Project management can seem overwhelming for those new to this department. Luckily, it isn’t too difficult to learn. Once you understand the basics, you can start your journey as a project manager. And before you know it, you’ll be leading countless successful projects.
But don’t expect your job to be easy. You’ll have to watch over the project team from beginning to end. Though you’re mostly there to help the team visualize the tasks and create a schedule, you must also be ready to tackle any obstacles you encounter. In other words, you’ll always have your hands full.
Perhaps you think you don’t need to know much about project management. After all, you can pay someone to handle this post for you. While that’s true, companies often can’t afford a PM until they move past the early stage.
Thus, the mantle will be yours to bear until that happens. Knowing your way around project management can help you fend for yourself until you can afford a professional.
In this article, we’ll teach you how to get project management experience.
How to get project management experience – Our 9 tips you should follow
The best way to prepare yourself for a project management position is to change your approach. Here are 9 tips you should follow to become a successful project manager:
Practice your planning skills
Planning is the cornerstone of good project management. As a PM, you must create a good plan that your team can follow. The plan should include aspects such as required resources, estimated time of completion, and communication strategy.
Knowing how to plan will be the first skill you must develop before you become a good project manager.
Look for opportunities outside of work
While you can hone your PM skills at work, that alone may not be enough. To get even more experience, you can volunteer. Just make sure you assume the leader position.
In an era where no one wants to do anything for free, volunteers are always in high demand. And unlike job hunting, volunteering is accessible to everyone regardless of experience. Even undergraduates can volunteer if they choose to.
Although you won’t get paid for this, the skills you acquire can be payment enough. You can volunteer at the following:
- Setting up a local fair
- Preparing a venue for a non-profit event
- Overseeing an after-school program
Keep a record of your work
This tip is something most of us wish we knew earlier. Keeping records of your work can boost your PMP application. PMI often demands a detailed overview of the past projects you managed. These details cover qualifying hours, dates of employment, roles, references, and organization details. Make sure you keep track of them all when you work on a project.
But what exactly defines project management experience? PMI defines it as a ‘temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product or service’. Though it sounds somewhat fancy, the meaning is simple. A project is anything that has a clearly defined goal and a set deadline for its execution.
Try to gain as much experience at work as you can
While you can volunteer to gain some extra experience, the odds are the opportunity sits right under your nose. If you believe project management is something you want to do, you can ask your employer to help with their projects.
Finding a good employee isn’t easy. Most employers will thus be pleased with your proactive approach. Just keep in mind that the experience may be your only form of payment.
In some cases, you can also express your interest in PM. Who knows, perhaps you’ll move up a few positions in your organization.
You can gain a lot of experience from other people. For instance, you can join conferences to hone your project management skills.
Apart from that, networking provides several additional benefits for your career. With enough luck, it may even land you a new job.
Join a project management organization
Even though this doesn’t help you directly, you can learn a lot from working with other project managers. Joining a project management organization also comes with good advancement opportunities.
Our recommended PM organizations are:
- Project Management Institute (PMI) located in the US
- International Project Management Association (IPMA) located in the Netherlands
- Association for Project Management (APM) located in the UK
- Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM)
Build your own project
Our tips thus far assume you’re surrounded by opportunities. But if have trouble finding some, you can build your own project.
Whether you focus on your community or the company where you work is up to you. The project can be simple and inexpensive. Think of it as a means of testing your project management skills.
Once you become a project manager, don’t expect to jump in on large, profitable projects.
Companies won’t hire someone who lacks the experience to oversee an undertaking of this scope. Instead, be ready to apply for a lower position and gradually work your way up.
Obtain your PMP certification as soon as you can
The earlier you get your PMP certification, the better. They often come with courses that can teach you a thing or two about PM.
A PMP certification shows that you have some degree of training. It also acts as a measure of your current skills. While a lack of certification doesn’t make you a bad PM, having one can certainly come in handy. If two candidates have the same resume but one has a certification, the employer will always choose the more qualified one.
What are the best jobs for gaining project management experience?
If you wish to pursue a project management career, it’s a good idea to start early. The following 9 jobs will help you find a solid footing in the project management world:
Some personal assistants handle several small projects at once. These can help you improve your task and time management. This is a good place to start since these projects are rarely difficult to oversee.
A project coordinator serves as the right hand of the project manager. Both positions interact closely together. This provides the perfect opportunity for you to learn from an expert. These projects are usually big, so you’ll see what high-end PM looks like in practice.
Project assistants work under a project manager. As the name implies, they help them with some of the PM duties. These include monitoring the project progress, scheduling meetings, and updating reports. Becoming a project assistant is a great way to test the waters.
As a business analyst, you gather data that eventually becomes part of a project. You may also assign tasks to team members during the execution phase.
Being an event organizer is practically the same as being a project manager. Thus, it’s a great opportunity for you to improve. Building an event from the scratch calls for a lot of planning and strong organizational skills.
To handle it, you’ll also have to communicate with several third parties. And don’t forget the time constraints. If you can handle working under these conditions, you’ll certainly make an excellent project manager. Adding this to your resume can thus help you land a good job.
Office Administrator or Manager
Both positions require strong communication and organizational skills. You must also be able to plan and execute tasks of all sizes effectively. Thus, these are also good first stepping stones on your career path.
Researchers must process a lot of data over a small timeframe. Sometimes, they may have to speak to the public. Both are important qualities found in a good project manager.
Developing a training plan is essentially a project. This makes it a great opportunity to learn new project management skills.
Side Hustle Hours
Some part-time jobs allow you to try your hand at project management. You can find such jobs on platforms such as Upwork or Freelancer.
How to get project management experience? Our final thoughts
One way you can get project management experience is to take a more proactive approach. You can look for PM opportunities both inside and outside your current job. Once you adopt the habits we mention above, you’ll be one step closer to becoming a good project manager.
You can also gain experience from a good project management job. Many jobs revolve around managing projects which makes them goldmines for PM experience.