Project management is a rewarding role which can carry you into exciting, demanding and fulfilling new ventures – so it’s no wonder that it’s such a popular career path for many.
The best part about project management is that there’s such a wide variety of work available, whether it's something well paid and in demand like being an IT project manager or something more creative and elusive like being a TV project manager.
This means you can control the types of projects that you work on, so long as you get your foot in the door quickly and gain some specialised experience. For those already on their ideal career path, or just starting out, here’s how to fast track your project management career path.
There are those who will tell you that having a bachelor’s or master's degree in business is the only way to get started on the project management career path. However, there are plenty of faster ways to gain a qualification in project management, such as online courses or local night classes.
Nothing really beats experience when it comes to project management. You can study theory forever, but until you put it into practice you’ll never really know whether you can put your money where your mouth is. In the beginning, accept small projects in your field of interest, work in construction if you’re looking to be a construction project manager, and get your hands dirty.
If you’re finding it difficult to find that initial role, look towards your entrepreneurial friends and offer to manage an initial project pro-bono. After the successful completion of one project, you’ll very quickly start to see more doors opening up for your quick progression.
Accept demanding roles but manage the risks.
Part of the role of project manager is learning to adapt to new ways of working, discovering new problems to solve, and to sometimes make impossible dreams a reality. Accepting demanding roles, which push you out of your comfort zone, will challenge you and help you grow.
If a project fails, which is a possibility at any stage of your career, make sure you take everything you can out of the experience by de-briefing the project properly. That way you can isolate areas for improvement and form strategies to avoid risk on your next project whilst having the ability to identify warning signs of imminent failure earlier. The pathway to becoming a successful project manager can be challenging, but if you don’t try you’ll never succeed.
Be flexible with clients.
We know managing client expectations can be a tricky, and while you should never promise outcomes that you know are impossible, instead try to come to a compromise between the client’s ideal vision and the limitations of practicality. Your client will appreciate you believing in their vision and you may just produce something spectacular in the process.
As a project manager, you don’t need to do everything alone. Your job is to have an overview of the whole project and to allocate specialist tasks to others. Project managers fail when they take on too much to possibly handle, micromanage employees, or lose sight of the project. Be the leader and ensure you make the most of the other people in your team – it's what they are there for!
Check in with your client and other team members regularly to ensure the project is progressing in line with expectations of time and scope. The best way to do this is to clearly define communication expectations so that no-one feels unduly bothered.
Depending on the timeline or due-date of your project, it could be a ten-minute meeting every morning or thirty minutes once a week. This gives everyone the chance to prepare concerns and progress reports, leaving them space in the meantime to work effectively.
Let people know your ambitions.
Finally, take responsibility for your career progression and aim for transparency. If you’re working with a large company inform your superiors of your career aspirations. Let management know where you see yourself in the future. If you’re good at your job, they won’t want to lose you and will support your career progression by providing you with extra training and responsibilities.