How to Get Into Project Management
If being a leader and organising people and projects comes naturally to you, you may want to learn how to get into project management, as it could be a suitable career option with many rewards.
Project management is a highly complicated field to work in. A project manager leads an entire project from start to finish, starting with initial planning, through to execution and completion, motivating and directing the team that is working on the project. Naturally, you should expect to be part of a team if you are a project manager.
You’ll also need to be flexible and patient, with a willingness to adapt to different situations and environments. You’ll need all your skills in project management when a problem occurs, so that you can resolve it quickly.
Ultimately, a project manager’s role is senior because they are responsible for whether a project is a success or failure. They need to be a people person, with the ability to read people the moment they meet them. If there are any client complaints or mistakes on a project, the project manager is responsible and the blame lies with them, so paying attention to detail and accuracy is a must.
That said, if you can maintain high levels of organisation, it can be a highly rewarding and interesting career with many different projects to work on. One thing is for sure – you’ll never get bored.
What does a project manager do?
Essentially, a project manager defines an overall scope of a project, and is in charge of all project phases – from start to finish. They prioritise tasks for the project, develop a plan in which they can manage and track all of the project’s phases, and ensure all team members have what they need to complete the project on time.
- Conduct meetings
- Manage projects via KPIs
- Supervise team members
- Manage budgets
- Evaluate team performance
- Ensure effective communication
A project manager is responsible for the success of an entire project – so having a calm head is important. You’ll need to provide moral support to your team, as well as leadership, and also organise the more intricate details like planning and budgeting.
If you’re already juggling multiple tasks in your current role, alongside managing a team, and are already the person who signs off resources, it is likely you are some kind of project manager.
Key skills of a project manager
You need great soft skills to be a good project manager, because you need to be a great team leader and communicator. You’ll need to adopt strategic and critical thinking to make quick and decisive actions, with resilience to stress and an adaptable personality.
Regarding hard skills, it helps to have an Accredited Level 3 Project Management Diploma, or a qualification in portfolio management or general business studies, as this demonstrates that you know the necessary stages in a business project.
Another important skill to have is budgeting and understanding how best to allocate and distribute resources, all working within your budget. You’ll also need a general understanding of people management, management frameworks and so on.
You’ll be working as part of a team, not on your own, and others will be looking to you for leadership at every stage. This may mean adopting good negotiation and communication skills, and making tough decisions under pressure. Even if you later realise that project management isn’t for you, having work experience or qualifications in project management can lead to a range of other exciting careers.
Here are some of the best project manager soft skills to have:
- Self and project management skills
- Good negotiation and communication skills
- Good interpersonal and people skills
- Critical thinking
- Analytical skills
- Motivation and a good work ethic
- Being accountable
- Knowledge of business frameworks
- Ability to follow instructions and interpret any kind of instruction from a client
- Problem-solving skills
Industries a project manager could work in
There are many industries that require project managers, especially as digital and remote-first ways of working are on the rise. Let’s look at these industries in a little more detail:
The tech sector is experiencing a boom, with a great increase in jobs in the field as AI and blockchain continue to be at the forefront of the industry.
Project managers working in this industry may be leading the development of a new kind of technology or software that a company wants to bring to the market, so it is likely they will be inspiring and leading teams that produce new technologies to improve our lives.
Project managers working in the health sector may find that their roles cover the delivery of services. These are challenging roles, as budgets and metrics are often out of the project manager’s control. Those working in this sector have the opportunity to make changes to a much-needed vital resource.
Construction is an important sector for project managers, who will most likely be overseeing the financing, worker resource, budget and health and safety regulations of buildings or homes being constructed.
Those working in the energy sector may find themselves project-managing initiatives for greener and smarter energy, working at the forefront of the battle against climate change.
In the financial sector, a project manager’s main focus may be to allocate and budget resources. Strong budgeting skills are needed for this kind of role, as well as good soft skills to liaise with relevant stakeholders and undertake possible negotiation.
In the above sectors, a project manager’s role can vary depending on the scope and type of project they are assigned to. However, there are many tasks they will need to do regardless of the sector they work in, including compiling risk assessments and other reports, creating charters, creating budgets, coordinating meetings and workforce resources, managing tasks and so on.
Project management qualifications
At Oxford Learning College, we offer a range of project manager qualifications that can help you to kickstart or advance your career in project management. These include:
- Accredited Level 3 Project Management Diploma
- Quality Licence Scheme Level 3 Project Management (B) Diploma
- Quality Licence Scheme Level 3 Portfolio Management Diploma
- Level 4+5 Accredited Management Studies Diploma
Our accredited diplomas and courses equip you with the tools and skills you need in areas such as business administration, financing, human resource management, leadership and strategic planning. With the knowledge acquired from one of our project management courses, you will stand out to employers as a competent professional.
To pursue a career as a project manager, you can also enrol in Level 4 apprenticeships while working for up to two years, learning important skills while on the job. Project management apprenticeship roles in the NHS for example can be found here.
It is also possible to obtain an MSc degree in project management from a university, although you will need certain A-Level results, and costs are significantly higher than taking a diploma course, so a student loan or other source of funding may be required.
Career path for a project manager
It is always advantageous to have work experience in business, or some form of finance, technology or management role in your career if you are considering a career in project management. This will give you a greater awareness of what projects need in terms of scope, and you’ll also have a good network of contacts.
Many people pursuing a career in project management start out by working in a team delivering work as part of a major project, where they can then work their way up the ranks. As a team member on a project, you’ll be required to demonstrate good timekeeping, report progress, deal with risk and be adaptable. With the right training and by working toward a promotion, this is a great first step to take. You may start off with a role as a project assistant, or project coordinator.
As you take the next step up, you may decide to take a degree or project management diploma so that you can apply for the role of project manager or leader within an organisation. As your career progresses, you’ll be able to take on longer and more detailed projects in order to advance to a senior project management role – like a project director.