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Project Managers (PM) are a vital element of any business looking to deliver a new service or product. A great PM has the potential to shape the success of any company so it is no wonder the role is becoming more important year on year.
According to the Project Management Institute (PMI) job growth and talent gap in Project Management 2017-2027 report, it is estimated that employers will need 88 million individuals globally to support project management roles by 2027.
In this article we take a closer look at what a PM does and the skills they need, giving you the insight to decide if it might be the career you are looking for.
Project management is one of the most complex roles in the job market. As a PM you will be responsible for delivering a client’s project within budget, to their scope and by their required time. It is a hands-on role where you need to be ready for anything and keep a cool head when things go in a different direction to what was planned, but that is what makes it exciting.
A PM is always part of a team, has the ability to thrive in different environments and be well versed in dealing with all manner of people from a variety of professional backgrounds. Your exact duties will depend on the industry you work in and the type of projects you will manage.
“Project management is like juggling three balls – time, cost and quality”
Geoff Reiss, Project Management Demystified 2015
The usual tasks and responsibilities for a PM’s day-to-day include:
While your environment and product will vary, your process of delivering a project will usually follow the same rules. This is known as the “project management life cycle” and consists of five phases that include initiation, planning, execution, monitoring and control, and closing.
Whatever project you are preparing for, the project management lifecycle can support you and your team to stay focused, meet your key objectives and result in the successful delivery of your planned services.
To keep up with the robust and demanding nature of project management you need to have a varied skill set to be successful. As a PM you are dealing with people as well as processes and systems while trying to keep a complex project moving forward.
There is a multitude of hard and soft skills needed to be a PM but for now, we have narrowed it down to 5 essentials that we believe are the building blocks of a successful project management career.
You could say this is the most important skill for being a great PM. You will have already outlined your project road map in the planning phase, but you cannot achieve success alone. You need to effectively lead your team by motivating and mediating them throughout to empower them to reach the project goal.
As a leader, you will be the escalation point for problems and the responsibility of the outcome of the project is with you. For some people, leadership skills come naturally, while others learn the skills through experience.
You cannot be a great team leader if you are not a great communicator as you need to clearly direct and convey tasks to your team. However, it is not just your team you need to communicate with, it is everyone involved in the project from the end client to suppliers.
When working on technical projects you will need to be able to act as a translator. Often your clients might not have the technical knowledge your team has, and you will need to take technical jargon and turn it into something more colloquial.
All projects invite risk, as a PM it is your responsibility to anticipate those risks so they don’t evolve into problems, and when risks become reality you need to have a plan to deal with them. The more risk you can manage during the planning phase, the more likely your project will be a success. There will be surprises and you’ll need to be ready for them when they appear.
If you run out of funds, then you are not going to successfully complete your project and you will more than likely have some disgruntled customers on your hands. Your budget will be the lifeblood of your project and before you start anything, you will need to outline your projected costs across every phase of delivery.
As a PM you will be responsible for maintaining your expenditure throughout the project. Budget projections at the start of the project are not set in stone and will be regularly reviewed throughout. Many PM’s use tools like Monday to manage the costs of labour, procurement and operations. Without proper budgeting skills, you’re going to be in for a bumpy career.
Projects need to follow a plan and as PM you are responsible for everyone sticking to that plan. You will need to be able to build and maintain a realistic project calendar for the delivery of your service, determining milestones, deadlines and what tasks rely on others to be completed.
You will need to consider schedule clashes, potential adjustments and hand-over times. By dividing your team you will determine all roles, tasks and responsibilities of the project to ensure a fluid delivery for your customer.
There are many routes to take to become a PM, some choose to take a qualification like the Prince2 and use it to get their foot in the door, while others skip the qualification and go straight into a smaller project-related role and work their way up the career ladder.
Whether you choose the qualification route or not, hands-on experience is key to your success but how do you get experience without already having experience? The truth is you likely have more transferable project skills than you realise, you could be a marketer planning a campaign/launching a new product or an operations manager implementing new procedures, the fundamentals of project management are everywhere.
Whatever role you are in, start to look at all the skills a PM needs and then learn where the gaps in your knowledge are. Consider what projects you have been involved in and what projects do you have coming up? By identifying these gaps, you can start to volunteer for more responsibility for upcoming work projects and fill those gaps.
Embrace project management any way you can, use the relevant software in your own day-to-day life, follow blogs and learn as much about the project world as possible. If you feel priced out of the Prince2 qualification at this time, there are other courses you can take from platforms like Udemy to build your CV and get your foot in the door. Finally, when you have your CV ready, just be persistent and apply for as many relevant project management related jobs as you can.
According to Glassdoor the current average pay for a PM is £43,915 (as of 16/03/21) but your salary as a PM will depend heavily on your experience and the sector you work in. Some senior PM’s are earning 6 figure salaries, this is because there is no ceiling for a project manager, you can take the role as far as you want it to go.
That’s it from us on becoming a PM for now. If you think that it might be the right career for you then there is nothing stopping to beginning your journey right now and preparing for a bright future as a PM.
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