Are you the person who always gets your friends organized to do something together? Are you known in your family as the bossy one? Are you the most organized person in any group? If so, you might thrive in a career in project management. Most industries need project managers. Someone who can competently guide a project through each stage from conception and budgeting through any challenges, monitoring everyone's progress until the end is invaluable. However, there is not always a clear path to pursuing a career in this field. The tips below can help you prepare and succeed.
What Project Managers Do
A good project manager is integral to the success of projects in the workplace. If you choose this career path, your tasks may include determining what kind of software your team will use, figuring out what strategies are best for getting the work off the ground, identifying the necessary skill sets, creating a budget, identifying any professionals you should bring on and setting deadlines.
You may also lead team meetings, provide reports of how the work is proceeding, and keep everything moving in a way that is consistent with your organization's mission statement and culture.
You should start by getting a bachelor's degree. There generally aren't degrees in this specific area, but you could get a degree in business or a related field that teaches such skills as critical thinking and organization, such as economics. There are private student loans can help you cover the cost of tuition and other college-related expenses, either instead of or in addition to other forms of funding, such as grants, federal loans, and scholarships.
In addition, you might want to look into getting a Certified Associate in Project Management certificate. Later on, once you have work experience, you can get a Project Management Professional Certificate, but the CAPM is entry-level, and it can show that you are serious about your career choice. You can also teach yourself various types of project management software.
Build Your Skills
While you're still in school, you can build necessary skills and identify existing ones. Volunteer work is a great way to do this. Anytime you have helped see a project through from conception to completion is an example of your skills in this area. However, you are unlikely to walk straight into a project management position after college. Entry-level jobs may have titles such as project coordinator, administrative associate, or operations associate. Some companies may have positions for junior or associate project manager.
However, if you can't get hired in any of these positions initially, don't despair. You will probably need to gain some professional experience before you move into a situation in which you are directing a project and managing others. Spend your first year or two learning as much as you can about your organization and your department and make it clear to your supervisor that you are interested in advancing. Look for opportunities to get involved in planning and improvement even if your official job title hasn't yet changed.
Create a Professional Network
Arguably in every sector of business, creating a professional network is a key to success. When you are a project manager you need to have a specialized skill set that you can utilize at a moment’s notice. By joining professional networking sites or local groups, you are giving yourself an opportunity to collaborate with other people both in your industry and otherwise.
Specifically, the ability to flex and pivot with the demands and changes of the projects you manage is a skill to be honed. In some cases, these groups are either lead by, or have members that have been working professionals for years, decades even, tapping into their experience as a valuable resource is going to help you take your own career to the next level.
Master Employee Relations
No doubt you will be juggling a lot at the same time, that is the essence of your role. However, when all the things you are responsible for are directly tied to the level of efficiency and productivity of your direct reports, it’s critical that you know how to support them in ways that they hit their deliverables. Creating collaborative environments and emphasizing communication strategies that are approachable and indicative of a teamwork attitude is the best way to ensure that the people who you are managing feel motivated to work hard for you.
When the opposite happens, you can expect tiny cracks in the team to quickly develop into huge breaks in the foundation. As a project manager you need to realize that you are managing the people just as much as the project. Pay attention to habits and attitudes. Has your star worker suddenly started to be late to the office every day?
Instead of ignoring the issue or jumping straight to a disciplinary action, initiate a conversation of empathy where this person can discuss what’s happening without the fear of repercussions. You are much more likely to get honest answers and feedback from employee who know they can trust you.