Becoming a Project Manager
Most people don’t just wake up one morning and say, “Hey, I want to be a project manager!” Many individuals are thrust into project management initially out of a need for someone to fill that specific role on a new project or to take over an existing project where a PM is leaving, has been dismissed or needs to jump on another project. And many fill the role for the first time in a smaller organization with no real PM infrastructure in place…it just happens.
My story is sort of a hybrid of these…I moved into the PM role in an larger organization 20+ years ago in a time where project management offices (PMOs) were not common place and full time PM roles where not that common either. I filled a need on a government contract and the rest is history. Times, of course, have changed and you can now actually get a degree in project management and certifications are more commonplace as well.
Finding the PM job
If you’re looking to move into the project management world or to move up in your PM career ladder, project management jobs are easy to locate on job boards such as Dice.com, Monster.com, PMJob.ca, CareerBuilder.com, though relocation may be necessary. Craigslist can also be a source for finding direct hire and consulting PM positions, but it’s more of a ‘buyer beware’ situation there because Craigslist has a bit of a history for scams and phishing for identify theft, etc. Just be advised…though I will say that I personally found two very lucrative 6 to 8 month consulting gigs on Craigslist so I have a sweet spot for it and search it for potential clients periodically.
Project management specific sites such as Project Smart and PMHut can be nice sources of project management advice and discussion and you can periodically connect with employers or recruiters looking to fill a PM role on one of these sites.
I was recently involved in a PM forum discussion where an individual was asking if it was too soon to be trying to push his PM career forward. He had been in his entry-level PM role for 7 months and a higher-level position was opening up. How soon is too soon? Should you always go for it or should you wait till you know you’re ready? My advice on this is to go for it. If you wait till you know you’re ready that day may never come or many great opportunities may pass you by while you wait for that feeling to hit you. Charging ahead tells your management two things about you: 1) YOU think you’re ready and you want to take on the higher level of responsibility and 2) you’re a take charge individual who is interested in being in control of his career and they should be taking you and your commitment to your PM career seriously as a they are expanding PM roles in the organization.
To certify or not to certify
The big question that is always asked is, “Should I get a PM or PM-related certification?” My answer is, “It depends.” The short answer is “Yes.” Why? For several reasons:
- It’s good for your career
- It shows dedication to your profession
- It confirms you have a certain amount of experience and knowledge
- Certification can give you a common knowledge base and vocabulary when working with other certified PMs or if your organization requires a specific certification
There are no real downsides with getting certification other than possibly time and expense. I only take issue with hiring organizations who target only certified PMs when it isn’t really necessary. Why? Because many good PMs aren’t certified, in my opinion experience ALWAYS trumps certification, and certification doesn’t require a significant amount of experience or a high passing test score. Is it good? Yes. Should you get certified if you’re truly committed to becoming a PM? Yes.
There are several different certifications that an aspiring or experienced PM can obtain. There are others out there, but the most common and widely accepted ones are:
PMP, or Project Management Professional is the most often requested and most widely requested certification, in my opinion. PMP certification is offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI). A complete list of PMI PM-related certifications include:
- Project Management Professional (PMP)
- Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)
- Program Management Professional (PgMP)
- PMI Scheduling Professional (PMI-SP)
- PMI Risk Management Professional (PMI-RMP)
You can learn more about each of these certifications at http://www.pmi.org.
Advanced Project Management Certification, or APMC is The Kerzner Approach to Best Practices. This specific certification is for experienced project managers and senior level managers who want to build on expertise, acquire new skills and go beyond PMP accreditation.
You can learn more about the APMC certification at http://www.iil.com/apmc/.
The Scrum Alliance offers certification for those working in an Agile environment and are practicing Scrum methodologies. These include:
- Certified ScrumMaster (CSM)
- Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO)
- Certified Scrum Practitioner (CSP)
- Certified Scrum Coach (CSC)
- Certified Scrum Trainer (CST)
You can learn more about these certifications at http://www.scrumalliance.org.
Project management is definitely not a career for the faint of heart. You are the target on the project – everything goes through you and you are often held completely responsible for the success or failure of the project. Think of the manager of a baseball team or captain of the ship. If it fails, then you’ve failed. And recognition is not handed out that often. But it’s a great, challenging career and it is definitely very satisfying to take a project from beginning to successful end working closely with a collaborative team on a detailed end solution for a project customer.