So, you noticed that you need one or two years of relevant experience of a project manager.
I get it. It’s frustrating.
You want to get your first job as a PM.
But they want you to that much some experience.
In this article, I’ll share some thoughts and tricks on how to get that “relevant” experience.
And here’s what you need to understand:
Trying Things Out Also Counts
Relevant experience does not equal to the experience in the capacity of a Project Manager.
It means you need to have experience similar to what a PM does.
Recruiters don’t even mean skills on using project management techniques or tools.
Here’s the catch:
A project manager organizes people to do a work in a controlled and predictable way.
You need to have skills in working with people. Specifically, you need to know how to organize them.
You need to do it in a way they like.
A project manager keeps the wheels turning.
What does that mean?
Well, it means everything and anything.
You need to do whatever it takes to push the project to its goal.
Quite often it requires you to make decisions.
Therefore, you’ll have to take responsibility for those decisions.
In the process, you’ll need to communicate a lot.
That’s actually it.
These are the areas where you need relevant experience:
- Organizing people
- Making decisions
- Taking responsibility
Notice there’s no dependency on any project management methodology or technique.
So, here’s what you can do:
1. Take an Unofficial Vacant Leadership Position
A leadership vacuum is always present in any company and on any project.
People at official leadership positions can’t address all the needs.
You can always find an opportunity to improve something or help someone.
Therefore, you can become an unofficial leader for a small group of people. Now, you can try to organize them to act upon a problem.
Ideally, you need to get support from your boss. At the very least, you need to inform him or her about your endeavor.
Your efforts shouldn’t be unnoticed.
In the end, you’ll want to put this experience into your CV.
So, here’s what you need to do:
- Identify a problem worth dealing with.
- Select a solution.
- Implement the solution:
3.1 Organize people, don’t do it yourself
3.2 Measure your progress – you need numbers in your CV.
3.3 Communicate with your boss to validate results.
3.4 Take responsibility for the outcome.
- Describe “before and after.”
- Explain it as if you planned it all from the beginning.
2. Build a Career of a Project Manager One Step at a Time
I know for sure it’s difficult to leap right into the position of a Project Manager.
It’s even harder when you have no experience in a leadership position.
Don’t try to force your way to the top skipping several steps on the ladder. Make a natural progression step-by-step.
It may take longer. There’ll be roadblocks.
But you’ll gain valuable experience in the process.
Moreover, you’ll be under less stress.
So, look around your current company.
Do they have a leadership role?
Anything will do that will allow you to state:
“I lead a group of five persons…”
“I managed a small project of seven team members…”
“I was in a leadership role…”
But here’s an important tip:
You should always keep your ultimate goal in mind. All the interim steps should help you transition to a PM role.
It means you need to be transparent with your management about your intentions to become a Project Manager.
Most of the times, it will work to your advantage.
3. Become a Volunteer
OK, I get it.
There might not be official or unofficial leadership roles in the organization you work in.
However, there’s always a cause that would benefit from the proper organizational effort.
It may not be a full-time job. It may not be a project.
Remember that you need to gain experience in organizing people, making decisions and communicating.
Yes, it’ll be free of charge. You need to do some extra work.
Here’s the key:
You need to approach any opportunity from a perspective of a Project Manager.
As much as possible you need to apply the project management basics.
Check this article to see what I mean:
Why do you need this?
You need to see and feel resistance from people you will lead.
They will be eager to do something useful. But they will not want to follow the lead. They will not want to be controlled.
At least at the beginning until they see the benefits of your efforts to organize them.
And you need to sell them the benefits of the project management. However, you may need to use simple words.
Here’s one more tip:
For sure, you will put such experience in your CV. Nevertheless, there should be a story behind it.
And here’s what will make it powerful:
“You should NOT say that you accidentally got such experience. It was your educated decision to try yourself out in a leadership position.”
You volunteered because you knew it would be a challenge and experience you needed. Frame it this way and do include your efforts to apply project management.
4. Become an Assistant Project Manager Now
Last but not least – look around. What do you see?
If your company does projects, you see some project managers.
Most likely, you’ll see experienced PMs.
Junior PMs are doing some routine tasks right now. Experienced managers do something meaningful, visible, and tangible.
So, it may feel like your company only needs such experienced Project Managers.
You may feel like you need to learn first, gain experience, get a certification.
But here’s the truth:
A company wants the cheapest labor it can get.
If they can get a Project Manager for half the price – they will do it.
Moreover, it’s much easier to find a substitution for you than a suitable project manager.
But there’s only one problem you need to overcome:
They’re not ready to entrust you their clients and people. And it’s not about your knowledge and skills. It’s about how responsible and reliable you are.
So, communication comes into play.
You need to become a savvy communicator.
You need to keep your management well informed about your progress in learning the basics of project management.
You need to keep your name at the top of their minds. You should be an easy solution for the next opening.
It also helps to get a mentor inside the company.
This person will know your abilities and knowledge first hand.
He or she will understand what kind of a project manager you can become.
Most importantly, this person will provide feedback on you when the time comes.
Conclusion: Relevant Experience of a Project Manager
Is it hard to become find relevant experience or a project manager?
Is it hard to leverage the opportunity?
You need to overcome a lot of objections. You need to have a specific set of basic knowledge of project management. You need to be confident to communicate with your management.
Also, I recommend to read:
Do you want to become a Project Manager? Or are you an Accidental PM and you want to become a professional? If YES – click the button below and sign up to my free training.