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How To Move Into A Career In Project Management In 5 Straightforward Steps

Updated on February 13, 2014
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How difficult is it to get a job in project management?

In the current economic climate, getting any decent job is a challenge, with a recent report estimating around 250 applicants submit their resume or CV to each job opening. Reports from project management recruiters suggest this is even higher for project manager jobs, because of the higher than average salary and additional packages that tend to be offered with these types of jobs.

So if you are looking to move into a career in project management, the likelihood is that you will be competing against several hundred candidates, many of whom will be more experienced and better qualified than you. To stand any chance of getting your dream job, you need to take action. You need to make yourself stand out, and you need a killer resume that will grab the attention of potential employers.

5 Straightforward Steps to Move into a Project Management Career

If you are serious about getting into a career in project management, then you need a strategy to get you there. In this article, I will take you through five steps that will help you achieve that goal.

Step 1: Show you're serious; get qualified today

Step 2: Get experience; manage an event

Step 3: Open your eyes; be flexible about your career choice

Step 4: Get started; move into a related job

Step 5: Get your foot in the door; do an internship (and make yourself invaluable)

Next, I'll walk you through how these five steps are going to help you achieve your career goals.

Let's find out a little about you:

How long have you been trying to get into a career in project management?

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Step 1: Get qualified

It's true that qualifications alone will not get you a job in project management. Employers want to see far more, and many employers will be bombarded with resumes of hundreds or thousands of potential candidates with identical qualifications.

However, don't let that put you off. A qualification does two things:

1) It demonstrates your commitment to a career in project management

2) It will stop your resume ending up in the no pile in the very first scan by recruiters

So the question you might be asking yourself now is:

What is the best qualification for me to achieve?

I've written a separate article about qualification comparisons so use that as your starting point. You also need to consider your location. In the UK, PRINCE2 and Scrum are the most common qualifications. In the USA, PMP is more typical. Have a look at your local job market. Look at job adverts and see what qualifications are typically being asked for.

Are qualifications expensive?

Getting qualified can be expensive, but with online training available it is far cheaper than it used to be. Classroom training is always more valuable but if you are on a limited budget then have a look at what online courses are on offer. If you are in the UK and unemployed, you might find that your local area offers grants for training, so make the most of those.

Step 2: Manage an Event

Perhaps you are one of the millions of rejected applicants who are told by a recruiter: sorry, but you don't have enough experience. It probably feels like a Catch 22, doesn't it? You want the job so you can gain experience, but you can't get the job without experience.

There is no point about feeling frustrated about this. It is the reality of a competitive job market. However, there are plenty of things you can do to help yourself. Who says experience has to come from a job? If you want to show you have the capability to manage a project, then why not try managing a project an event in your own community during the evenings and weekends? There are plenty of events going on in every community and many charitable causes to support who would love some help. So why not volunteer. Managing an event outside of work will show that you have initiative and dedication. That will make recruiters sit up and take notice.

Step 3: Open your Eyes - Be Flexible About Your Career Choice

Have you been applying for project management jobs in a particular field or industry? Why narrow your options when you are trying to start a new career? Sometimes, even if you have a keen interest in a particular industry, being a bit more flexible about the field you choose can open up a few extra doors for you.

So start doing some research. Look at different industries and subject areas that use project management skills. Don't forget, they might do project management under a different name - event management, for example, but you will probably find that these jobs use a similar skill set.

Step 4: Get Started - Move Into A Related Job

One of the most tried-and-tested methods for moving into a project management career is to start working in a job role that requires you to get involved in a project - for example, being a product tester. By working this closely with another project manager, you can start to see the realities of the role and the type of skills you need. This is also a great way for you to decide if project management really is the right career choice for you.

Its fairly common for people to take a sidestep into project management when they've been involved as part of a project team for some time, so if you commit to taking on a different role and demonstrating an interest and an aptitude for project management, this is a great opportunity to get into your chosen profession.

Step 5: Get Your Foot In The Door - Do An Internship

If you really want to show you are serious about a career in project management, offer yourself up for an internship with a local company. You might not find these advertised, but there is absolutely nothing to stop you making contact with local employers to ask if they need some project support. Many will jump at the opportunity. Project teams are often very busy, and if you can present yourself as someone who is organised, knowledgeable and keen, you will look like a potential asset.

Of course, that is only half the story. If you can win yourself an internship, your next task is to turn that into a full time job. And the way you do that is very simple: make yourself indispensable. Get to know everything about the project. Keep detailed records of every piece of information the team and project manager needs. Reorganize the project documentation if it needs reorganizing. Make sure the projector is working before every meeting starts, that there are enough seats in the meeting room, and that everyone has a printout of the agenda. If you can really make life easy for a project team, and demonstrate true project management qualities, then the company will take notice of you. And you will be well on your way to getting your first proper full time project management job.

Summary: Getting Your Dream Job Is Possible

Sometimes, it seems like the modern economic climate, with all the global competition and repeated recessions, makes finding a job almost impossible. But it isn't. However, if you just keep trying to apply for job after job, with no strategy in place, you will soon become disillusioned with the rejection letters. Take a step back from applying, and see what you can do instead to make employers view you as an asset they just can't say no to. Being proactive now with your career will pay off in the future.

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    • antigravity profile image

      antigravity 2 years ago

      Thanks for very helpful tips. Being able to manage any type of situation plays a major role in the career of project management.

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