New to Project Management – No Experience!

I need a little advice; I changed my career path and decided on project management, I earned the CAPM because I don’t have formal experience – any suggestions on how to use transferable skills to my advantage?

There are two main avenues to explore. The first is can you use your new-found knowledge about project management in your current position or elsewhere in your current organisation. It is worth exploring these two before deciding to try elsewhere externally. It really does depend on the current job you are doing but there are always ways to bring in project management skills that really do benefit non-project management positions. For example, planning a piece of work, picking up a new initiative, reporting on what you’re doing to your manager, creating a budget and so on. There may be an opportunity in another part of the business which is more aligned to project based working. Make sure you explore this – not just by talking to HR but also to other colleagues in other departments.

The second avenue is to look externally. It’s true that lots of people try out for Project Administrator / Co-ordinator level positions as a step into project management so it’s already a competitive marketplace for those roles. To be successful it comes down to your prior experience, what skills you can bring to the organisation day one with an understanding that you will develop more in the role from on-job support and further training.

There are certain business based roles that make a good stepping stone into these roles – anything which has excellent organisational and administration skills; roles where supporting a team of people is prominent; positions that require analytical skills like planning and finance. It’s these experiences plus the CAPM which make you an ideal candidate for those first steps into a project based position.

To get prepared for those roles and the interviews you will face you need to understand what the core competencies are and the main tasks they perform. There are general five top areas; planning, reporting, methodology related, issues/risks/change and secretariat.  If you understand the core competencies you will be more able to demonstrate your transferable skills gained from your current role and how you can use them in the role you are interviewing for.

You’ll also need to understand more about the types of tools a Project Administrator / Co-ordinator use in their job and become familiar with how these work. Having advanced skills in MS Excel is always welcomed plus exposure to Gantt planning tools. These are both areas you can start to work on and develop now, making you more marketable and increasing your chances of success.

PM NetworkThese Q&As come from my column in PM Network – the membership magazine for the Project Management Institute. To find out more advice on getting ready for a new project management job, take a look at the Arras People career pages too, there’s loads of advice!

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