TechieGen Career Guide
How To Become A Project Manager
TechieGen's Project Management career guide is intended to help you take the first steps toward a lucrative career in project management. The guide provides an in-depth overview of the managing skills you should learn, career paths in project management, how to become a project manager, and more.
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Table Of Contents
What Is Project Management?
Project management is the application of processes, methods, skills, knowledge, and experience to achieve specific project objectives as defined at the outset of the project. Project management has final deliverables with a finite schedule and budget.
We use project management because projects are often complex and involve many stakeholders and having a Project Manager to lead the initiative and keep everyone on the same page has been found to be crucial to overall project success. In fact, PMI found that organizations using any type of project management methodology are better at staying on budget and sticking to a schedule while meeting scope, quality standards, and expected benefits.
Really, you can’t overstate how important good project planning is. Too often, organizations overestimate how quickly they can achieve deliverables, underestimate the costs, or both. In other words, they set themselves up to fail. With a good Project Manager on your side, you will have a realistic view of goals, budgets, and timelines.
Project management just makes good business sense. In 2018, according to PMI, 9.9 percent of every dollar invested was wasted due to poor project performance. That means that for every $1 billion invested, $99 million went to waste. Project management reduces project costs by improving efficiency, mitigating risks, and optimizing resources. Even factoring in the salary of a Project Manager, organizations stand to gain much more than they lose.
We use project management any time we are setting out to plan, monitor, and execute any type of business plan that has a start, a finish, and produces a deliverable. Implementing project management across an organization helps create a strategic value chain that gives companies an edge on their competitors, particularly in highly competitive sectors and markets. For companies, being able to deliver projects on time and within budget often determines whether they will get the next job or whether its new product hits the market.
Ninety percent of global senior executives ranked project management methods as either critical or somewhat important to their ability to deliver successful projects and remain competitive, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit survey. A survey by consulting giant McKinsey & Co. found that nearly 60 percent of senior executives said building a strong project management discipline is a Top 3 priority for their companies as they look to the future. Project management is especially crucial when resources, money or time are scarce. More than half of the executives in the Economist Intelligence Unit report said following project management practices became more important since the recession began.
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What Does A Project Manager Do?
Project Managers are responsible for planning, organizing, executing, monitoring, and directing complete projects for an organization while ensuring these projects are delivered on schedule, on budget, within scope, and with the promised level of quality.
Project Managers wear many hats and perform a wide variety of tasks, so it’s the type of job where two days rarely look the same.
To start the day, a lot of Project Managers use a trick called “eat that frog.” What that means is that whatever task or issue is looming the largest in your head, you should get it out of the way first thing. Whether that’s writing a tricky email to a stakeholder or sitting down with an employee to discuss why a recently completed task was not completed adequately, “eating that frog” will keep you from having to worry about those chores for the rest of the day and free you up for other tasks.
A day in the life of a Project Manager is also rarely without a meeting. With so many people potentially reporting to you, and so many potential stakeholders, it’s crucial that you keep in constant communication with your team in order to stay on top of your project and whether it’s on the right track or some course correction is in order.
Outside of those formal meetings, Project Managers spend another large part of their day managing people. Project Managers are responsible for hiring more people, providing feedback on recently submitted work, and probing whether team members are on track to complete their tasks on time. Doing this requires a degree of tact and persuasion that not a lot of people necessarily have.
And in the early stages of a project, Project Managers spend significant time planning. They craft program plans that include expected budget, schedule, resource needs, potential risks, and a plan for executing the project. If the project has already been approved, this project plan acts as a roadmap for all team members and stakeholders so they know exactly what to expect as they move through the following phases of completing the project. If it’s a project that has not been approved, consider the project plan your “pitch” for how it could be.
A Project Manager’s responsibilities span almost every part of the initiating, planning, executing, and closing phases of a project.
Let’s break a Project Manager’s responsibilities down further:
A Project Manager is responsible for creating a plan to meet the objectives of the project while adhering to an approved budget and schedule. This roadmap will guide the entire project from initiation to completion and will include the scope of the project, resources needed, anticipated schedule and budgetary requirements, communication strategy for relevant stakeholders, plan for execution, and proposal for follow-up and maintenance. If the project has not yet gained approval, this plan will serve as a critical part of the pitch to key decision makers.
