Entering the project management field: a 7 step plan

Entering project management is a challenging but well worth the effort. Take your time to plan this project and you will see results.

Project management is a rapidly growing profession known for both high compensation and growth opportunities. According to the Robert Half 2015 Salary Guide for Technology Professionals, the salary range for project managers is $90,000 to $140,000 in 2014. Project managers remain some of the best paid professionals in IT and other industries in Canada.

Beyond earnings, project management offers the potential to change the world. Whether you are delivering new technology, building a sports stadium or organizing a conference, project management offers the potential to leave your mark on the world. Project management work also involves the challenge of creatively solving problems.

Now that you’re convinced about the merits of the field, you need a plan to get started. The following seven step plan will put you on the path to your first role in project management. Of course, a plan alone cannot guarantee success – you have to put the plan into action. These steps will significantly improve your chances of success.

1) Join the Project Management Institute (PMI) & Local Chapter

Joining the Project Management Institute (PMI) is one of the best decisions you can make to advance your career. As a member, you will have access to a wealth of resources, reports and training materials through the PMI.org website. By joining your local PMI chapter, you can meet with other project managers and learn what they do. You may think that project managers only work in technology and construction but you will soon meet project managers in every industry through PMI.

Action: Go to the Project Management Institute website and register as a member.

2) Analyze Your Past Experience: What Projects Have You Done?

In order to obtain the world’s most important project management certification – the Project Management Professional (PMP) – you need project experience. Even if you don’t plan on going for the PMP right now, you can still benefit from thinking about your experience. You may discover, on further reflection, that you have excellent experience in planning projects or managing delicate stakeholder relationships.

Action: Review your resume and identify all the projects you have worked on in the past five years. For added benefit, map these requirements to the experience requirements described in the PMP Handbook.

3) Analyze Your Current Role: What Projects Can You Do Today?

Your current role presents a wealth of opportunities if you approach it with the right attitude. Look for problems or inefficient processes around you – this is the raw material for a potential project. If you can’t come up with ideas, ask your manager that you’re interested in working on a project to improve your organization.

Action: Read The Starter Project: Where New Project Professionals Get Their Start for further steps on how to improve a process through project management.

4) Analyze Your Network: Who Do You Know In Project Management?

Have you heard of the book “Your Network Is Your Net Worth” by Porter Gale? Truly, your relationships can have a transformative impact on your career. Review your LinkedIn connections to find out if anybody you know is already in project management. While LinkedIn is valuable, do not limit yourself to that resource. Also ask friends and family if they know anybody in the field.

Action: Identify two people in your network to speak with about your interest in project management this week.

5) Start Your Project Management Education: Learn To Earn

The best project managers invest in their education regularly. If you are just getting started in project management, consider taking an introductory project management course. You can also borrow or read project management books such as: the PMPBOK Guide, “Getting Things Done” by David Allen and “Making Ideas Happen” by Scott Belsky

Action: Pick up a book on project management this week and start reading.

Action: If you plan on obtaining a PMI certification such as CAPM or PMP, search the directory of Registered Education Providers for an option that suits your budget and learning style.

6) Determine Gaps In Your Experience and Knowledge: What Are You Missing?

Project managers are trusted to lead complex, high risk projects in a number of industries. In order to enter the profession, you need a combination of experience and knowledge. You can determine your gaps through self-analysis and seeking feedback from others in the field.

Action: Review about the five Process Groups (Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring and Controlling and Closing) of project management defined in the PMBOK Guide and determine where you have gaps. For example, you may be strong in Execution but lack experience in Planning.

Action: Take a project manager out for lunch and ask them to review your qualifications. Ask them what training and experiences you need to get started in the field.

7) Close the Gaps In Your Knowledge And Experience To Achieve Your Goals

Congratulations on completing the first six steps of this plan. You know understand the fundamentals of project management and what skills you need to develop. Over the coming weeks, you will need to continue your study and continue completing projects. Remember to continue building your network: tell people about your progress and ask how you can help them.

Action: For additional guidance, consider hiring a career coach. For example, Dev Ramcharan PMP, based in Toronto, specializes in coaching project managers.

Bruce Harpham is the editor of ProjectManagementHacks.com, a resource for growing IT project managers. Bruce’s work has appeared at Project Times, IT World Canada, Business Analyst Times and other industry publications. To grow your project management career, sign up for email updates at ProjectManagementHacks.com.

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