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So you want to be a project manager? Here's everything you need to know!

WorkflowMax is all about making project management simple, but the truth is that complex jobs need more than just clever project management software – there has to be an actual human steering the ship.

In most companies, this job falls to the project manager. It’s this person’s responsibility to juggle all the various tasks and budgets and resources associated with a job. Their ultimate goal? To finish the job for the client on time, on budget, and to the highest quality possible. Sounds simple? Well, it can be anything but.

Project management is an exciting field. In this type of role you’ll be responsible for not just managing tasks and budgets, but people, too. You’ll need to be quick on your feet, an excellent problem solver, and have excellent leadership qualities. Because you’ll be juggling lots of different details, tasks, and costs, you should be a great organiser (and it helps to be good at juggling, too).

Several different industries have a need for qualified and enthusiastic project managers: finance, construction, property, IT, healthcare, engineering, architecture, creative industries … the list goes on. Many project managers even work as consultants and contractors, picking and choosing the jobs that interest them most.

So if you’ve had an opportunity to enter the project management field, or you’re thinking this could be the right career for you, then read on to find out how you can enter the field of integrated project management.

What Does a Project Manager Do?

The short explanation: They manage projects.

The long explanation: A project manager is responsible for seeing a client’s project through from the first stage to completion. As a project manager, the stages of a job that you might be involved in include:

  • Scoping the project
  • Onboarding new clients
  • Scheduling and budgeting of different tasks/components
  • Risk assessment
  • Other governance issues
  • Team leadership
  • Managing and liaising with various stakeholders
  • Quality checking / assurance
  • Reporting on progress, delays, and issues that arise
  • Assessment of results
  • Pulling together multiple departments / teams
  • Meeting deadlines
  • Client liaisons
  • Closing down the project

As you can see, there’s a lot going on and a huge amount of responsibility on the plate of the project manager. Obviously not all of these elements will apply to every job and every industry, and you will have a whole team behind you who will provide all the expertise you need.

What Industries Require Project Managers?

There are several industries and markets across the world that are crying out for experienced integrated project management professionals (such as yourself). Here are just a few of those industries, and what they’re looking for:

Construction: The GFC has slowed construction markets in developed countries, but there are still emerging markets in desperate need of qualified project management professionals. By 2025 the global construction industry is expected to rise by 70%, with China, the USA and India driving this increase. India, for example, faces a rapidly-growing population that has outgrown its infrastructure and needs as many as 1 million skilled project managers right now to fill the skills shortage. (Source)

IT: The tech industry is still growing with all the force of a hurricane. In the US, the tech industry alone outpaces growth in other industries by 300%. Larger firms are busy acquiring small startups and consolidating across countries and continents. With all this merging and buying and growing and consolidating going on, the IT industry is keen on acquiring project managers who can reorganize systems and undertake complex technical projects. To be successful in this industry, it’s imperative you have a good understand of the project management software and methodologies employed.

Healthcare: Both the private and public healthcare sectors are looking to improve care and lower costs. In the United States in particular, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has created more competition on the health insurance marketplace. Add to this aging populations, the need to improve delivery, and changing regulations, and you have a market that’s crying out for skilled people. Project managers (especially those with IT skills) can find a lot of work here creating new resources and analysing data to help companies remain competitive. (Source)

Aerospace & Defence: If you’re like me and you see the word “space” and start to geek out, then this is the industry for you. The US, the EU, and the Chinese are pouring huge amounts of money into their space programs, and many private companies are also in the space game, producing incredible technological advances. It’s an exciting – if somewhat turbulent – time for the industry, and they are in need of project practitioners to manage the variety of different programs.

Defence companies, in contrast, need to operate at the height of efficiency. They often have small staffs and increasingly restrictive regulations. But there is a lot of variety in these roles, and you can end up with some fascinating projects. Read about Dan Schellinger, program manager at Dynamics Research Corporation. His job involves overseeing projects to streamline the movement of US equipment, supplies and personnel around the globe.

“There’s a strong need in this industry for project managers who can understand the strategic vision of the organization, identify key projects and align them with those strategic goals,” says Schellinger (Source).

Energy: With population growth showing no sign of slowing and growing labour markets putting pressure on already stretched resources, the energy sector is feeling under increasing pressure to keep up with demand. These projects can be risky, but offer great rewards for project management professionals who enjoy a challenge. You can be working in far-flung locations such as remote oil rigs or mining sites in the middle of the ice. (Source)

Governance: Both local and national governments require project managers to oversee various projects. Whether you want to manage major motorway developments, or create public education programs and sculpture trails at local Council-owned parks, then there is a need for project managers in your chosen fields. Government jobs often include great benefits like increased job security and work/life balance.

Legal: You might not expect the legal field would have a requirement for skilled project management professionals, but in recent years many companies are bringing in project management methodologies in order to deliver services more efficiently and control risks. Adam Seskis, senior vice president of Epiq Systems (a technology provider for the legal field based in New York), explains that firms using effective project management can win more cases and trim costs. “The key is to understand the downstream impact of decisions that are made in the heat of a project. When a project goes bad in the legal field, it can result in an appearance on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.” (Source).

