10 Ways to Enhance Your Project Management Career

Project management is a stable career choice. Projects will always be performed and skilled individuals will always be required to manage those projects. Many of us enter the profession and stay there because we like the security, but also because we enjoy it and get rewarded well.

However, many of us also make the mistake of getting a little too comfortable. When we do this for too long, our careers start to stagnate and hit a dead end. This can be depressing, especially as project managers are the type of people who enjoy challenges and progress.

If you feel like your project management career has stalled, read on for some top tips on how to pick yourself back up and push your career forward.

1. Know what options are available

Understand this – the opportunities for career progression as a project manager are excellent. A career as a project manager equips you with plenty of transferable skills and the more experience you have, the more valuable you become. Don’t be afraid to make the move into a more interesting project management role.

If you fancy teaching others how to manage projects more effectively, how about going freelance as a consultant or training professional? If you want the challenge of managing multiple projects, what about a programme management role? Similarly, the challenge of a PMO role might suit you, especially if you enjoy managing other people.

2. Figure out your chosen industry or sector

This is very important if you are seeking a new role or promotion. Different industries and sectors will require different experience and qualifications. There are definite variations from industry to industry, so it is imperative you do a little research.

For instance, if you want a project management role in a technical industry like engineering, you will likely require an industry relevant degree. Likewise, although professional qualifications are not always required, some industries are pretty strict about it. It is worth noting that PRINCE2® is big in the public sector and agile qualifications are popular in the IT industry.

3. Construct a career development plan

Now that you know what type of role and what industry you want to go into, it is time to get planning! Creating a career development plan doesn’t have to be a long and detailed affair. Simply list your personal career goals and how you are going to accomplish them. You could even set deadlines for each part of the plan for a bit of motivation.

Remember to research how you will achieve each part of your plan. Ask yourself questions such as:

  • Do I need a certain qualification?
  • Do I need to increase my experience?
  • Do I need to improve my skills?
  • Do I need to network a little more?
  • Is my resume up to date?

4. Boost your soft skills

As you are already aware, being a project manager requires you to possess strong soft skills. You must be an authoritative leader with excellent organisational, problem-solving and communication skills. It is therefore vital that you display these qualities at interviews and networking events.

Employers, potential clients or partners will want to see what you are made of. So, if you feel your soft skills are rusty, bear in mind that you can improve them by attending a course. Have a look and see if there are some courses out there to suit you.

5. Gain professional certification

There are a great number of professional project management qualifications out there. When browsing for jobs, you will likely see knowledge of agile methods or PRINCE2 required. In addition, some roles like you to hold PMP or APM qualifications.

PRINCE2 and PMP/APM are very popular in all industries, whereas agile qualifications (like Scrum or AgilePM®) are more common in the IT or creative industries. In any case, gaining professional certification proves you have the required knowledge and will help push your career further.

6. Keep an updated LinkedIn profile

It is important to recognise that a paper resume is no longer the only way employers vet their candidates. The arrival of social media has meant sites such as LinkedIn are now popular hiring tools. With millions of users worldwide, it is essential to jump on board and get involved.

LinkedIn enables you to reach a wide audience. Like a resume, you can show the world your career achievements, as well as connect with your colleagues, employers and other individuals or organisations in your industry. LinkedIn also allows you to get involved in forums and post articles or pictures. It provides a platform for you to share opinions and knowledge, which in turn promotes you as a trustworthy person.

7. Use social media to build a persona

As a project manager, you likely have a strong opinion on a number of project management topics. To help your career, have you considered putting your opinions out there? Now that we have social media, you can network, find new opportunities and share your expertise.

Platforms such as Twitter are very useful for this. With Twitter, you can share chunks of knowledge and short opinions with the world, as well as having groups to join and become involved with. If you have more detailed analysis and in depth knowledge about something, why not start a blog? Sharing opinions and building connections online will certainly help to get you noticed.

8. Avoid awkwardness when networking

We all know how uncomfortable networking occasions can be. However, it is important to attend and get involved, as there is ripe opportunity for meeting the right people at such events.

To reduce the awkwardness of first introductions, consider contacting some key event participants beforehand. That way, you can simply meet up when you get there already knowing a bit about one another. Are there any industry experts there you admire? Anyone from HR departments? How about people working at top companies you would like to work for? Whoever you want to talk to, make sure you focus on those who will help you progress the most.

Lastly, when socialising at such events, you can make sure other people notice you by ensuring you contribute to discussions, as opposed to staying passive. Make sure you have an opinion and a story to tell. As a project manager, we are sure you have both.

9. Take a break

It can be a depressing experience when you feel like your career is going nowhere. A job you previously loved may no longer be enjoyable. You might also feel trapped in your role purely to pay the bills and look after your family.

When you are stuck in a rut at work, it is important to remember that there is a world outside the office. It is essential to take a break, whether that means taking advantage of your weekends, booking a vacation or getting stuck into a hobby.

Taking your mind off of things will ensure you remain positive, which is just what you need when you are planning to start networking, applying for jobs and having interviews.

10. Consider looking further afield

Although this article is focussed on developing a career in project management, remember that this particular career equips you with all sorts of transferable skills. If you feel project management isn’t your thing anymore, consider looking at some other careers.

Project managers enjoy taking on a challenge, making success happen and leading people through tough times. They are leaders, managers, organisers and communicators. These are all valuable skills that can certainly be applied to other careers too.

Find out more

If you found this article helpful, you can read more detailed advice in this handy free Career development ebook: Filled with knowledge and tips from industry experts, this ebook is ideal for project managers who feel their career has come to a standstill and need a little help.

Simon Buehring

Simon Buehring

Simon Buehring is the founder and Managing Director of Knowledge Train, an accredited PRINCE2 training organization based in London, UK. For over 25 years, Simon has worked as a project manager for a wide range of organizations, both in the UK and internationally, including the BBC, HSBC and IBM.

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