How to Get Into Project Management

How to get into project management

Getting into Project Management takes a certain set of skills. Whether you’re looking to transfer to a Project Management job in your current company, or apply for a position with a new company, this article will show you what’s needed.

If you’re looking to get into Project Management, you should try to demonstrate your ability in the areas below during an interviewer, or at least convince the person interviewing you that you’re capable of becoming very strong in these areas.

First, here are a few reasons you might want to consider a career in Project Management:

  • Ability to take ownership of large projects from start to finish
  • Interact with many groups/areas in your company
  • Ability to earn 6 figures, often with just a Bachelor’s degree (and experience of course)
  • Variety of work and challenges, unlikely to be boring
  • High visibility in your organization

How to Get Into Project Management… Key Skills:

1. Leadership ability

I’ve spoken with a lot of Project Managers over the years of working as a Recruiter. One of the common challenges they talk about is leadership. It’s difficult because the people you’re overseeing don’t report directly up to you usually.

You’re responsible for guiding their efforts when they’re assigned to your project, they have a different boss that handles their performance reviews, hiring, firing, etc. For example a Software Engineer might be assigned to your project but their direct manager would be an Engineering Manager.

It’s harder to get somebody to buy into your leadership and follow your guidance when you don’t do their year-end review.

As a Project Manager you’ll be responsible for project budgets, timelines, goals and milestones, and delivering the final result. That’s a lot of responsibility to have. When you factor in not being the direct boss of anybody working to help you reach these goals, leadership becomes one of the biggest challenges and one of the most important skills to have.

So if you want to know how to get into Project Management, start by developing a leadership style where people genuinely want to work with you. Don’t lead based on the fact that you’re higher up in an organization than somebody else. Because as a Project Manager, you won’t have this to lean on.

2. Organizational skills

You’re responsible for a ton as a Project Manager. I hinted at a few areas above like goals, timelines and budgets. You’re also in charge of dividing up the work among your team to achieve the best results. So it becomes pretty important to stay organized.

Nobody else is going to track the milestones on your project. Nobody else will determine what the priorities are or what needs to be done next. It’s your job. People assigned to your project, and upper management in your company will look to you for these answers.

There might be multiple pieces of the project being worked on simultaneously. Each piece takes different amounts of time. Sometimes one portion has to be finished before another piece can be started. Planning all of this out takes skill and organization. Adjusting as things change unexpectedly is a skill as well (see #3 below).

So if you want to get into Project Management, look for ways to demonstrate your ability to stay organized. Think of some examples of times you’ve performed well with tasks like this. You can mention these in an interview. One of the best interview tips I can offer is to prepare specific facts and examples to back up these claims.

Also try to take on more responsibility like this in your current role to prepare for a job as a Project Manager. Whatever your current job is, make it your goal to know what the priorities are as well as when different tasks need to be done. Don’t wait to be told or reminded. Find out, and prioritize your own day or week around this.

3. Flexibility

Keeping calm under pressure and staying flexible when the unexpected occurs is going to be an important skill if you want to get into Project Management and succeed.

Things rarely go as planned. You won’t see many projects that run from start to finish without encountering some roadblocks. So the ability to adjust and react when the situation changes is essential.

Your team will be looking to you for guidance when this happens. You may have to shift the priorities, delegate different tasks to different people, etc.

Nobody else will be able to do this for you. You’re responsible for the project.

So in a job interview for a Project Manager position, you may want to mention a time when things didn’t go according to plan but you were still able to reach a positive result by adjusting in the moment.

Are there other skills that you think are needed to get into Project Management? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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