What Skills and Qualities do I need to be a successful project manager?

There are certain qualities that make a good project manager. If you’re reading this article, chances are you probably already possess many of them. 

Relevant Qualifications: We’ll discuss these in more detail in the section below. Depending on the industry you want to enter, there may be qualifications required in order for you to carry out project management work. It’s best to check with a career guidance website or industry association to see if you meet all the requirements for your industry.

Well-organised: If you’re going to be successful in the project management field, then you need to be an organisational geek. You were the kind of kid who colour-coded his pencils or lined up her stuffed animals according to height order. You have to enjoy project management software and go nuts over statistics.

Vision & Focus: These two areas go hand-in-hard. You need to be able to see the “big picture”, in order to hold the overarching project goals in check. But you also need to have laserlike focus on the details, in order to ensure that nothing is lost – it's the little details that come together to create the flawless whole.

Leadership qualities: A project manager is responsible for the entire job. You need to be able to inspire great work, manage different types of people, and react quickly while under stress. It isn’t for everybody, but those with strong leadership skills will do well in the field. See this Entrepreneur article on 50 Traits of Great Leaders for ideas on how to improve your leadership abilities.

Familiarity with project management software: There are many different types of software designed to make managing project simple. Luckily, with WorkflowMax’s 14-day free trial, it’s easy to get familiar with the way project management tools enable a team to track every facet of a job.

Current technical and soft skills: Whatever your industry, there will be different technical competencies, methodologies and project management tools that you’ll need to be able to understand and implement.

Business acumen: A good project management professional is one that has an understanding of the business pressures and pain points in a particular industry. Often, a company looking to hire a project manager will look for someone with business management experience or a business degree.

project_manager_section-1.pngWhat about qualifications?

There are several qualifications available to interested project managers. Of course, the qualifications you pursue will very much depend on your industry and the country you reside in. Particularly for engineering and construction fields, local and national regulations will dictate the qualifications you need. If you’re a student considering which courses to take, talk to someone in the industry to help you make your decision.

In industries such as IT, where methodologies are important to successful project management, you may find it beneficial to gain certification in particular methodologies, such as Agile, Six Sigma, KanBan or Waterfall. For a full run-down of project management methodologies and their pros/cons, check out our blog article: Choose Your Project Management Methodology: Pros & Cons of Agile, Waterfall, PRiSM and More.

Of course, in many fields you don’t need to have qualifications in order to become a project manager. Many people fall into project management roles after spending years doing related work, such as site managing construction projects or managing workflows in an office or agency.

Kiron D. Bondale has been in the project management field for more than 13 years. He recommends that potential managers not pursue formal qualifications until they’ve had at least some practical experience. Employers have a bias against candidates they consider “paper-certified”. “While the lack of a certification could eventually prevent you from landing certain project management roles, those are not likely to be the ones you will be pursuing for your first project manager role.”

What will I be doing on a day-to-day basis?

Integrated project management involves many varied tasks, and no two days on the job are going to be the same. One day you might be on site at a major construction project, supervising the delivery and installation of windows, and the next day you might be meeting with potential new clients and stakeholders, or entering data into your project management software.

To get an idea of the types of duties you will have, look at the “What Does A Project Manager DO?” section.

project_manager_section-2.pngWhat salary can I expect?

It’s pretty hard to make salary assumptions for ALL project managers when different industries have vastly different expectations. But there are a few sources of public information available that might give you an idea of what you can expect.

According to Project Manager Jobs, a leading UK website helping provide the construction project management industry with advice and information, the average salary will depend on your skill level. A junior project manager will starts at around £25,000 and then depending on experience, can be up to £50,000. However, project managers with a good amount of experience can earn around £80,000+, and contract roles may pay even more.

The New Zealand website Payscale lists different average salaries for certain industries. It lists a project manager’s salary in the construction industry as between $54,000-$117,000. In the IT Industry, a project management professional can expect to make between $63,000-$120,000, and in the engineering industry the average salary is between $58,000-$118,000.

The Project Management Institute lists the countries with top salaries for project practitioners. Australia comes in top with an average of US$134,658, with Switzerland and the US right behind with $133,605 and $108,000 respectively. The Netherlands, Germany, New Zealand, Canada, Belgium, the UK, and Sweden also feature. The PMI website offers some great information for anyone wishing to get into the project management field.

Landing that Dream Project Management Role

So you’ve got your qualifications and you have the right skills and personality for the role, now how do you find out where all the good project management jobs are at?

  • Talk to people in the industry. You might even be able to gain an internship or work experience working under a project management professional.
  • Join an industry association or governing body. These are great venues for networking, professional development, and learning about job opportunities.
  • Set up alerts on job noticeboards. Choose websites that cater to your industry or where recruiters are likely to be looking. Set up a feed to email you whenever a potential job is posted.
  • Update your LinkedIn profile. Many recruiters hunt around on LinkedIn for potential candidates, so learn how to attract them to your profile page. Here’s a post we wrote on creating an irresistible LinkedIn profile – it’s aimed at engineers, but will be useful for project management professionals, too.
  • Contact organisations you’d like to work for. Express interest. If you’re a graduate, ask if they offer a graduate program – many IT companies, engineering, legal and construction firms do.

