How to learn project management?

Chapter 5 of a much more comprehensive post Project Management Guide: Starting Out. Let’s get right in! How do you learn project management? Well there are several different ways you can go about it, on your own, through a degree/course or a professional certification.

Statistics show that each way you go about achieving that is not extremely relevant. Don’t think for a second that if you don’t have a fancy degree you won’t succeed as a project manager. You will find that there are more important aspects than pure knowledge for the subject.


learn project management

Source: Wrike

Learn project management on your own.

It often happens for people to “fall into” a project management role. It may be because they have some skills like: excellent communicator, time management, take responsibility over their work or are a very motivated team member; however if you are not in that position, here are some ways to get started in building your project management credentials and knowledge on your own:

Read articles and blogs – there are a lot of resources out there. Commit to reading some articles about project management every day and you will be surprised at how much you will pick up.

Listen to webinars – these are a great resource. You can get valuable tips from established project managers that will share personal experiences.

Watch training videos – videos are a great way of accumulating more knowledge. They can range in format: slides on different project management frameworks, presenting PM tools, conferences, so on and so forth.

Make use of Twitter – whether you are a beginner or not, Twitter will help you find something interesting about project management with just a few click. Spend a little of your time every day looking through what comes up when you do a project management related search query.

LinkedIn – LinkedIn is free first of all, and a very effective way to connect to professionals.

Go to a project management course, obviously.

Barely over half (56%) of project managers are certified. (Source: Wrike)

Even though courses could be a great way to learn project management, be aware of what exactly the course is about, because there are many sorts of “project management” courses out there.

Some will teach you how to use a planning tools like MS Projects or Primavera. Useful skills but you won’t learn how to manage projects. Some courses will teach you different administrative structures of a particular project management method but leave out how exactly to go about managing a project. Some will bestow a qualification, and will help you learn to pass the exam but only teach you very little about how to manage a project. And there are some courses that they will teach you how to manage a project.

When you make your decision please keep this in mind and choose appropriately.

So, you’ve done a course, now what?

Now you might think that managing a small project would be the next logical step. My opinion is that probably you will gain more experience and insights by getting involved in a large project. Contribute to that project from your actual capacity if possible.

Now, if you start by managing a small project, you will probably be assigned a budding manager that will guide you as best as he can in the time available to him. Usually project managers lack the time to fully attend to every formal project management problem that you will have, and this is good in some ways, but can also hurt you.

You should take comfort in the fact that in most cases with little formal planning and control you can manage a small project on your own, and will need little guidance in doing so from your buddy manager. You have to be warned that, if you have applied something on one project and it worked perfectly, that doesn’t mean that it will work every time.

Prepare yourself before starting a project, and take time to understand what it is involved, and don’t be afraid to ask for guidance.

If on the other hand you start by contributing to a large project from your existing capacity, then you have to understand that you will not be exposed to all the facets of the project. You will most probably have access to a little piece. This is critical to understand if your desire is to manage projects one day.

Nonetheless, if you are really interested, you can have the opportunity to see how it all works without the responsibility of managing the project. This is invaluable for would-be project managers. If in your next job you will have to manage a small project it’s easy to tailor your experience and adapt the project controls to your needs.

Keep in mind that informality does not scale up – project controls used on small projects will not scale up effectively, but it works the other way around.

“Excellent course but I’ve realized one thing – I don’t want to be a project manager!”

This is the reaction from people that are at the end of a PM course. The rationale is: why would I want a job where success means, everyone assumes, it must have been easy, and problems often mean you are going to get kicked.

Equally an opposite reaction is: “this is the job for me!” These people fell in love with the idea that they can make things happen, make a difference through their work, and manage people better that anybody else.

It all depends on you. What makes you love or hate project management?

Done for now. This concludes this chapter. The next article in this guide is: How to start your project management career? 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.

Image courtesy of Freepik

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