Without the right skills and know-how, landing a job as a project manager can be difficult. There are smart ways to get relevant project management experience.
You are looking for work in project management, but you just do not yet have enough formal knowledge or expertise to land a role as a project manager. What do you do?
Here are four ways you can gain some relevant experience, beef up your resume, and start making more formal inroads into the field of project management.
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1. Volunteer for community projects
Volunteer work is a great way to gain some valuable project-specific experience. There are no shortage of opportunities to volunteer on community projects. Find projects that you may be interested in and ask to join as part of the project team. Try to volunteer in a leadership role as this is the best way to gain direct project management experience. If you are unable to take on a leadership role, other roles may be available that will still allow you to be part of a project team and gain relevant experience. This demonstrates to employers that you were willing to volunteer in project management roles as a sign of your commitment to becoming a project manager at work.
2. Ask to participate in project meetings
Within your organization, there are likely to be multiple on-the-go projects at one time. Identify the projects that impact your area and reach out to functional leads or project managers. Ask if you can participate in any capacity on the team or attend meetings as a participant. Express your interest in a project manager career. It is important to make sure that you talk with your direct supervisor first in order to keep them in the loop and gain their approval. This will help your supervisor identify areas of interest and determine ways he or she can assist you in your career development. While participating in an informal role, you may discover aspects of project management that appeal to you and also some that do not.
3. Consider past jobs where you played an informal role
Although you may not have been a formal project manager, you may have been part of a project team at some point within your career. Go through your resume in more detail and think about when you were a part of projects. You may not have recognized the tasks that you worked on as formal project management activities. It is important to ensure that you recognize the difference between operational activities and formal project-specific tasks. Identify those project tasks and update your resume accordingly.
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4. Create your own project
Think about some project ideas that you can implement within your department and discuss the possibility of leading a small project with your supervisor’s permission. This does not need to be a large undertaking. It could be as simple as a project to organize a small event or improve an existing workflow. Not only does this demonstrate your interest in project management but also your willingness to show initiative. As you gain more experience with smaller projects, your supervisor is more likely to greenlight larger projects. You may even want to formalize your knowledge with some project management training as things progress.
Launching your career in project management does not need to be overwhelming, small steps can get you there. Volunteering on community projects, informally participating on project teams, updating your resume with unrecognized project tasks, and initiating small projects at work are smart ways to gain relevant project management experience.