There are a few paths to becoming a project manager. Formal training and education are one path for those who know that this is a career they want to pursue.
According to Ground Up Careers, many managers, team leads, and directors are thrust into a project management role they never planned or trained for. For those “accidental” project managers, there are steps they can take to become more effective and confident in their new role.
Identify Your Strengths
Project managers need to have an array of skills. If you’re thinking about a career in this field, take the time to figure out what you bring to the table already. For example, if you’ve ever planned a party, coordinated volunteers, or even managed a team of employees on a major project, these experiences may have somehow prepared you for the job. Consider how well you plan, lead, budget, and document progress and compare your strengths with the necessary areas of knowledge to succeed as a project manager.
Keep in mind that the specifics of each project differ, and your role will vary depending on the culture of the organization where you work. For example, the laid-back atmosphere of a software company might be very different from the intense culture of a healthcare institution. But a few general characteristics are common to most project management jobs. These include:
It’s important to understand that a project manager is the go-to person for many project stakeholders. This means that you’ll communicate with clients, team members, and others in various ways throughout the project’s lifecycle. It also means that you must be able to manage your own time and the project team’s time.
One of the most valuable things you can do as a novice project manager is to start keeping detailed notes and recording decisions and actions. This will help you avoid running into unexpected problems that might be difficult to deal with. For example, if a task isn’t being completed on time, you’ll need to clearly understand why and who is responsible.
Likewise, you’ll want to record meetings and document the results of those meetings to make sure that everyone understands expectations and responsibilities. This will help prevent miscommunication and confusion about the project’s scope, goals, and timelines.
After each project, take the time to review the result and determine what was successful and why. You can then use these lessons learned to improve your own performance as a project manager.
Determine Your Knowledge Gaps
A career in project management is not something you can just jump into without preparing yourself. The PM role is one of the most complex and multi-faceted fields of work out there, requiring a deep understanding of various aspects that make it unique from other business functions.
Luckily, there are a few different ways people get started on their path to becoming project managers. Some decide to pursue a formal degree program, while others opt for more informal learning through self-study, training courses, and mentorship opportunities. Regardless of how you choose to learn, the most important thing is that you do so!
Determining your knowledge gaps is one of the first steps in becoming a project manager. This is a critical step, as it will help you decide how to go about your learning journey. For example, if you have a lot of past project management experience and feel comfortable taking on more of an advanced role, then formal certification may be a great option for you.
However, if you have little knowledge of project management and need to start from scratch, then informal learning, like self-study or taking on smaller project management tasks within your current role, could be a better choice. It all comes down to your goals and needs.
Once you know your knowledge gaps, the next step is to create a plan for how you’ll fill them. This is where your knowledge of project management tools and methodologies will come into play. For example, a tool like Teamwork can help you stay organized by giving you full visibility over your team’s workloads and letting you know if anyone is getting too close to their capacity limits so that you can take action before it becomes a problem.
Once you’ve created your plan, it’s time to start putting your newfound knowledge into practice! Be sure to keep track of your progress and how well you’re executing your projects. Also, remember that if you have any questions, there’s always someone available to help you through your journey to becoming a project manager!
Take a Training Course
An online course is a great way to learn more about project management. It is also a convenient and time-saving approach. The best part about these courses is that they are available to anyone, regardless of their current job or location. After you’ve completed the course, you can decide whether or not to continue with the field of project management. If you do, it is a good idea to earn a certification in order to make it easier to transfer to a new role at another organization should you wish to leave your current job.
Besides taking a training course, it’s important to build up your knowledge of project management by acquiring hands-on experience in your current job. No matter what industry you work in, there are likely to be projects that need to be planned, executed, and monitored. Look for opportunities to get involved with these activities, and let your supervisor know you’re interested in developing your skills as a project manager.
One of the most challenging aspects of becoming a project manager is learning to motivate and lead people. This is especially true if you are not naturally an inspiring leader. The key is finding a way to leverage your influence and motivate others to work towards common goals. This can be accomplished by focusing on communication, delegating tasks, and providing guidance. Finding a mentor who can help you develop your leadership skills and provide a safe space for trial-and-error learning can also be helpful.
It’s worth noting that project managers can also be found in various fields, including technology, art, logistics, and finance. So, no matter your background or interests, there’s a chance you can find a project-oriented job that suits you.
If you’re unsure what sort of project-oriented job you’d like to pursue, try writing down all of the things you love about your current work. This will give you a sense of what type of career you might enjoy and the types of projects that you might be able to manage successfully.
Look for a Mentor
Having the right project manager mentor is vital in any career, and this is especially true for one who is new to the role. They can offer advice and support from their years of experience, which can help you overcome any challenges you may face. The first step is to look within your company to see if they have any formal mentoring programs that can pair you with someone who will be a good fit. Ideally, you want a mentor who works in your department. That way, they can help you with issues unique to your organization. For example, if your team has a tendency to be pessimistic, you might want a mentor who can help you address that so it doesn’t spill over into their morale or affect project success.
When searching for a mentor, be sure to find someone willing to take on the responsibility and spend time with you. They should also be able to commit to a set amount of time, such as weekly or monthly meetings. Before asking them to be your mentor, you should also discuss expectations and draft a mentoring agreement to ensure everyone understands what’s expected of each other.
In addition to having a wealth of project management knowledge, your mentor should be able to identify any gaps in your skills and make recommendations for how to fill them. They should also be able to coach you through some of the more difficult aspects of your job, such as budget estimations and resource allocation. They can also act as a sounding board for any questions or concerns about your role and provide encouragement when things aren’t going right.
If you’re ready to start your search for a project management mentor, click the green button below and complete our Mentor Reservation Form. We’ll be in touch shortly to arrange a meeting with Melinda, who can answer your questions and guide you through the process of becoming a professional project manager.