A crucial and time-consuming part of a Project Manager’s role is to assemble, monitor, and lead the project team. This requires excellent communication skills. You also have to be good at reading people and detecting others’ strengths and weaknesses.
Once the team has been created, the Project Manager assigns tasks, sets deadlines, provides resources, and communicates regularly with team members.
The Project Manager will supervise the successful execution of each stage of the project. Once again, communication is key.
Great Project Managers stay on schedule. When issues arise, Project Managers are responsible for finding solutions and communicating effectively with team members and other stakeholders to steer the project back on track. Project Managers should be experts at risk management and contingency planning so that these roadblocks are quickly circumvented.
It’s a Project Manager’s responsibility to create a budget figure and then ensure that the project sticks as closely as possible to the number predicted. If certain pieces of the project end up being more expensive than expected, Project Managers will be responsible for scaling back spending and re-allocating funds when necessary.
A Project Manager must know how to measure and analyze the progress of the project to ensure it is proceeding as planned. Data collection and verbal and written status reports are some of the methods for doing this. It is also a Project Manager’s job to make sure that all relevant actions have approval and sign-off.
What Skills Do Project Managers Need?
Project management skills combine hard skills like risk management, budgeting, scheduling, and performance tracking with soft skills such as communication, leadership, and time management.
Given that a Project Manager has to devise the program plan and provide a realistic idea of budgeting and deadlines, a Project Manager has to have a strong overall business sense and solid understanding of how to source a variety of resources – including people. After all, human resources is a big part of a Project Manager’s job, and hiring or choosing the right people for the right job is a skill they really need to harness.
Project Managers also need technical skills relating to finding and using platforms like Microsoft Project, Basecamp, and Evernote to track project progress and communicate with their teams. Tools like these can be the difference between a smoothly run project and one mired in miscommunication. As far as soft skills, it goes without saying that a Project Manager needs to have keen time management and organizational skills. They have to keep themselves and the team on track, monitor progress, and tweak as the project unfolds. When things go awry – and they almost always do – Project Managers need to act quickly and creatively to solve problems to avoid derailing the entire project. They need to exhibit leadership skills by setting goals for the team, keeping them motivated, and removing any obstacles that get in their way or threaten the project.
A Project Manager needs to be diplomatic. They should feel comfortable negotiating with executives, stakeholders, and members of the project team. Anything from added constraints to personality clashes fall within their jurisdiction. Finally, communication is paramount. Stakeholders expect to be updated on project status clearly and in a timely fashion.
The top skills every Project Manager should have include a mix of technical and soft skills.
Crafting a proper project plan takes a lot of skill and, usually, experience with creating things like meeting plans, statements of work, estimates, timelines, resource plans, and briefs.
Reading, Writing, and Math
We often overlook these basic things as being technical skills, but to be a Project Manager, you need to operate at a high level in all three areas. You’ll need to be able to write project briefs that are persuasive and concise. You’ll need to be able to catch errors in budget and expense math and verify that numbers are correct.
When we talk about process management, we mean taking a closer look at things like budgeting, project delivery, project launch, invoicing, and resourcing. Process management is a juggling act and many Project Managers struggle with it.
Conducting human resources tasks consumes a huge part of a Project Manager’s day. Project scheduling refers to the ability to seamlessly schedule the people you need on your project when you need them on your project. This is essential to avoiding issues like huge overtime bills, last-minute staffing scrambles or having an important employee taking a vacation at a crucial juncture in the project. You could use a Gantt chart in your project scheduling tool, or Excel would do fine also.
The ability to see potential problems looming on the horizon and to proactively deal with them to mitigate the harm is a skill every great Project Manager needs. You simply can’t be caught blind-sided with an unexpected crisis while you’re deep into executing your project. After you identify risks, you also must become adept at figuring out how you plan to handle them. Get good at making risk plans that weigh probability and cost. There are dedicated risk management tools out there to help you with this.
