So You Want to Be a Project Manager

By Mike James

Updated Over a Week Ago

Minute Read

If you thrive on organization and scheduling and love being in charge of resources and getting things done, a career in project management may suit you.

While the skills you need to develop for this career path can be used in many industry sectors, chances are that you’ll be specializing in leading projects in technical disciplines such as IT, Engineering, or Construction.

What Does a Project Manager Do?

As a project manager, you’ll manage every aspect of a project assigned to you according to a series of pre-determined goals and objectives.

Broadly, this means that you will plan, lead teams, and keep projects on time and within budget. Crucially, the overall responsibility for the success or failure of the project rests with you.

Specific responsibilities may vary depending on the requirements of your chosen industry, the company employing you, or the particular project you’re working on, but are likely to include the following stages:

  • Project definition
  • Scheduling
  • Cost estimation and budgeting
  • Team structuring and resourcing
  • Risk assessment
  • Project control
  • Team leadership and support
  • Quality assurance
  • Progress reporting
  • Results assessment
  • Project closedown
  • Management and liaison with multiple stakeholders

What Skills Do You Need?

Many employers require a good degree in a relevant subject as an entry-level qualification, but practice and experience are arguably more important than theoretical knowledge.

Whether you’re a recent graduate considering your next move, being in employment for a few years and are ready to upskill, or are an experienced professional looking to diversify, project management can offer an intellectually stimulating environment in which to make a valuable contribution.

While not everyone is cut out for a career in project management, if you have a highly analytical mind, strong organizational skills, and natural leadership abilities, that’s a great start. Your skillset should be broad and varied and also include the following:

  • Time management and problem-solving skills
  • Ability to work under pressure and meet tight deadlines
  • Decisiveness but with a flexible approach
  • Great communication skills and being able to work with all stakeholders

Useful Tools of the Trade

While soft skills are essential to be able to perform as a project manager, technical ability is also key.

Project management services are online systems to help you work and collaborate on projects. They’re real-time workspaces where stakeholders can keep an eye on every project detail and manage tasks and resources.

There’s a wide range of project management software available to help you and your project team with things like workflow, budgeting, and scheduling. Some of the most useful tools include Microsoft Project, Basecamp, Planday, and Freshbooks.

If you’re serious about pursuing project management as a career, make sure you develop your software skills and get some relevant experience in a project team or as a project officer.

Use your current work environment to demonstrate how you’ve gained relevant skills that can be applied to a project management role.

What Qualifications Should You Have?

Whether or not you have a university degree or if you want to be a professional project manager, there are some key project management qualifications that are well worth having.

In fact, many companies will expect you to have at least certification at a foundational level as a prerequisite to being considered for an interview.

From the job applicant’s perspective, having a professional qualification is an excellent way to stand out from the crowd or perhaps make up for less-than-impressive academic results.

Key project management qualifications you might want to consider include:

  • ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) offers 5 different certification levels: Foundation, Practitioner, Intermediate, Expert, and Master. You will learn best practices in IT service management across 5 areas: ITIL Service Strategy, ITIL Service Design, ITIL Service Transition, ITIL Service Operation, ITIL Continual Service Improvement.
  • Agile Project Management (APM) certification can be achieved on two levels: Agile Foundation and Agile Practitioner, with the latter preparing the student for implementing the Agile methodology in a real-life project setting.
  • MSP (Managing Successful Programs) is available in two training levels: MSP Foundation comprises MSP Principles, MSP Governance, and MSP Transformational Flow while MSP Practitioner certification prepares students to manage transformational change.
  • CAPM (Certified Associate in Project Management) teaches a standardized method of project management, while PMP (Project Management Professional) certification is one of the leading standards in project management and an internationally recognized professional designation awarded by the Project Management Institute (PMI).
  • PRINCE2 has two levels of project management certification: PRINCE2 Foundation and PRINCE2Practitioner. While the former can be studied without any previous project management experience, the latter majors in applying the methodology in a practical environment and lead to an internationally certified and highly respected qualification.

There is no set way to become a project manager; your journey will be as individual as you are. What’s more, when it comes to applying for jobs, you will quickly find out that every PM position is a bit different.

The way you manage projects in healthcare won’t be the same as in, say, software development, and the organizational and team culture of individual companies will vary significantly.

Choose your path carefully and develop your professional expertise one building block at a time.

How Can a Leader Become a Project Manager?

If you have ideas you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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Mike James
Mike James
Mike James is an experienced, independent content writer in the marketing industry – working together on a project with staff management software specialist Planday.
  • Xyla Andi says:

    Nice post! It’s very helpful, thanks for sharing.

  • For success in any career, possessing a combination of hard and soft skills is recommended. These days it is rare to find a role simply requiring hard skills. A project managers need soft skills specific to leadership. Their work involves managing a team, working with stakeholders and ensuring deadlines and budgets are met.

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