Your First Job in Project Management

The field of Project Management is a flourishing one and the trend appears likely to continue for the foreseeable future. This makes it a great industry to be a part of but it can also make it one that is not always easy to get in to. Many project management positions advertised require experience and most list qualifications as a mandatory requirement for application. But with the right strategy and a small training investment, you could enjoy a rewarding career laden with prospects and opportunities.

Your Experience

A catch-22 situation often occurs regarding experience in various fields and this is also true of project management. Potential employers want evidence that you are capable of doing the job and this requires experience. But as a new Project Manager, in order to get experience, you need the opportunity to gain it. There are, however, ways to tip the scale in your favour. A catch phrase that has been bouncing around in recent years is “accidental project managers”. It has been noticed that many jobs could be called project management simply due to the nature and structure of the work performed; regardless of the official job title or description. If you have worked in an environment where you are expected to produce a certain package of work within a certain time frame and to specified standards and criteria – you have basically worked on a project. It is important though to remember that being a project team member is not the same as being in the role of Project Manager.

Project Manager Duties

The work of a Project Manager generally involves the management of finances, resources and critical deadlines. Project Management roles are managerial by nature and tend to be directly tied to revenue and the achievement of the project goals. There are many skills that are required by a successful Project Manager that can be natural or gained in other industries. Some of these include:

  • Analytical skills
  • Problem-solving techniques
  • Planning and organisational skills
  • Teamwork
  • Communication skills
  • Presentation skills
  • Leadership attributes

Promoting your CV

Highlighting these skills on your CV will make it far more likely to stand out when being viewed by a recruiter or potential employer. These are complementary skills and will show the person viewing your CV that although you do not have project management experience, you do possess the necessary soft skills to enable you to become a successful project manager.

Possibly the most useful aspect of your CV when it comes to finding your first job in Project Management is your list of qualifications and certifications. It is important to list all qualifications that you have achieved – even those that do not relate directly to the position that you are applying for. Proving that you have invested in training will demonstrate your dedication to bettering yourself and gaining the skills and knowledge that are required to perform productively in your role. Some of the following types of courses will go a long way to displaying your abilities to manage a project and should be highlighted on your CV and in your cover letter:

  • Report Writing
  • Requirements Analysis
  • Business methodology
  • Budgeting
  • Planning

PRINCE2®, The UK’s Number 1

When it comes to Project Management, the de facto methodology in the UK, and many other parts of the world, is PRINCE2. This is a highly renowned project management method and has earned its reputation by providing a framework which can be tailored to suit any project and has greatly enhanced the chances for projects to result in a successful conclusion. It is a fact that many organisations are now considering a PRINCE2 certification as compulsory in potential candidates for project management job roles. The recruitment process is a lengthy and costly one so recruiters are always looking for ways to streamline their efforts. It has become fairly common practice to discount project management candidates who do not possess any project management certifications.

Agile and PMP Alternatives

Although PRINCE2 is the big name in the field, others such as Agile and PMP are also popular in their own right. The great thing about project management training is that each of these different methods can complement each other and there is a growing trend for using a combination of PRINCE2 and Agile. If you are looking for your first job in Project Management, the best advice you can follow is to get certified. This may seem like a very daunting prospect that will take a lot of time and money to achieve, but this is not the case.

The PRINCE2® Course

The PRINCE2 course in particular can be completed in a relatively short period of time (approximately 40-50 hours for both the Foundation and Practitioner) and both of the PRINCE2 courses can be studied in your own time using a reputable online learning institution. Not only can the courses themselves be studied from home, but both exams can now be taken online as well. This enables you to study at your own pace and at a time that is conveniently suited to your personal schedule. A high quality training institution will also offer financing options to suit most budgets and this will allow you to spread the costs of your studies in a way that makes it more manageable. With the right advice and a knowledgeable advisor, you can gain the certifications that you need to make your CV stand out from the rest when applying for your first job in project management.