Project Management Tools
Behind every great Project Manager is a toolbelt of software. It’s honestly worth learning as many as you possibly can, since you’ll find that each offers different features that will empower you and your team and have you working as efficiently as possible.
Badly organized projects simply don’t work. It’s a Project Manager’s job to sit in the eye of a hurricane and somehow calmly make sense of it all. To do that, it’s imperative that you have all your ducks in a row. To develop this skill, get a bit nerdy about it – there are whole communities dedicated to discussing the merits of various organizational schemes and strategies.
To be an effective Project Manager, you must be able to communicate immaculately. You should be able to talk to anyone in an organization from the people lowest on the organization’s ladder to senior management in a confident and clear way. Not only that, your communication abilities will be of the utmost importance when dealing with clients and stakeholders too.
Good Project Managers know how to motivate and lead by example. Your leadership skills are important because you are steering this project and you need the people working behind you to have faith in your ability and a will to work hard for you and give you their best possible effort. You will at times also have to have hard conversations with team members who are not performing up to their potential or lagging on deadlines, and when you have those conversations, it’s important to know how to approach them so that the employee feels inspired to work harder, rather than defeated. That’s leadership.
When you’re a Project Manager, every minute matters. You must have impeccable time management skills to even just accurately designate how long each task will take, let alone complete the work you have in front of you.
Over the course of a long project, you can expect to deal with at least one stakeholder or client who is nervous about your ability to hit your deadlines on your important deliverables. Managing those relationships – and managing expectations – is a huge part of your job as a Project Manager.
Is Project Management A Good Career?
Yes, project management is definitely a good career with high salaries and plenty of variety at work, but it’s also a demanding job that can be highly stressful at times. The reason project management is such a good career and Project Managers are in such high demand? Every company will always initiate projects to increase revenue, minimize cost, and boost efficiency. That’s why, according to a recent report from PMI, there’s such a drastic shortage of Project Managers relative to demand. The report found that on an annual basis, employers will need to fill nearly 2.2 million new project-oriented roles each year through 2027. Further, the report found $208 billion is at risk due to that anticipated project management shortage.
Some Project Managers enjoy their jobs because of the variety – no two days look alike. Others appreciate the fast-paced, urgent nature of the work. And another feature of the job many find appealing is that you can actually finish something and move on to a new challenge, which isn’t the case with a lot of other positions.
There’s also the fact that they’re well-compensated. According to Glassdoor, the average Project Manager salary in the United States is $75,474 while additional cash compensation can be anywhere between $1,541 and $19,755. Project management careers are still in high demand, so expect salaries to continue to rise skyward. It should be noted that project management careers are not perfect. The reality is that it can be a difficult job and you have to be the right person to handle the myriad challenges you’re bound to face. Many PMs labor long hours to make sure a project’s on track. And forget leaving work at the office – Project Managers can’t afford to unplug and potentially miss out on an important development. There’s also the fact that you might not get to choose your projects, and some will interest and stimulate you more than others.
While it is possible to become a Project Manager with no formal experience in the role, you will need the right mix of education, work experience, and transferable skills. First, it’s important to get an education. You don’t need a degree in project management to become a Project Manager, but a combination of a four-year college degree and a project management certification should suffice. The industry’s gold standard is the Project Management Professional certification (which everyone just calls the PMP) – but before you can take the exam, you need to amass hundreds of hours of project management experience.
Since you don’t have that, you can take the test to become a Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) after an online course. You should know that certification isn’t a requirement for all project management roles – but getting the certification can signal that you’re serious about changing careers, and it might help get your resume in front of the right people.
Now let’s think about your past experience. So you haven’t ever had the “Project Manager” job title, but if you have a few years of professional experience, you may have had opportunities to flex skills that are highly transferable to a Project Manager position. You may discover that you already have experience with risk management, communication, or time management that you can leverage as you make this transition.
