Developing a career in project management

We are not necessarily aiming for the position of project manager when we begin a degree programme or even after we begin working. Frequently, the role is obtained through an indirect route; for instance, an IT developer may begin by managing a team of developers, then move on to manage the entire project. He or she welcomes the opportunity for a promotion and a more prestigious job title, as well as opportunities for training and professional development, as well as the future hope of being in a recognised profession.

There are, of course, other routes to climb the project management career ladder, and they are becoming increasingly specialised, with degree courses aplenty in the United States and degree or master’s degrees readily available in the United Kingdom.

Is it therefore useful to have held a “real job” prior to becoming a project manager? It will definitely help you comprehend the “technical” parts of the work being performed and the members of the project team (certainly not an advantage to be underestimated). It may have also assisted you in establishing a larger network of contacts within and beyond an organisation.

As a result of the propensity to become absorbed in the everyday details of work, however, you may be less able to perceive the broad picture.

We might discuss which path is ideal for a career in project management, but it is more likely that an individual’s talents, attitude, and abilities are more important.

So what might the initial step in project management be, and where might it lead?
Many people’s first exposure to the world of project management is as a member of a project team providing work for a significant project and adhering to a standard strategy. This is the case for those who choose the more conventional way of climbing the corporate ladder.

As a team member, you would be accustomed to working to milestones and deadlines, reporting progress, assessing risk, and addressing change requests, so it is not a huge leap to become the one who creates plans, manages change, and establishes timelines. With the proper training and assistance, this move is simple for the right type of individual.

Early career positions

It can be impossible to predict exactly what a job will include until you are actually performing it, and of course it is possible to shape a position to fit your needs after you are established in it, but in the early phases of a project manager’s career, the following tasks are common:

  • Assistant project manager Project coordinator
  • Project management assistance
  • Advancing forward and ascending

If you already have a bachelor’s degree or a professional project management credential, you will likely want to go directly into a more senior position, so you should look for Assistant Project Manager positions.

In large organisations with numerous concurrent complex and lengthy projects, the function of assistant project manager may simply include that your projects are shorter or less complex, albeit nonetheless challenging.

Occasionally, a position may not be labelled as a project manager, but it is, in essence, that position; therefore, it is crucial to determine precisely what a job requires before accepting it – watch out for a variety of job names such as:

Implementation manager and project manager

Project director
Senior roles

Projects exist in a variety of shapes and sizes, therefore the next obvious step for a project manager’s professional advancement is to take on longer, larger, or more difficult projects. Senior project manager may or may not be allocated to these positions.

Once you have attained a senior project management position, you have numerous possibilities for furthering your career:

Management consultant Programme manager Portfolio manager
Director of projects
Manager of projects