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Five tactics to help you land your first project role

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Whether it’s the variety, the chance to make a difference, or earn an average salary of over £56,000 per year, project management is a sought after profession. APM’s Thames Valley Branch recently held a series of events to help early career professionals navigate their way into the project profession. Here is the tried and tested advice that was shared as five must-know tactics to help you land your first role.

1. Use life skills and past experience to build your profile

While there are many technical project management skills, the best project professionals possess strong soft skills (think organisation, communication, and leadership) to make things happen. What’s the best thing about these skills? There’s a good chance you’ve already developed them in your everyday life.

The challenge is articulating those skills (and how you’ve applied them) in job applications and interviews. When building your applications, don’t be afraid to use examples from sports teams, university societies, volunteering, or even your existing job role to showcase your array of soft skills.

Many people don’t apply for project roles because they don’t think they can give evidence of project management skills. There’s a good chance you can, so think outside the box and use examples of soft skills from other walks of life.

2. Qualifications aren’t essential, but they do help

Most entry-level roles don’t require formal qualifications, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn't try and get one. Remember, when reviewing applications, hiring managers want to convince themselves that you’re someone they can rely on, so what’s better than a third party opinion?

The APM Project Fundamentals Qualification (PFQ) is an excellent introductory qualification that teaches the foundation knowledge of delivering outstanding projects. At just £240 for a non-member exam and a range of training options available, it’s a cost-effective way to get another tick in the box for your CV. If that’s not right for you, several online training platforms, such as Udemy, Coursera, and LinkedIn, can also help you gain and demonstrate basic project knowledge.

Many entry-level roles don’t require a project management qualification, but if you’re trying to stand out from the crowd, I’d recommend trying to get one under your belt.

3. Use pathway schemes to help you make the first step

Many organisations know breaking into the project profession is tough, so they set up pathway schemes to help. These schemes don’t just give a first step on the career ladder but also provide training and development to set you up for future success. Common pathway schemes include:

  • Apprenticeships and internships
  • Graduate schemes
  • Ex-military resettlement schemes
  • Return to work programmes
  • Secondments and fixed-term contracts

Especially for those looking to change careers, it’s worth exploring what’s available as the world of pathway schemes is far more diverse than just the grad schemes and internships. Consider exploring pathway schemes alongside traditional permanent roles during your job search. They’ll make the transition to a new career smoother and more supported.

4. Explore roles that aren’t for ‘project managers’

There’s a lot more to delivering projects than a competent project manager. Project teams are made up of diverse roles, each with their own responsibilities, skills, and perspectives. When eyeing up your first role, consider support roles such as Project Coordinator, Project Administrator, PMO Analyst, or Business Analyst as a great way into the profession.

Not only will they help you take your first step, but they’ll also expose you to different aspects of project management that you may not have considered. From there, you can use your experience to transition to a different role in the future if you choose to.

A project manager isn’t the only role in a project team. Don’t discount supporting roles as a great way to start your project professional journey.

5. Have the confidence to apply even if you don’t tick every box

A lot of people shy away from applying for job roles because they don’t tick every box on the job spec. While you need to be efficient and realistic with the roles you apply for, I'd recommend taking the initiative to apply if you’re ticking off over 70% of the requirements.

Those on the other side of the hiring process have a hard time finding the perfect person. In many situations, years of experience and qualifications come second to someone with the right attitude and characteristics to slot into the team.

There’s no right or wrong way to land your first project management role, so pluck up the courage and put your hat in the ring! You have to be in it to win it, so don’t be afraid to apply for roles where you meet 70% of the requirements — your initiative and courage might just help you stand out!


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  1. Corina Patrunsu
    Corina Patrunsu 02 April 2024, 12:27 AM

    I agree: "Those on the other side of the hiring process have difficulty finding the perfect person. In many situations, years of experience and qualifications come second to someone with the right attitude and characteristics to slot into the team." However, the market is tough.