Article Overview

Every industry needs a project manager, someone to plan, coordinate, and execute projects. As a project manager, your role cuts across resources and people management. You'll take the role of a supervisor, a team lead, and a colleague. You'll be held accountable for the project's failure and success. 

Table of Contents

  1. 7 Steps to Successfully Make a Career Change to Project Manager
    1. 1.    Improve Your Soft Skills 
    2. 2.    Take Stock of Experience You Already Have
    3. 3.    Identify Learning Opportunities
    4. 4.    Get Project Management Certification 
    5. 5.    Get Project Management Experience 
    6. 6.    Maintain Your Certification
    7. 7.    Get a Mentor
  2. What Next?

The roles of project managers differ depending on the organization and industry. You'll find titles such as associate project manager, implementation manager, team assistant, and stage manager, among others. Despite the varying job descriptions and titles, all project managers adhere to the same project management principles. 

So, if you are changing your career to project management, be prepared for a demanding yet fun career that will give you endless opportunities to grow.

7 Steps to Successfully Make a Career Change to Project Manager

Changing careers is always challenging. You are venturing into unknown territories. As such, you need a solid plan to get started and successfully launch your career. So, to help jump-start your transition to project management, below are seven steps you can follow. 

1.    Improve Your Soft Skills

Project management is a dynamic career that requires different skill sets to get the work done. Accomplished project managers are leaders with remarkable coordination and planning skills. They can manage multiple tasks and deliver under pressure. Since projects often cut across different departments, project managers have people management skills with exceptional communication and interpersonal skills. They've mastered the art of dealing with different people and handling volatile situations professionally.

Besides, successful project managers are analytical, risk-takers, and strategic. They can assess situations fast and make informed choices to avoid setbacks. 

That said, as you contemplate a career transition to project management, it is important to examine your personality. Can you deliver under pressure? Would you describe yourself as a risk-taker? How do you handle team dynamics? How about your communication skills? You need the soft skills described above to manage projects successfully. 

Take account of the skills you have and commit to working on your areas of weakness. Keep in mind that you might be good in one area and not so good in others. Don't beat yourself up. Skills are learned over time. Some of these skills you'll learn on the job as project management positions in different industries require varying degrees of specific soft skills. 

2.    Take Stock of Experience You Already Have 

Most people changing careers to project management have, at one point, handled projects, although they were not hired as project managers. We call them project managers by accident. If you are one of them, chances are you have already accumulated some experience in project management.

Analyze your knowledge and experience against the ten areas of project management. On a scale of 1-10, how can you rate your experience in the following areas?

•    scope management
•    time management
•    integration management
•    cost management
•    communication management
•    procurement management
•    stakeholder management
•    resource management
•    schedule management
•    risk management

This audit will help you examine the skills you already have, where you need improvements, and the green areas. You'll have an overview of how far you are to project management career paths. From here, it is easier to tap into the learning opportunities within your organization and beyond. The knowledge gap you've identified is your key to getting started in step three. 

3.    Identify Learning Opportunities

With a clear picture of the project management areas you lack experience, you can plan with precision how to explore learning opportunities. 

First, examine your current roles and responsibilities. Are there skills you can learn by taking particular tasks? Can you learn from other departments? Is it possible to seek professional mentorship from the project manager? Or tap into your organization's professional development opportunities?  

Take the less-traveled road and seek project management opportunities within your area of specialization. You can also suggest small projects that you can collaborate with your colleagues and grow your skillset. 

Go further and explore online resources. You want to learn as much as possible before enrolling for formal education. You can settle for the free webinars and videos on project management. You can also enroll in courses in specific areas of project management. Think of upgrading your technical skills with a course in project management software. If you are in the fitness industry, online personal training programs can be a plus.  

If your knowledge gap is huge, you can enroll for a complete course at the diploma, graduate, or postgraduate level. This will give a solid theoretical background in project management. 

4.    Get Project Management Certification

The experience you gain in your industry will help you define the career path you want to take in project management. From there, you can explore certification options that align with your interest. Project management certification shows that you have the knowledge and expertise to handle complex projects. It gives you an edge in advancing your career.

There are several certifications you can explore when getting started. The Project Management Institute offers two certifications. The Project Management Professional (PMP) certification and the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) certification. Each of these certifications has different requirements.

The Certified Associate Project Management certification requires that you have 1500 hours of project management work experience. This translates to around ten months of full-time employment. Furthermore, you must have 23 hours of project management training, an associate degree, or a high school diploma. 

This option is ideal if you are passionate about project management but have minimal experience. You can launch your career by taking this course and pursuing PMP certification, which has advanced requirements later. 

The PMP certification is for project managers with years of experience under their belt. The program has different entry requirements depending on your educational qualification. 

If you have a degree in project management, you'll need three years of experience to get started. However, you must have five years of work experience if you have a secondary degree. Both options require an additional 35 hours of project management training.

The certification program comes with a comprehensive Project Management Body of Knowledge Guide (PMBOK) that helps you prepare for the exams. You can use the prep classes or self-study for the exams. The PMP certification examination comprises 200 questions, and it is done at the examination center. With the CAPM exam, you can choose to do the 150 questions online or at the exam center. 

If you don't pass the exams for the first time, you'll have two chances within the year to redo it at additional charges. The good news is, there are higher chances of passing the first time if you work hard. 

5.    Get Project Management Experience 

Remember, in step three; we talked about seeking learning opportunities within your industry? Now, you must scale up since you have the certification and the experience required for a promotion or project management opportunities in different companies within your industry. 

You can start by revamping your resume to reflect your newly acquired certification and skills. Update the same on LinkedIn and upload your certification. Depending on your experience level and educational background, you can explore many opportunities in project management. At the entry-level, you can seek a project coordinator position. 

If you have the moderate experience, positions such as project scheduler or assistant project manager can be the perfect opportunity. Advanced positions like project managers and senior project managers are ideal if you change to project management with years of related experience from your industry.

The different positions in project management vary depending on the industry. The job description may also differ from one organization to another. However, the fundamentals of project management remain the same.

6.    Maintain Your Certification

The project management industry is ever-evolving. Therefore, it is important to keep up to date with new developments in the industry. You must continuously refresh your mind to maintain the Project Management Institute certifications. 

The CAPM program requires that you take exams every five years. You must continuously learn and sharpen your skills by completing 60 professional development units annually to maintain the PMP certification. These units include volunteer work in a project management department, online courses, presentations related to your area of expertise, or in-person classes, among others. 

Do not limit yourself. You can research for other project management certifications online. In addition, platforms such as SlideShare have valuable courses you can enroll in. So, keep tabs of project management software and new techniques. The industry is dynamic. Do not remain stagnant. 

7.    Get a Mentor

As you are changing your career to project management, you'll need a mentor—someone in a senior position with experience to guide you on your new career path. Seek guidance from people in the same industry to get customized advice on the different areas of project management. Find a mentor who can inspire and encourage you to reach your full potential.

What Next?

If you are convinced project management is your next career after going through these steps, do not postpone your dream. Take the next step and start your transition. The journey will be challenging, but you are sure to steer your project management career path in the right direction with these guidelines.