You should also look into opportunities at your current job to get more involved in projects. If you have Project Managers working in your organization, chances are they’re overworked. They’ll likely appreciate the enthusiasm and the offer to help and take you up on your willingness to get involved. Just be sure you’ve already familiarized yourself with some project management software tools so you can hit the ground running. Some of the tools you should consider picking up include Asana, Basecamp, ProofHub, Podio, and JIRA. They help Project Managers communicate with their team members, share assets, monitor project progress, and analyze work volumes.
Now it’s time to apply for entry-level project management roles with a resume edited to emphasize all the transferable skills and experiences you have that could position you to thrive in the project management field. Titles like Project Coordinator, Office Manager, or any operations role should be in line with what you’re looking for.
What Is PMP Certification?
PMP certification is a popular and prestigious credential among Project Managers.
If you’re a Project Manager, you’ve heard those three letters a lot. They stand for Project Manager Professional, and for three little letters, they can have a big impact: Project Managers seek this credential out because it’s proven to be correlated to higher salaries.
The PMP exam itself, which is undoubtedly not easy with its 200 challenging questions to be answered in four hours, is the last step of the selection process carried out by the PMI.
Offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI) – a worldwide organization with more than 500,000 members – this credential is recognized globally as a standout credential for anyone working in the project management industry. PMI is a worldwide organization with more than 500,000 members.
PMP certification is less about strategy and creative problem-solving, and that it’s more centered on theory and process. You’ll still need to find ways to connect with folks and come up with solutions that take your project’s unique goals and personalities into account. And let’s be real: Nothing beats practical experience for learning how to think on your feet when a project throws you the inevitable curveball.
If you’re a Project Manager, a PMP Certification is definitely worth it given its prestigious status within the industry. As a professional Project Manager, pursuing a PMP certification will boost your core project management skills while providing you a structured framework for how to successfully steer projects. Everyone in the project management industry is familiar with how highly regarded the PMP is, so you’ll have newfound professional clout with your peers. You’ll also now be eligible for career opportunities that make PMP certification a prerequisite for hiring.
The other reason it’s worth it? While you do have to consider the time and money you would invest in acquiring a PMP, there’s really no denying that it does boost your chances at a raise or a promotion. According to PMI’s Earning Power: Project Management Salary Survey (2020), 82 percent of Project Managers surveyed have a PMP certification and worldwide, PMP-certified survey respondents earn 22 percent higher median salaries on average than those without PMP certification. Further, the study also found that median salary steadily grows the longer you hold a PMP certification.
According to the survey, Project Managers in the U.S. with a PMP certification earned a median salary of $111,000, while Project Managers without the credential earned a median salary of $91,000.
And since it’s in a universal format, a PMP certification ensures you’re following the best practices of project management no matter where you are or where you go.
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Job Opportunities In Project Management
Highly qualified project managers are needed in all industries more than ever before.
The global talent gap between employers’ needs for project management professionals and the availability of experts to fill those roles is growing rapidly. Several factors driving this gap include an increase in the number of jobs requiring project management skills, higher attrition rates, and a significant uptick in demand for project talent in developing economies.
According to the Project Management Institute’s Job Growth and Talent Gap report, employers will need to fill 2.2 million new project management-oriented roles annually through the year 2027. In particular, the Indian healthcare sector has experienced the most substantial increase in project-oriented jobs, followed by industries such as manufacturing and construction, information services and publishing, and finance and insurance.
If you are considering starting a career in project management, there has never been a better time to do so.
Additionally, a project manager’s salary is expected to increase as they advance along their career path. While there is no typical progression of job titles (most advance from Project Manager I to Project Manager II, for instance), there are opportunities for skilled workers to advance from project to program to portfolio management throughout their careers if desired.
According to a report from the Product Management Institute, “Demand over the next 10 years for project managers is growing faster than demand for workers in other occupations.” The report projects that there will be almost 214,000 new project management-related jobs per year in India.
Learn Project Management With Our Meme Based Learning Path
TechieGen's meme-based learning path is intended to help you take the first steps toward a lucrative career in Project Management. The guide provides an in-depth overview of the data skills you should learn, the best data training options, career paths in peoject management, how to become a Project manager, and more.