4 steps to a successful project management career

Hands and arms of two project managers, one of whom is holding a clipboard and pen, leaning over A4 sheets displaying project charts laid out on table in front of them

If you’re considering a career in project management, the first step is to think about whether your goals, skills and natural aptitude fully align with what is required.

Ana BertacchiniI started my project career when I was supporting a small project and realized I wanted to have a bigger role in delivering projects. I then got certified and applied to work solidly in a project management job. From there, I continued to gather more qualifications and did my Master’s in Project Management. This journey has taken me to several organizations and roles within project management, which I have thoroughly enjoyed. I think that staying up to date with your own development is key for a successful project management career.

Having self-awareness is important, no matter where you are starting from. So, whether you are graduating from university, changing career or making a sideways move within a business, taking the time to fully understand what you are getting into is essential.

An aspiring project manager needs to think about:

Core skills

The type of people who enjoy and excel in this role are not averse to change; in fact, they thrive on the challenge. Strengths in organization, time management, leadership and communication, with a delivery-driven approach are also key.

It’s also important to recognize the need for a strategic focus. Change within an organization can be driven by IT, regulation or product innovation; but having a high-level understanding of how a project fits into the bigger picture is crucial to its successful delivery, making this a key weapon in a project manager’s arsenal.

Get certified

Certification gives you credibility and helps with critical thinking, so it’s a good idea to be familiar with as many methodologies as possible.

One of the main practitioner certification programmes is PRINCE2®, which I think provides a good head start for anyone wanting to pursue a career in project management. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, appreciating the thinking behind formal methods such as PRINCE2 and Agile provides you with an important “tool kit” based on the collected knowledge and experience of project managers around the world.

Even individuals with significant business experience from other areas should take the opportunity to enhance their capability. They should certainly not see such certification as an optional extra, but rather a necessity.

Create opportunities

Being proactive will not only give you first-hand experience of life as a project manager, but also potentially help to secure the position you are looking for.

If you’re in a business role, ask your employer for the chance to run a small project, propose improvements and try to deliver it in a methodical way. Or, find a project manager within your organization and ask to lead a workstream; show initiative, learn the job and voice your career ambition.

As a university graduate who has never worked before, look for apprenticeships and entry level roles that support projects where you can volunteer to take on more responsibility. Reach out and work with the right people and always follow through when you commit to help.

Do you have what it takes?

If you feel you already tick a number of boxes, then you are on your way and can start to plan your career journey.

But if you don’t yet have the ideal profile and still want to develop the required skills, it’s not impossible. It just might take a lot more training and on the job experience. Either way, further development is never a waste of time.

Read more AXELOS Blog Posts by Ana Bertacchini

How to survive project management for the non-project manager

How to align project management to corporate strategy

How to use 'lessons learned' to reduce project failure

How project managers can always improve emotional intelligence

The multi-faceted project manager

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