Certifications Build Employer Trust

Not only do official certifications add enormous benefit to your CV, they also portray you as a much lower employment risk to the organisations who are hiring. They show that you have the theoretical knowledge and the understanding of a project management methodology which means that minimal training will be required in order for you to begin working as a functioning member of the project team. This is very appealing to an organisation for multiple reasons. It is cost effective for the company and it saves time which equates to further financial savings as well. A trained candidate will also already be familiar with the chosen method which allows for ease of communication and the ability to quickly reach higher levels of productivity within the project team. It is often the case that a lack of official project management qualifications will see you being excluded from the shortlisted candidates who progress to the interview stage. It is not necessary to take this risk with your future career when project management training can be both affordable and convenient.

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Demonstrate Your Skills

When creating your CV it is essential to remember that this document needs to display your skills and talents as well as communicate your abilities to perform the particular job that you are applying for. When applying for your first job within the field of project management, you will need to demonstrate that you are capable of the following:

  • Managing budgets
  • Tracking work progression
  • Problem-solving
  • Planning
  • Meeting deadlines
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Strongly leading a team

The Person Being Interviewed

Another factor to consider when preparing to apply for your first position in project management is that employers will also want to gain a sense of you as a person. A lot of this will be done during the interview process but in order to reach that stage you will need to create a great first impression via your CV. As well as demonstrating your qualifications and soft skills, it is good practice to provide a list of some of your hobbies and interests. This is not compulsory but adds depth to your CV and gives the recruiter a better idea of the type of person that you are. When including interests and hobbies on your CV, be sure to keep them interesting and expand on them a little. Mention particular genres when stating that you enjoy films or reading. Instead of simply saying that you enjoy outdoor sports, be specific that you are a cyclist or a marathon runner. This demonstrates passion for what you do (this is absolutely vital in project management) and provides conversational topics for the interviewer to discuss with you. Also be sure to keep this work appropriate – employers do not wish to hear that you go clubbing every night or are the local beer pong champion. Put your strongest traits forward and you will portray an impression that will assist your application.

Sell Yourself Through Your CV

With the required training, a well-structured CV and a concise but informative cover letter explaining what you can bring to the organisation, you are prepared to start applying for your first role in project management. Be confident in your abilities and know that you have made preparations to fulfil the role in an effective and efficient manner. The recruitment process itself is relatively simple and mostly out of your control. If the recruiter feels that you have what the organisation is looking for, you will be invited to interview for the position and this will provide you with the opportunity to expand upon your CV and gain a deeper insight into the job that is being offered.

The Competition

The competition for project management roles is quite fierce and it is possible that you will not get the first job that you apply for. Do not allow this to discourage you as the world of project management is expanding daily and there will be other positions available. If you are unsuccessful in your first attempt, politely ask the organisation if they would be able to offer you feedback. This can prove to be highly valuable in developing yourself further and increasing your chances in subsequent attempts. This also provides an opportunity to embrace the ways of project management. Use your problem-solving abilities to work out a strategy to increase your chances and perhaps, improve on your CV further. There is a wealth of project management information available on the internet so use this as a chance to pursue further reading on the subject and learn as much as you can from the experiences of seasoned project management professionals.

Practical Experience

Another way in which to improve your chances is to gain some form of practical project management experience. This does not have to be in the form of managing a multi-million business expansion project. It could be something as simple as volunteering to assist a local charity with a fund-raising event or planning the wedding of a friend or family member. This type of proactive approach will not be overlooked by a recruiter and it will demonstrate your ability to take charge and do what needs to be done. This is a very attractive characteristic in a potential project manager and will also teach you a lot about what the role will entail. You will also be able to gauge what your strengths and weaknesses are and it will provide you with an opportunity to practice and improve the skills that are required to become a successful project manager.

Go For It!

Be passionate and enthusiastic about your newly chosen profession. Be eager to learn as much as you can. Enhance your skills and knowledge at every opportunity. Demonstrate dedication and a strong work ethic and you will be sure to find the perfect position to make your entrance into the fast-paced and exciting world of project management.

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