Smart Start

6 tips to launch a project management career. By Ariel Saltz, CAPM, PMP

So you want to be a project manager? You don’t have to have “project” in your title or work at a project-centric organization to gain valuable experience. Here are six ways new or aspiring project managers can develop relevant skills and chart their own career path.

1. Everything’s a project.  The first step to becoming a project manager: think and act like one. Conceptualize your tasks—even something like planning your organization’s holiday party—as projects. Use workflows, work breakdown structures, responsibility and assignment matrices, scope statements, requirements lists and risk logs. You might be surprised by how much project work you are already doing every day.

2. Create your own opportunities. Cultivating trust with your manager can open doors. When I was a young project manager, I proposed a project that I thought would help improve our business. Because I had demonstrated trustworthiness, my boss worked with me to refine the project’s scope to align better with stakeholder needs and then arranged for me to present the idea to our executive team. I was able to lead the project, which was outside of my core responsibilities. This opportunity broadened my experience and offered new challenges—but it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t taken the initiative.

3. Research your dream job. Read job descriptions for various project positions that interest you. Research the skills required for your desired position, and focus on how to fill the gaps. Reach out to someone who works at your dream job’s organization to learn more about the skills it demands and what skills gaps might need to be filled to land it.

4. Get expert advice. Ask the people you look up to for guidance on growing or marketing your project management knowledge and experience. Such conversations are a valuable and free source of market intelligence. Working project managers could advise you on issues like what project management software or tools would be helpful to learn, what project management skills are in highest demand or how to talk about your project management experience in a job interview.

5. Volunteer. Project management and volunteering go hand in hand. By working with a local charity or your PMI chapter, you can gain practical knowledge and experience while making an impact. After your volunteer project, request a LinkedIn recommendation about your project management skills from the volunteer coordinator or your team members.

6. Upskill. Earning a certification such as the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)® or Project Management Professional (PMP)® shows organizations your commitment to the profession. Yes, you’ll need to invest time and money. However, PMI research shows those with certifications earn more than those without in almost all countries studied. If you are working toward a certification or designation, say so on your résumé or CV and LinkedIn profile.

Bottom line: Become the project manager of your own career. Proactively developing skills and experience will deliver big payoffs.

Ariel Saltz, CAPM, PMP, is a bids and proposals manager at Hays Specialist Recruitment, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Source: PM Network 07/2017 - SUNKEN TREASURE 

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