There are way too many career paths to becoming a Project Manager.
Each industry has its own rules. Each company has its vision of leadership and management.
The process of becoming a project manager is confusing and unpredictable.
I get it!
I’ve been there.
Nevertheless, there is a pattern that works.
Today, I will show the roadmap on how to become a Project Manager.
Here is what you need first:
1. Aquire Theoretical Knowledge
It goes without saying.
You do need a minimal knowledge of Project Management.
It is a minimal commitment you should make and display.
Without it, no one’s going to risk putting you in the role of a PM.
At least you will need to show it in an interview.
And here is the truth:
You can gain this knowledge for free or with minimal investment.
For an entry-level position, a Udemy or LinkedIn Learning course or a book on Amazon will be enough.
Moreover, you must ensure that you understand what it takes to be a Project Manager.
There is a portion of romance in this profession.
However, it is a difficult emotional labor.
Responsibility, pressure, constant interactions with people are tiresome even for extroverts.
Do yourself a favor and research the profession a bit.
Do I need a Certificate?
So, you are thinking about getting PMI’s CAPM, don’t you?
If yes, do check out the supporting materials in the Five Damaging Mistakes of Becoming a Project Manager.
It might be one of them.
2. Find Sources of Practical Experience
Next, you need to find out what does it really mean to manage.
“Theory of Project Management is out of sync with realities of real projects.”
I haven’t seen a book that will make you ready for the chaos of a big project.
Someone needs to show you what to do. Explain to you how small daily interactions create a massive momentum.
You need to find out what is essential and where you should put your focus.
Here is another truth:
You need to find a mentor here. Someone with project management experience.
There are no courses out there that teach the day-to-day practice as well.
3. Rebrand Yourself into a Project Manager
A career switch is a painful process.
I know it first hand.
Nevertheless, you need to rebrand yourself.
It means you need to review your previous experience. Then, you need to reconsider it from a perspective of leadership and management.
There is one thing that you need to show now.
You need to prove that you have skills and talents in organizing people, leading groups, and communication.
Another important aspect of a soon-to-be-project-manager is an ability to push the needle.
You need to showcase your ability to get things done.
No matter what your current position. You can find something relevant for becoming a Project Manager.
I’m not saying it is easy.
You need about two or three weeks to rebrand yourself. It includes re-writing CV, LinkedIn Profile, and finding new connections.
What if you don’t have experience in leading people?
What if you are just starting out?
Pay close attention to the next point below.
4. Find Opportunities for Initial Experience
That is how it usually happens.
“I want to become a Project Manager.” He said eagerly.
“Why do you want it?” I usually ask.
“So that I could do a better job! I want to make it all in a right way. I know how to improve the whole process!”
“Why have not you done that already?” I continue.
“Why? I’m not a project manager! They don’t listen to me.”
Here is what I usually ask in the end:
“So, you get a title of a Junior Project Manager. Then, those guys and gals with five, ten, or twenty years of experience in the field suddenly start seeing you as an authority?”
“Or maybe the title gives you extra powers and wisdom? Management doesn’t work that way.”
Yes, it is harsh.
The majority doesn’t understand this. But I hope you got the point:
You can manage and lead people without authority of a title.
It is the best experience that you can showcase on your CV of a project manager.
4.1 Create opportunities in your current position
Do you work alone in a silo?
If yes – you cannot be ready for a role of a Project Manager.
Otherwise, you can find “project management” experience opportunities right at your desk.
Do you have a superior, a manager, or a boss?
Offer your extra assistance. Identify a thing or two you can do for him. Suggest your help in doing that.
Put it directly – you want to learn the trade of management from him or her.
Do you work in a team?
It is even better. Every team has unresolved problems, inefficiencies, or process flows.
Organize them to improve your current work. Create value for your team or company in general.
Just don’t wait to be asked for it. However, don’t expect rewards.
It will be a valid experience for an entry-level role of a PM. Do not lock on showcasing only your real “in-title” experience.
4.2 Find opportunities inside your company
The easiest way to become a Project Manager is to develop into the role step-by-step in your current company.
What if your company doesn’t have PMs at all. Alternatively, what if they don’t have a career development like that?
Well, you are out of luck. There is nothing you can do here.
Moreover, if you really decided to become a Project Manager already – you are in the wrong company for a day too long.
Otherwise, go to your direct manager and state your desire to become a Project Manager.
Here the truth:
You may discover that there are no opportunities for you to become a PM.
There are two options here.
First, you can try and start looking for a Junior Project Manager role directly. See the next point then.
Second, you can try to find a suitable company to grow in. This company should have a transparent career development path for a Project Manager.
You get in a non-PM role. But you do negotiate your desire to become a Project Manager upfront.
5. Go for a Job Search
It will be discouraging.
Concerning the job search, you will be in a dire spot.
You are switching careers.
Entirely possible you will need to change an industry.
You may not have a proven track record. You will have only unrelated or indirect experience.
So, just be ready that it will take some time. Hundreds of CVs sent and many interviews failed.
Quitting your current job might not be a good idea.
Can you improve your chances?
5.1 Network with other Project Managers in advance
Lots of Project Manager positions are never advertised.
They are closed with internal resources and referrals from employees.
Sometimes PMs share open positions in social networks.
(They are looking for candidates they will be working with closely.)
I say there are many opportunities here.
So, start to build relationships, start communicating. Get on their radar.
At the very least, you will get some useful insights from them.
By the way, offline events work as well.
5.2 Reach out to recruiters
Like, do it now.
Don’t wait until you are ready.
The same thing works here:
Get on their radar. Build relationships.
Don’t push your CV with the first message. Connect, say hello, and follow their activity.
If you see a relevant position you can take – reach out. You are less a stranger by this moment.
5.3 Be active on LinkedIn
I hope you are not an old-school believer.
If you want to be noticed or related to a particular industry or niche you have to be active there.
Do you want to be a project manager?
Follow #projectmanagement, #management, #projectmanager hashtags on LinkedIn.
Use them when you ask a question.
Follow the thought leaders. Ask more questions. Read and research.
Once you get a role of a Project Manager, you will have much less time to learn.
Conclusion: How to Become a Project Manager
Yes, it is not easy.
There are many layers you need to get through.
However, the profession is on the rise. The demand for project managers is higher every year.
It will not change in the nearest future.
Everything is a project.
5 Mistakes of Becoming a Project Manager
In this short PDF, I go deeper into specific mistakes soon-to-be-PMs make.
These mistakes may slow your progress drastically.
Learn how to avoid or overcome them.