6/4/12

How to Become a Project Manager

The position of Project Manager is more and more present on the job market and on job portals, so becoming Project Manager is attracting employees more and more. It sounds important and it is convincing people to specialize and follow project management courses and acquire project management certifications. But is it that simple? And are there details you should know before starting? Is there something that you should be careful about? The answer to these questions is “No”, “Yes” and “Yes” in that order. It’s not simple – it’s a long and serious process that requires lots of work and also since there’s money to be invested you must be really careful what you invest it in.

Let me start by telling you what a Project Manager does:
  1. A Project manager is assigned a project to complete  by a certain deadline – has a clear mission like build a bridge in one year;
  2. He/she then needs to start thinking what he/she needs in order to do that: how much money (this is the planned budget), how many people, how many machines and what other type of equipment and materials, what authorizations and what paperwork needs to be done; all these items are called resources;
  3. Then a clear plan needs to be made so that the large project is split is smaller activities: the materials need to be bought by this deadline, the people hired by this deadline, the machines need to clear the land by this deadline, soil structure analysis needs to be done by this deadline,  the pillars need to be built by this deadline and so on;
  4. Then risks need to be identified and addressed: what do we do if we don’t manage to hire all the necessary workers by the set deadline, what do we do if the price of materials raises suddenly and we need to increase the budget, what do we do if there’s a flood and we need to stop work for a week and so on depending on the project;
  5. Then clear tasks need to be given to the members of the team, conflicts should they appear solved, people need to be monitored and so on.
-          The Project Manager is the one responsible if the project is not delivered on time.

How should you start, then?

First step: takes a few months and allows you to acquire the basics of Project Management – learn notions like project, details of a project, start date and end date, intermediary deadlines, milestones, project resources which include both human and material resources, project risks and how to address those and the role of the project manager and of the team (because a project manager never works alone). All these notions can be acquired by trainings you do yourself, or books you read. You don’t need courses that are too advanced or a certification from first. Take your time to understand the basics and realize if this is really for you. Be really careful what trainings of Introduction to Project Management you attend. There are a lot of companies which offer them and most of the times cheap equals to poor quality, so be really careful. You may end up with the diploma you wish for but get no real knowledge you can use.      

Second step: try to develop the skills you need to be a good Project Manager – first the skills for the “project” part like organizing and prioritizing skills (these are crucial), analytical thinking, ability to say “no”, to be assertive, then the “management” part of the skills like the ability to lead a team, to solve conflicts, to efficiently split resources and tasks among team members to meet deadlines, the ability to motivate your team. Again, think carefully if this is really for you because from now on you start investing the big money and not only your time. And if you get a Project Management certification that is really expensive and don’t use it, then it has all been a waste of time and money.

Step 3: register in a Project Management training to obtain a Project Management certificationFoundations Level. Some good certifications that are accepted all over the world are Prince 2 and PMP. The prices are quite high but they look great in every Project Manager’s CV and can help you get good paid Project Management jobs. The Foundations level for Prince 2 for example costs around 1000 USD/750 Eur. This is the step when you turn professional. You no longer learn and practice Project Management by yourself, but are officially a Project Manager. Try to get involved at the same time in projects to practice what you have learnt.

Step 4: learn how to use Project Management software. You can start with the basic Microsoft Project which is part of the Office Suite. It offers a lot of functionalities from project properties, milestones, resources and budgets. You can create charts of activities, deadlines and resources. Then go online and see what’s available in this field. You will be amazed to see how much this area has developed too in the past years. 

Step 5: get more advanced Project Management certifications. You can try Prince 2 Practitioner to start with. Of course all these certifications need to be combined with practice on the job. Information on the Project Management certifications can be found online so I will not get too much into details.

So now, all I can do is hope that my article has helped you decide whether Project Management is really for you. It’s a specialized job that requires years to become really good and remember that a single course of two days in Project Management basics is not enough to give you confidence to apply to such a serious position.

Take care,
Geo

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3 comments:

  1. Wonderful blog & good post.Its really helpful for me, awaiting for more new post. Keep Blogging!








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  3. Thanks for illustrating step by step how to be a project manager. Very well written content that is much appreciated. Liability Management

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