Some project managers train specifically for a professional role in project management right from the start, whilst others progress through their organization in different roles, and at some point identify project management as a role they would like to take on. Sometimes it is a role that you fall into by accident or one that is thrust upon you; so practical experience is often gained before becoming certified.
If you are contemplating a career change then there are several things you should consider. Firstly you must consider if you think you have the right sort of personality to become a project manager, for instance:
- Are you comfortable taking the lead role in a high-pressure situation?
- Have you got the ability to effectively manage resources on a large scale?
- Can you think on your feet and quickly react to change?
- Do you have good problem solving skills?
- Do you have the experience with finance to manage large budgets?
- Can you be honest, and say ‘No’ to staff and management when required?
- Can you be decisive when required, and accept responsibility for your decisions?
If you answered yes to most of these questions then a career in project management is definitely worth considering. As long as you’re proficient in most of the above, you can learn the remaining aspects through good additional training.
There are many personal and professional attributes that will assist you when starting your new role but because of the wide variety of challenges a project management role creates, the required attributes are very varied and can, to a certain extent, depend on the industry in which you work. All project managers will have their stronger areas, and the weaker areas they have to work to improve. All of the fundamentals of project management best practice can be learnt, and there are countless resources and corporate training companies offering professional training, but here are some areas that you can focus on improving yourself if you want to excel in a project management career.
Organisation and time management
Being on top of all tasks requires knowing what the tasks are, when you should be working on them, and who else within your team is working on them. This requires organisation and time management on a large scale. You must be able to do more than prepare a plan of action; you must also be able to constantly adapt it as the goalposts move.
Communication is key in project management. Without clear and honest communication you will not truly understand what is going on. This means you can’t be organised, and any information you pass on may not be accurate. Establishing excellent communication skills will help you to work more seamlessly with your team, as well as ensuring that you are more approachable, which, in itself, is part of the battle for successful communication. It is never enough to rely solely on electronic communications, no matter how sophisticated.
A project manager must step up to the plate when others shy away. You mustn’t be afraid to be decisive, and follow through all your decisions with absolute confidence. In a lot of situations not taking any action at all is worse than making a bad decision. You must also promote productivity and creativity in the project team. Creating a happy working environment and fostering a feeling of solidarity will help the team to operate more efficiently and overcome obstacles quicker.
These are just a few of the main considerations when thinking of a career in project management. There will be other considerations specific to the industry you work within and based on your personal experience and attributes.