Procrastination can easily waste great ambition, skills and knowledge; it leads to regrets. Achievements lead to the realisation of how much you accomplished by being proactive earlier. The reality is, if you don’t put in the work, someone else will. Use this as fuel, understand your mistakes, apply lessons learned and stay proactive whilst setting achievable goals.
After three years in the project industry and many questions from university students, I’m here to share few tips from my journey to starting a successful career in project management. So, to keep this short and sweet let's get started with work experience and honing your skills
The majority of project managers have a background in a different role. So don’t worry about specific work experience, focus more on the transferrable skills that you have.
- Are you a great communicator?
- Are you organised?
- Enjoy leading a team?
- Dealt with many stakeholders?
- Are you able to multitask?
- Enjoy a challenge?
- Can think under pressure?
- Do you provide solutions?
- Have you got good problem-solving skills?
It’s likely that you can tick a lot of boxes already. If you’re not sure of what you know, APM provides a great Competence Framework which helps to assess and improve your skills and performance. Take a look to see what skills you can improve on and highlight, this is also a great example to give during your interview regarding your weaknesses and what you did to improve the skills you lacked. If you’re taking the route of a graduate scheme or an entry level position, everyone is aware that you’re at the beginning of your career, so just make sure to stand out and showcase your potential.
What are the benefits of being proactive?
- More opportunities to be considered for a full-time position.
- Building connections, learning from industry experts and collaborating with senior stakeholders.
- Possible salary or expenses paid so you can continue investing in your career.
- Shows career motivation and willingness to learn, which is especially helpful if you don’t meet all the specified requirements.
- Possibility to be part of established graduate and undergraduate communities.
Ways to be proactive
Go the extra mile. There are many ways to be proactive which provides the opportunity to learn and understand various aspects of project management; get real life experience and develop your skills to get a head start into your dream career.
Look for internships, placements and work experience.
Work experience includes a short amount of time spent with an organisation. Internships are fixed term contracts usually offered outside university term and allow you to try out the industry. And placements are longer contracts and more popular as a ‘year in the industry’ helps you gain extensive experience. There are many opportunities to be hands on with an organisation or a charity for some great experiences and self-growth.
If you’re struggling to find something, take initiative in your current role to lead projects or take on additional responsibilities. Volunteer for tasks that allow you to demonstrate your project management skills and get that experience under your belt.
Reach out to an organisation or a charity
Be resourceful. Emailing the organisation or charity you’re interested in is always an option; worst case scenario, they just say they don’t need help.
Ask them if you could address any of their potential problems. Analyse the problem, provide solutions, create a business case, risk registers, projects plan, budget, etc... Use project methodologies and tools which would afford you some great experience. Use your initiative and you never know, they might even consider your idea and allow you to help with the actual project.
Seek opportunities to observe and learn from experienced project professionals. Ask questions, take notes, gain insights into the day-to-day and see how project methodologies are tailored to different organisations. I think to easiest way to find shadowing opportunities is through networking, you can meet lots of project managers and other project professionals on the APM Community.
Apply project management to your daily projects
Run university group projects or other personal projects using project management methodologies. For example, SCRUM: having a project backlog, sprint planning meetings, sprint backlogs, daily stand ups, sprint reviews and retrospectives gives great talking points for your interviews. You could even take it up a notch and use a project management tool such as JIRA for epics and stories to show off your knowledge of a project management tool. Instead of doing a presentation, hold a facilitated workshop or apply any other methodologies - these little things will make your CV stand out.
I always preach about spreading the word of project management as a career option, so everyone knows it’s possible to enter this industry early in their journey. I only found out about project management during a module in my last year of my business management degree, which led me to apply for project management master’s course to improve my knowledge. However, I would’ve considered an apprenticeship if I was aware of this career route! So if full time university isn’t really your cup of tea, apprenticeships are great as you get experience, some salary as well as an opportunity to get a BA/BSc Project Management degree if you complete a level 6 apprenticeship. APM can help you become an apprentice here.
Learn new skills wherever you can
TikTok, LinkedIn and Instagram also have an enormous amount of information and tips for Excel, PowerPoint, project management, communication and sales etc. Some might not seem relevant, but you can learn new skills and if you’re great at sales and communication you will be able to master the art of selling yourself and appearing confident. The APM TikTok account also provides great insights and advice, and follow them on Instagram to keep with the latest tips.
By taking a proactive approach to gaining experience, you’ll demonstrate your commitment to the field and build a strong foundation of skills and knowledge. Seek out opportunities to learn and apply project management principles, and be willing to take on new challenges and responsibilities.
I hope you found this helpful and as a lady of many words, I will be back to cover CVs, interview tips as well as networking so see you soon. In the meantime, if you have any questions or would like more advice, leave a comment below or contact us here.