How To Pursue Your PM Career Path

Filed under Career | Posted by PMStudent

James is a UKuk_flag subscriber. We had this discussion via email and James gave me permission to share with you.

Hi Josh,

I am a recent graduate. While at university I studied Computer Science with Business Administration.

I currently work in a marketing and sales role with the IT industry but am keen to enter the world of IT project management.

I?m looking at entering this field of work at project administration level. During these bad times and to show commitment to this field of work I felt the need to improve my C.V, so I have completed a course? in MS Project 2007 and am studying for my Prince2 Foundation, which I?m due to take next Friday.

Is there anything else that will help me get noticed?

After passing my Prince2 I feel I am ready to pursue my chosen career path and begin applying, what steps should I take to land a suitable role? There are jobs posted on the internet but some can receive up to 400 applications!!! How can I get my foot in the door another way??

Thanks for your help on this, I really appreciate it!


joshnankivelJames, I get the impression that much of your exposure to project management thus far has been academic in nature. You’ve earned your degree and gained knowledge of MS Project and Prince2. This is a great start.

What I DON’T Recommend

project management career path - by Nicholas_T via Flickr

project management career path - by Nicholas_T via Flickr

Just to be clear I want to make this point explicit. You might be tempted to go after some other certification or even an advanced degree. For your particular situation I advise against that until you have gained some real work experience in the field, unless of course you can manage to work full time and also do some coursework and study. It doesn’t sound like you have any (or enough) project management experience to qualify for many of the certifications out there like the PMP, aCCP, etc.

Others I have spoken to in the past have been in the same situation. My fear is that by going back to school in lieu of gaining work experience, someone might be unconsciously running back into an academic comfort zone. I think you are hitting the nail right on the head to say it’s time for you to go get your foot in the door and start actively working towards your career goals. As Travis Anderson pointed out, you always want to sharpen the saw though in some way.? More related discussion here.

Parts of the following are drawn from “What Everybody Ought to Know About Switching Careers to Project Management.”

Get Your Foot In The RIGHT Door

I think this is a critical thing that many job-seekers miss, regardless of your role. Look for an environment in which you can flourish first. I have a LOT of experience looking for jobs (hey, I didn?t get fired OK?) due to having been laid off 5 times (so far).

Things have rarely happened to me by throwing my resume out to the job boards. I stopped doing that long ago. When I started researching companies (not jobs), networking as a way of life by helping others (not just when looking for a job), and reaching out directly to people in my prospect companies, things began to happen.

It?s a lot of work and produces results. There is no easy button.

Finding The Right Organization

1) Look for companies that are very project-oriented. Medium to large firms who?s business model is geared towards completing projects for their customers are best. Several benefits here:

* Once this kind of firm gets to a certain size, it?s inevitable that they will develop solid, formal project management practices for their business. Otherwise, they die.
* This is likely to be a mentor-rich environment.
* You are more likely to be provided with formal PM training in a company like this.
* You can join in a capacity you are already very comfortable with as a member of the project team; be a sponge, volunteer as much as possible for things related to project management?.generate new ideas where you can volunteer even!

Entry Into Project Management

2) Become a member of a project team in the right environment. You could go technical, or look for jobs that have titles like ?project analyst?, ?project coordinator?, ?business analyst?, etc. This is a bit hit-and-miss, because different companies call these positions by different titles. I had a job where I was an ?MIS analyst? and doing development/process improvement to start out, then transitioned the % of my time spent doing project management up over time.

You will be more likely to land a position like this right out of the gate than to have a significant project handed to you. This goes well with the last bullet from the previous section; make sure you are in an organization where you can volunteer to run small projects, go out of your way to assist and learn from veteran project managers, and establish a great track record in the organization.


Chet Frame left a comment also advising volunteer work for non-profits or other organizations. I completely agree.?? If you can run projects for the organization this is a great way to get some real world experience.

For instance, I belong to several groups in the PMI and in the past I found a project that I could carry out, did some preliminary work to plan it out at a high level, and then proposed it to the board.

They accepted it, and I recruited team members.? I was the project manager.? If the board hadn’t accepted it, I would have tried again.? And again.? And again.? I was actually working full time and doing 12-16 credit hours at university too.

If you can set aside a few hours per week for personal development, you could do something like this.

Looking for specific, actionable steps to land a job in project management?