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Project Management as a Career Choice

Project management is an incredibly rewarding career choice. You are never doing the same thing over and over, the jobs and projects change, and often this includes a change of scenery!  But how do you KNOW if project management is a viable career choice for you?

First of all, it is important to understand that the project management (PM) principles can be applied to almost any career or even personal projects.  In short, anything that has a starting point and has a completed outcome can utilize project management practices. Project Management, or PM, is all about delivering results and is typically a very practical and hands-on discipline. A few examples of applying PM are:

  • building a house
  • programming software
  • installing an IT system in your office
  • moving office
  • building a bridge, a highway, a railway
  • building a power plant
  • renovating your house
  • implementing a new service, e.g. new credit card for a bank
  • personal projects regardless of size
  • launching a product

I could give thousands of examples here, but in order to not bore you half-to-death with lists, we can continue to see if project management is the right career for you. The fact is that you will most likely start on a team regardless of which company you work with and have to work towards project execution. For instance, if you are an engineer involved in designing a new railway project and your job is to provide the software for the traffic management system, you may need some PM know-how to do your job effectively and completed on time. After finishing your first project, you may need to decide whether to continue your career in engineering or in projects. As mentioned above, you have a career in project management.

The only issue is that most people move into project management without knowing much about it. I have seen several project managers struggling to run projects because they never received any formal PM training.  And coincidentally, PM training can support most vocations even if you do not become a PM yourself.  Therefore, I suggest that every person going into project management go through formal training, similar to an engineering degree.  The reason is that it helps you visualize the whole end picture, it supports you in identifying what needs to be done, aka action steps, the time frame stipulated for each action step, and in being clear with priorities.  Now tell me, which career would NOT benefit from knowing this information?

But let’s be honest, not everyone is going to practice PM or attend a course for their own well-being.  So this article is dedicated to those exploring project management as a possible career choice.

To give an understanding of how a career in project management looks like, here are a few positions you could look into:

  1. Contributing Team Member
  2. Project Coordinator
  3. Project Manager Assistant
  4. Senior Project Manager
  5. Program Manager
  6. Project Director
  7. Portfolio Manager

A Project Director can be as a senior member of a management team, like a CEO, depending on the company you are working in.  An additional bonus is the fact that project practitioner’s demands are going to overtake supply in the coming years. The Project Management Talent Gap Report, PMI 2014, states that, by 2020, 15.7 million new project management jobs will be added around the globe, with an economic impact of more than US$ 18 trillion. In other words, the current project work force, especially PM talent will have plenty of opportunities to move on.

Some of the skills you required to be a PM

1) People skills ~ you will be dealing with people (and egos) a lot.  Learning how to work with people is essential to be a PM, and learning how to work with them is of the upmost importance.  Much of your job will depend on other people doing their job.  If you aren’t clear and don’t know how to be with people, they won’t know what you want and will not give you what you need to be an awesome PM.

2) Communication skills ~ communication is the basis of all relationships, and being a PM is no exception.  Communication breakdown costs companies millions, and sometimes, billions of dollars a year.  Learn how to communicate and communicate well!

3) Sequencing ~ you will need to know the basics of sequencing if you are a PM.  For example, a roof cannot be built before the erection of the building, and the erection of the building can’t be completed without the concrete, etc.  If sequencing items and events is your passion, then perhaps being a PM is the right career choice for you!

4) Attention to detail ~ it is often said that ‘the devil is in the details,’ and the same goes for being a PM.  I discovered early on that cutting corners doesn’t work at all, and to pay attention to details!

5) Emotional stability ~ in project management, many issues and challenges arise.  If you are someone who loves a challenge, great!  If not, you may want to consider another vocation because keeping your emotions in check are a must when you have a job to do!

On a personal note, I suggest increasing PM skills and competencies as much as you can, besides gaining experience in your projects. Find a mentor, take classes if you can.  If you can’t take physical classes, start off with some books or watch some videos online.  Be a sponge when it comes to this information so you set yourself and your team up for success!


Peter Wyss