A Project Management Paradox: Entering the PM Profession

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dhaughey
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Hi everyone,

How do I become a project manager? This is a common question on the forum. I've just heard business leaders on the radio this evening bemoaning the fact there's a shortage of project managers in the UK. I think they mean 'experienced' project managers because my observations suggest there's plenty of people wanting to join the profession. This is a project management paradox: new and aspiring project managers cannot get a project management job because they lack experience, and they cannot gain experience without being given a job.

There are no easy answers to entering the profession, but a good first step is to gain project management qualifications such as PRINCE2, Certified Scrum Master or Associate Project Management Professional. It shows a willingness to advance into the profession and that you are serious about becoming a project manager.

An approach some people have used to good effect is finding a job related to project management, such as PMO Supervisor, Team Leader, Change Manager or Business Analyst. Keep your ears open in your organisation to see what opportunities exist. Find out who's just left or gone sick and offer to help if you think it will advance your PM career prospects. The workplace is littered with accidental project managers; people that happened to be in the right place at the right time.

Project management is more than a methodology, so take the time to broaden your skill base. Good project managers have a lot of soft skills, so work on those.

Keep reading and learning about the profession and with any luck the break you are looking for will come.

Duncan
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kwalford
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Well said.

I would also add that jobs like Project Coordinator or Project Support are good entry jobs to 'get your foot on the ladder', so to speak. Some companies will be nervous to employee PM's with no experience so gaining some experience through roles which carry less responsibility could open up a lot of doors to future PM roles.

Thanks
stonesfan
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Purely from an IT point of view.

First of all I am not employed as a Project Manager but as 2nd/3rd line IT support. However, I have been lucky enough to have been allowed to work on the management of projects and have built up a reasonable amount of competence in this area. This is the natural 'way in' if you are working in IT support. It may be that if you are in IT and not able to get involved in the PM side of things, then I'd suggest moving to a large IT solution provider type company. One thing is guaranteed. They will have numerous PM's and chances are there will be opportunities to make the transition to PM smoothly with this type of company. They will hopefully even pay for your training if they see potential in you. If you get an interview with this type of company, do ensure you mention that you want to progress to PM/Service lead even if the job is for support. A number of larger IT companies are now expecting you to progress into this area as your career develops with them.

If you don't have it, get PRINCE2. I'll repeat, get PRINCE2 certified :)

Massive qualification to have on your CV if you are aspiring to become involved in PM.

Lastly, sorry to repeat...get PRINCE2 certified. Seriously, until you get this and have not worked as a PM, your chances of gaining employment in any form of PM are slim.
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dhaughey
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Interesting observation Stonesfan. It got me wondering what other jobs and sectors out there can help you springboard into project management. I can see how it works in IT. I wonder whether other industries - Construction, Petrochemical, Automotive do the same?

I agree with you about obtaining a PM qualification. It's very important to show commitment to joining the profession and this is the best way. PRINCE2 is a popular choice in the UK, as is APMP.

Duncan
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kwalford
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Prince2 is like the iPhone of Project Managment certifications, eveyone has got one!

In my opinion, you need to stand out from crowd with a certificate which is more challenging and shows a greater level of learning, thanks, Kit.
stonesfan
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kwalford wrote:Prince2 is like the iPhone of Project Managment certifications, eveyone has got one!

In my opinion, you need to stand out from crowd with a certificate which is more challenging and shows a greater level of learning, thanks, Kit.
Interesting take on things. Cannot argue with that statement at all. Stand out = better chance of success! Saying that though, I have asked a number of IT based recruiters of which qualifications they were looking for to fill the more managerial positions and the vast majority settled on PRINCE2 and ITIL. Again, this is only relevant for IT PM roles and I have little or no knowledge of the other domains.

Can only echo the previous postings as far as soft skills go too. Dare I say, you need to be a 'people person' and be willing to deal with a diverse range of personalities. Plus, you will at times be directly in communication with senior managers, executives and those who are basically 'high up'. Not always easy at first, but you will soon grow into this environment. Remember, they are human too probably started off in a far more junior position :)

Be positive, believe in yourself, its the kind of role of which your personality can be a huge deciding factor as well as your qualifications and experience.
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