There are almost as many ways to become a successful project manager as there are types of projects. Some project managers have formal training and follow a specific career path, while others are thrust into the role and are forced to figure out what to do on their own. Regardless of the path taken to a project management career, the right education and experience can be the keys to true success.
Building Project Management Experience
For those who are seeking a career in project management and are wondering whether to pursue experience or education first, many project management professionals would agree that while both are necessary, it may be more beneficial to start with real-world experience before pursuing formal education and degrees. If you have the opportunity to participate on projects, you can learn by observing how the project manager runs the plan to see what works well and what doesn’t. It’s a good idea to ask questions and offer to help them with project management tasks. You can also volunteer to lead small projects at work or school, or at non-profit organizations to gain valuable hands-on experience. As you gain knowledge and experience, apply what you’ve learned to managing your own small projects, and then move on to successively larger projects.
Pursuing Essential Knowledge
It’s important to educate yourself as well. You can pursue informal education through self-study of blogs, books, and other resources. You can also join project management professional groups, either online or in person. These groups can help you make connections and find a mentor. They can also provide additional educational opportunities. In some cases, an employer may also offer project management training.
Becoming an Effective Leader
As you acquire experience, you’ll discover what many successful project managers have realized – a project manager’s job is to manage the work, not to do it. Successful project managers are able to effectively lead their team and are adept at motivating others and coordinating work toward achieving a common goal. Project managers also tend to be problem-solvers. Whether it comes to interpersonal conflicts on the team, coming up with solutions to the fulfill the project’s mission or dealing with difficult stakeholders, project managers need to be able to analyse the possible options and alternatives and determine the optimal course of action to take.
Refining a Critical Skillset
Proficient organizational skills, the ability to keep an eye on detail while also maintaining a “big picture” perspective and the ability to manage budgets are all critical project management skills. However, communication skills are arguably the most important. A significant portion of what a project manager does involves communication, such as written status reports, meeting notes and documentation. Verbal skills are also critical as project managers must be able to facilitate meetings, speak with team members and stakeholders across all levels and departments in the organization and effectively negotiate.
Boosting Career Potential
Once you amass some project management experience, it is suggested to pursue a project management certification. Certification through organizations can bolster your credibility and provide you with a highly respected professional credential. Certification often requires a specific amount of experience and formal education, but there is also a great deal of study needed to prepare for the exam.
With experience and the right education and training, you can start or grow your career as a project manager. Additional qualifications, such as professional certifications, can help set you apart from other candidates and can help you hone the skills necessary to bring your projects to a successful conclusion.