To be a lead on any project is a big deal so it is acceptable to say the least that experience is key. There are a few ways to get the experience you need without having any already. We will be going over the most effective and well recognized option, the PMP Exam and PMI Certification.
Popularity of Project Management
Although there are many reasons why Project Management is seen as an essential skill, we will cover two main reasons why senior executives prefer a candidate with project management experience and skills over someone who lacks such experience.
The first reason for the popularity of projects is that they are short term. Almost every project has a defined beginning and end date as well as identifiable project deliverables.
This allows businesses to evaluate the impact of projects on their overall company performance better. Projects also allow a business to assess the performance of the project leader more effectively.
Imagine being asked to do a performance appraisal for a manager’s performance for the whole year. Even if you’ve set SMART objectives, it can be difficult to assess their performance for the whole period.
Now imagine doing a performance appraisal for someone who has been leading projects. Have they completed project objective in time, within budgets. If they have, the process of performance appraisal becomes incredibly easy.
The Difficulty in Finding Good Project Managers
One of the main challenges for a business looking to improve its systems and processes is to find good, capable project managers. However, there is a shortage of certified managers in the market.
In order to qualify as a project manager, a person needs advanced level PMI certification as well as proven experience of managing projects. People with a bachelor’s degree require 4500 hours of work experience in project management. Those without a degree need to have at least 7,500 hours of experience in leading and directing projects.
So, in order to be hired as a project manager, you need the PMP certification. In order to get the certificate, you need the work experience as a project manager. As you can obviously tell, this creates a Catch-22 situation for both businesses and individuals looking for a career in project management.
The second reason why projects are popular is because they allow organizations an easy way to implement change. Short term projects are a popular method of improving systems, launching new products or setting up a new geographic location for company operations.
Ways to get Project Management Experience
It can be somewhat difficult to get project management experience if you are not qualified. There are certain things that you can do to fulfill the minimum-hour requirement.
The first and most important is to get a job where you will have many chances to work on projects. This is easier to achieve in smaller companies. SME businesses have lower requirements for hiring project managers and you may be able to gain employment even when you don’t have the certification yet.
Another thing you can do to improve your chances of working on projects is to get CAPM certification. The Certified Associate in Project Management is an entry-level certificate and a number of small firms are willing to accept people with CAPM certificate as project managers.
Even if your current employer does not work on projects, you can try to get the required experience by starting your own projects.
For example, if you are working as a software developer, quality assurance officer, engineer or financial analyst, you can get experience in project management by volunteering to lead small projects that improve performance and productivity of these functions.
You can also ask your manager to let you lead teams as part of your professional development. Leadership and planning are two of the main skills that project managers need. If you can work as a team lead, even if for a short while, you can put that on your resume which will improve your chances of getting hired as a project manager later.
You should take every opportunity you can get to work on projects. On many occasions, you will get an opportunity to work in support rather than as the project leader. Project management experience counts equally in both cases.
Getting technical project experience in a support role from time to time will make you a much better project manager overall than just gaining experience in the leadership role all the time.
One important thing to remember is to keep track of any hours that you work on projects. Talk to your employer or the Admin/HR to ensure that your project hours are being recorded. You will need them when you go for a full PMP qualification. Working on projects will give you practical knowledge and help you prepare for your PMP exam.
Work With the PMO and HR Departments
Many companies in the IT, event management and construction sector have dedicated Project Management Offices that provide various teams support for individual and group projects. For smaller firms, the HR may be looking over this function.
Make sure that you get in touch with the PMO at your company as early as possible. They can offer advice and guidance on organizational structure as well as project templates. These will help you become familiar with projects in the company and improve your project management skills.
If your company lacks a PMO department, speak with the management and see if you can start one. Setting up the PMO at your firm could be your first project. Your bosses will appreciate your proactive approach and you may become the central point for project management information at the firm.
Be Proactive and Positive
The mark of exceptional project managers is that they are good leaders, proactive communicators and always positive about achieving great results. They are always looking to create opportunities and achieve results through out-of-the-box thinking.
If you are planning to become a project manager, there are many ways you can get the required hours of project work experience. Volunteer for opportunities to work on projects. In most cases, you will be required to work extra with little to no pay for your effort.
However, once you get the hang of things and your employer sees potential in your ability to complete projects, you will start getting more projects with additional pay and benefits. You will achieve the required number of hours of project management experience in no time.