. Don’t leave the impression that if they don’t hire you for that position, you can go and work in other industries. (Example: You apply for an IT Technical Support Engineer position, go to the interview and tell the recruiter that you can perform as well in a sales position within an unrelated industry)
One tangible way to start your career change is through freelance or part-time jobs. Such work builds your resume and lets you test the waters in your new field. Concrete steps such as these create momentum for your career change, demonstrate your commitment to potential employers and validate your plan.
If you want to promote through the ranks you might find these steps helpful:
Check up your next job.
What do you want to do next, maybe start a new project management career? – It can be difficult to identify what your next career move would be, especially if you work in an organization with a flat structure. Take a look at the people who are on the next level up in the hierarchy. These may be a line manager, project manager, project sponsor or anyone else in the project management office team. What interests you in what they are doing?
What skills do they demonstrate while doing their jobs?
By looking around at what is available you will surely come across someone in a fantastic job, that you would be capable of undertaking. If the role is not available in your organization, by identifying the job that interests you, you will can consider if it is worth applying for that job in another company.
Build Your Experience.
Look at what type of experience those people have acquired and use that towards building your project management career. How and what they did to get those roles. Any skills they have and you don’t? Create a comparison between you and them. You could even ask for their job description to review what skills you have and where you should improve. Think of how can you gain those missing skills and make use of the methods presented in the beginning of the article to develop your plan.
Update Your CV.
When you already have a job it’s tempting to let your CV in a drawer or a folder on your computer. But every so often you should go back to it and update it, so that you are ready to go when that great promotion opportunity comes up. For a CV template you can get one on our site and it can help advance your project management career.
Many project managers are more focused on their projects than on hanging out with people in different departments. But networking is more than just hanging out. These same project managers also often think that their project results will speak for themselves and that they will get noticed for the good work that they do. Unfortunately, that is rarely the case.
Networking is a good opportunity to make yourself known to areas of the business where you would like to work, or people you would like to work with, thus expanding your project management career. You can do it without being overtly obvious. Something like asking to present about your project at their next team meeting is a good way to break the ice, or asking to come and talk to them to find out how your project will affect them. People are normally quite happy to talk about themselves, so it is just a case of finding an opportunity to let them! Be open about your career aspirations so that they have you in mind if they are thinking about new recruits.
Get a Mentor.
A mentor can help open doors for your project management career. They can also help you identify and build your skills in areas where you are weaker. As a mentor knows you well, they can often provide honest and helpful feedback about areas where you need development, and because they have more experience than you, they are likely to be able to suggest practical ways for you to improve your skills.
Mentors also tend to move in different circles to their mentee, so ask yours to keep listening for any potential vacancies that suit your skills and experience. They can also mention to their contacts that they know a professional, qualified individual who is looking for their next move – most jobs are found through word of mouth these days so it pays to ask!
Managing your career is something that you have to take accountability for. If you want to start your career, change or promote you will have to go out there and find that opportunity.
“If I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.”
Done for now. This concludes this chapter. The next article in this guide is: The career path of a Project Manager. Also you can go to the first post of the guide Project Management Guide: Starting Out to get an overview of how I have structured the guide. Please leave your comments below. It means providing helpful information that contributes to an article or discussion.