Is becoming a project manager on your career roadmap? Are you a leader who loves to keep everyone organized and on track? Does this type of work excite and inspire you? Then perhaps becoming a project manager is perfect for you! Don’t know where to start? Never fear — we’ve compiled an extensive guide to help you navigate project management and help you figure out how to become a project manager.
What Is A Project Manager?
First things first: what is a project manager? What does a project manager do? It’s actually quite a broad umbrella category, but in essence, a project manager (PM) manages any project with a defined scope (regardless of industry) all the way through conception, planning, initiation and completion. They control key constraints like budget, schedule, scope, and other related factors. Also sometimes called a Director of Project Management, a project manager is the first face of the project, the initial point of contact for any partners or outside parties involved with the project.
Project manager office roles vary according to company size, type, and culture but mostly include the following:
- developing project plans
- managing relationships with stakeholders
- facilitating communication throughout the team
- overseeing the project schedule and budget
- organizing any necessary deliveries or similar time sensitive matters
- handling any conflicts that arise during the course of the project.
It’s important to note that the title of project manager comes in many different types: architectural project manager, marketing project manager, construction project manager, engineering project manager, IT project manager, and many others. As you might imagine, each comes with their own specific duties and necessary knowledge, but the basic requirements of the project manager stay the same throughout.
PM vs PMO
Another important distinction in the world of project management is between the Project Manager (PM) and Project Management Office (PMO.) A PMO is an entire group of people or team dedicated to project management. However, these two positions actually operate on different levels. The PM oversees the day-to-day goings on of individual projects such as the scope, schedule, cost, and quality. Meanwhile, the PMO manages the big picture aspects like methodologies, standards, and overall risks and opportunities. The PMO will not be directly involved in planning the projects but will offer high-level support to all relevant stakeholders in the project, including the PM.
According to BetterTeam, PMO job descriptions would typically involve the following:
- Collaborating with department leaders to define and develop projects
- Overseeing project management, including setting deadlines and prioritizing tasks
- Analyzing financial data, including budget, risks, and resource allocation
- Providing budget reports and financial analysis to Executives
- Continuously evaluating projects to ensure they are adhering to company standards
Project Manager Skills
Project Managers need to have many soft skills, including leadership, communication, analytical and strategic thinking, adaptability, collaboration and a love for risk-taking. A Project Manager’s duties are constantly in flux and deadlines are always tight, so it’s best to have a stress-resistant personality as well.
Hard skills, on the other hand, are quite a bit more variable. There is no one specific project management skill to have and in fact, PMs will often have to know a little bit of everything involved in their project. While you won’t need to have an in-depth knowledge of, for example, coding software or architectural programs, having a general knowledge of what the people on your team actually do will be extremely important. There are also many types of project management software that make the life of a PM easier, but we’ll get to that later.
How To Become A Project Manager
Alright, let’s get to the heart of this thing. How do you become a project manager? If you think this career may be right for you, reach out to any PMs you may know and get their advice, read stories from successful Project Managers online, and maybe even consider taking on a project management internship. You can also take some introductory online courses to dip your toe into the project management pool and see if it’s right for you. You can find helpful project management courses on sites like edX, Alison, Coursera, Simplilearn, and Udemy.
Then comes the task of actually acquiring a Project Manager job. You might be wondering how to become a Project Manager with no experience. If you’ve taken some online PM courses, reached out to PMs you might know, looked into PM internships, and still can’t find an entry level Project Manager job, see if you can find a mentor in the industry or someone who’s open to letting you shadow their job. This could be a tricky proposition, but if you’re flexible and persistent and willing to put in some hours obtaining experience on the job, this could set you up better for getting the job you want.
According to Projectmanager.com, there are four key places to start when trying to get your first PM job:
- Volunteering inside and outside of your place of employment
- Applying for internships that may or may not lead to full time work
- Participating in a co-op program
- Applying for entry-level positions
Degrees and Certification
And now let’s talk degrees and certification. There are several types of Project Management certifications you can pursue and if you’re serious about making it as a PM, this is a great career move. This is a surefire way to make yourself more appealing to potential employers, regardless of whether or not you have relevant experience. Several types of PM certifications include:
- PM/BA: receive a certification or degree in project management from any number of undergraduate or graduate programs
- PMP: “Project Management Professional” is an internationally recognized certification offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI)
- Agile/Scrum: Organizations like the Scrum Alliance offer training and certifications in newer project management practices
When working towards your first Project Manager job, it’s also important that your resume is up to snuff. Zety.com has some great project manager resume examples for you to check out here.
The Five Phases of Project Management
So what does the work of a Project Manager actually look like? It is absolutely critical that there be a clearly defined project management plan. The work of a PM can actually be distilled into five distinct project management steps. Developed by the Project Management Institute, the five steps are as follows:
- Conception and Initiation – the start of the project, in which stakeholders are consulted, and feasibility is explored
- Planning – the phase in which goals and deliverables are clearly defined and a roadmap for accomplishing those goals is created
- Execution – the phase where deliverables are developed and executed
- Performance/Monitoring – the phase in which progress and performance are measured using key performance indicators (KPIs) to determine whether or not a project is on track
- Project Close – the phase in which work is completed and a post-mortem is performed to evaluate the success of the project
Project Manager Methodology
Now let’s get into the meat of project manager methodology.
What is project management methodology? Basically, it’s just the system and tools used to accomplish project management tasks. This could be specific software or just a particular organizational system that a PM uses. We’ll explore a few different examples of Project Manager methodologies below.
The Waterfall method is one of the most straightforward and linear approaches to project management and is mostly used in manufacturing and construction projects when a tight schedule is important. The waterfall methodology is a process in which tasks flow downward, where you can only move onto the next phase once the previous one has been successfully completed. This method typically makes use of the “Gantt chart,” and you can find examples of that here.
Critical Path Method (CPM)
CPM is an algorithmic model that manages the schedule of a project by measuring the duration of tasks to be completed. With this data, Project Managers can determine the most efficient route for a project to take. This technique is best suited to small and mid-sized projects as this type of data can be overwhelming on a large scale. Check out a more in-depth look at this method here.
Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM)
This method focuses less on schedules and tasks and more on the allocation of resources, including teams, equipment, and physical space. This is a less technical and more flexible technique that centers on keeping resources leveled.
Adaptive Project Framework (APF)
APF is a fast and adaptable methodology that works best in ever-changing project environments with iterative delivery. This technique was actually developed for IT and performs best in that type of flexible environment. The five phases of this method include the Project Scope, the Cycle Plan, the Cycle Build, Client Checkpoint and Final Review. You can read more about this technique here.
These four examples just barely begin to scratch the surface of all the many Project Manager methodologies out there. You can do a much deeper dive on these techniques and more at the Project Manager blog here.
As you can see, the role of a Project Manager is broad and varied, ever-changing and always exciting. If this is the career path that you have chosen, we hope you’ve gained some insight from this article and added some valuable tools to your toolbelt. Are you pursuing a job in project management? Do you have some favorite management software or methodologies that weren’t mentioned above? Let us know in the comments below!
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