How to Become a Project Manager in 2021: A Step-by-Step Guide
If you’re thinking about starting a career as a Project Manager (PM), there are several things to consider. It’s important to think about what you want out of a career and if project management is the right way to go.
A project management career path takes specific skills and hard work. Do your current skills match up with what a PM job would require? You should also consider the day-to-day tasks of a Project Manager — do they match your goals?
I’ve put together a list of things you should consider before jumping into life as a Project Manager. Once you go through the list, though, I’ll tell you how to get started.
Make sure Project Management is right for you
The first thing you’ll want to consider is if a Project Manager role is right for you. It would be a shame if you took all of the steps to become a successful Project Manager then didn’t even enjoy it!
Project Managers are the professionals who take a project from its beginning stages and see it through to completion. They wear many hats to keep the project and team members on-schedule.
Project Managers are leaders, but they always work in a team. They are flexible, but they use all of their project management skills to resolve conflicts and problems.
Evaluate your skill set
A good Project Manager has a diverse skill set and a strong work background experience that lends itself to the job. Here are some of the skills you’ll need for a Project Manager job:
- Strong work ethic
- Time management skills
- A solid understanding of risk management processes
- Proven self-management skills
- Strong leadership skills
- The ability to monitor and control budgets
- Critical thinking skills
- An understanding of business cases
- Communication and negotiation skills
- The ability to make decisions under pressure
- Interpersonal skills for leading the manager’s team
- The ability to interpret instructions in all forms
- Organizational skills
- Strong business acumen
- Multitasking skills
- A creative mindset
- Analytical skills
- Attention to detail
- Problem-solving skills
Another set of skills to consider are those from the 10 project management knowledge areas. These skills would be a part of any project management certification exam:
- Integration management
- Scope management
- Schedule management
- Cost management
- Quality management
- Resource management
- Risk management
- Communications management
- Procurement management
- Stakeholder management
You may already have some of these skills, which sets you up for a great start. Make a list of the skills you still need to learn or improve on — are these skills you want to learn? If so, you can take specific classes to learn them.
What the day-to-day looks like
If you’re new to project management, another thing to consider is what the day-to-day tasks look like. Of course, these tasks will likely vary depending on what industry your job is in. Here’s a look at some of the general tasks you can expect as a Project Manager:
- Ensure project tasks are executed and reviewed within the project scope
- Maintain accurate timesheets
- Ensure team members are well informed
- Evaluate team performance
- Establish effective communication
- Measure project performance
- Partner with departments to ensure work is done and meets demands
- Gather customer input
- Create revenue forecasts and predict resource requirements
- Make recommendations to improve the project
- Create and regularly update project documentation
- Prioritize project tasks
- Manage budgets and billing
- Evaluate customer satisfaction
- Define the project’s scope
- Develop and maintain professional business relationships
- Regularly follow-up on progress, risks, and project opportunities
- Mentor, motivate, and supervise members of the project team
- Develop detailed project management plans to track project progress
- Manage and track projects through their entire project lifecycle
- Conduct status meetings
- Report issues or conflicts to management when appropriate
- Set and manage project expectations with all stakeholders
- Direct and lead all project management phases
- Align teams to maintain the quality of deliverables
You can learn more about the daily tasks when you start looking at specific job descriptions. These project management job descriptions are also a good way to learn about additional skills you may need.
Where to begin
If you’ve read these considerations and are still interested in a project management career, it just might be for you!
Here are five steps you can take to get started:
- A good place to start is by talking to successful project managers. They can be people you already know or who are in your network. Ask them what their job is like, what they like about it, and what they dislike. You can also join the Project Management Institute (www.pmi.org) and join local project management chapters — or visit project sites — to meet other project managers.
- Next, start following project management blogs. You can read up on the industry and keep up with some of the experts in the field. Podcasts can also be a great place to learn about (and keep up with) project management.
- Consider an internship in project management. An internship is a good way to see if you like working in the industry while gaining project management experience. Of course, you may have to take a pay cut for an internship. This may not be an option for everyone.
- Learn about the different project certifications, including the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) and the Project Management Professional (PMP). See which certification might be right for you.
- Finally, take a project management class. This is a good way to start learning some of the necessary skills for the job. Plus, you can get a feel for the industry.
In project management, you don’t have to have a degree. Instead, you can gain working experience and/or various certifications.
You can also gain project management expertise by using project management software and/or project management tools.
Various software and tools will help you automate project steps, view projects in Gantt charts, and assist with project planning.
Once you begin learning some of these skills, implement them at your current job. You never know where that could lead you! Some people enter their career as a Project Manager after earning their PMP certification.
Some popular project management tools include Microsoft Project, Atlassian, Basecamp, Newscred, and Teamwork.
On the other hand, some take a more non-traditional route and create a project management position within their current company.
Be sure about how you want to approach project management before earning your certification. A certification is a lot of work — studying, taking the exam, and maintaining the certification.
However, a project management certification is well-respected around the world. It’s a great way to launch your career at any stage.
As you can see, project management is a complex career choice. However, it’s a very rewarding path. Becoming a Project Manager doesn’t happen overnight, but hard work and persistence will get you there.
Keep moving forward!
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