Remember that in your industry, project managers might go under another title. For example, in the creative industry, the people responsible for liaising with clients and managing the projects are called Account Managers.

project_manager_section-3.pngTips for Your Project Management Resume

You’ve found that project management job, and you’re keen to apply, but your resume needs a bit of updating. Here are five tips to ensure your resume for project management jobs is the best it can be:

Personal Statement: Begin your resume with a short paragraph talking about your work and characteristics. You can rewrite this personal statement for each application based on the particular role.

Education: List your education in reverse chronological order. The hiring manager is most interested in your recent qualifications, and not your high school scores. Provide all relevant details about each qualification, such as the institution, dates attended, and your final marks. Keep this section as short as possible, so if required, omit irrelevant qualifications.

Length: Keep things brief and to-the-point. Your resume should be no longer than two A4 pages. Experiment with different resume templates if you can’t fit everything in – sometimes changing the way the document looks can enable you to fit more information.

Be personal: Tailor your resume to every project management job you apply for. Keep a master file handy and edit in/out relevant qualifications, experiences, and references.

Update your LinkedIn profile: Many companies are moving to online recruitment systems, that enable employees to apply using their LinkedIn profiles. Also, many recruiters and HR professionals scour LinkedIn for potential candidates, so stand out by making sure your profile is as thorough as your resume. (For more information on improving your LinkedIn profile, see this article. )

Should I Work for a Company or become a Contractor?

While many companies hired project management professionals on a salaried basis, there is also a huge call for project managers to work on a per-project basis. It’s common in the engineering, energy, construction, healthcare and space industries to hire professionals (especially specialists in a particular field) to undertake specific projects. These project managers work as consultants, and effectively run their own firm.

So which do you want to be? The answer to this question is really up to you, and the industry you’re in. In the construction industry it is common to hire out project management services to other firms or individuals. This happens on both the small and large scales. Let’s have a look at two different types of jobs in the construction industry.

  • A homeowner might hire a project manager to oversee the building of his architecturally-designed home, as he does not have the time or knowledge to liaise with the subcontractors, hassle suppliers, and make snap decisions.
  • A large organisation such as a university might hire a project management firm to oversee the construction of a new student centre. They have a lot of liabilities to consider, and the project management firm will take care of all of this for them.

Both these jobs could be handled through a company – such as through the project manager at the architecture firm, or they might be contracted out to a project management professional. Usually, you’ll work for a company first, and once you’ve gained enough experience, you’ll branch out on your own.

Let’s take a look at some of the advantages / disadvantages of each option when thinking about your project management career.

  • Working for a company will give you peace of mind and security in your income. You get paid whether or not there’s work on, and you have the security of knowing your job is relatively safe. You’ll be able to work on some interesting projects and build experience. Having the name of a powerful company in your field can look great on your resume. You are, however, tied to the company’s performance, so if they have a bad reputation, you’re saddled with that, too.
  • Working as a contractor, or starting your own integrated project management company can be very exciting. You have a lot of responsibility, and you don’t have to call anyone “boss.” However, if you’re just starting out, it can be a challenge to find clients to fill your roster. You not only take on the role of project manager, but for CEO, CFO, business strategist, accountant, secretary, and every other role. Be sure you’re ready for this additional pressure before you dive in to running your own firm.

Being A GREAT Project Manager

Of course, we know you don’t just want to be a project manager, you want to be a GREAT project manager. Here are 6 tips to improve your project management skills.

Communication is everything: With so many people working under you, and so many different stakeholders and suppliers to juggle, it’s vital that communication channels are clear so the right message gets through.

Ask good questions: Great project managers know that they don’t know everything. Asking questions of staff, contractors, clients and stakeholders helps you to understand their needs and ensure they have everything they need.

Share information freely: The more information people have, the better they can do their jobs. Don’t hoard the data like a Viking, make sure everyone has access to what they need. One of the best ways of doing this is through project management software like WorkflowMax that stores all the project data.

Resolve conflicts quickly: Bad blood between clients, stakeholders or contractors can quickly derail a project if it’s not dealt with as soon as possible. Good project managers are skilled at conflict resolution.

Make friends and influence people: The best project managers attend industry events and maintain a virtual army of contacts and friends. When a client needs a person for a particular job, you want to be able to whip out your phone and call the perfect person.

Know your stuff: You’re the expert who needs to juggle every aspect of the project, so you need the knowledge and skills behind you to ensure you make the best decisions.

Resources

In the project management field, the industry can shift in a moment. Technology is constantly changing the game, and new methodologies and techniques can help project management professionals to navigate this exciting, but unstable, world. 

In order to succeed, it's important to always learn and imrpove. Read books and magazines and blogs (you could start by subscribing to the WorkflowMax blog) and to stay up-to-date with your local and national market.

Here are some great resources to get you started:

Easy in Theory, Difficult in Practice: Kiron Bondale’s blog all about the struggles and triumphs of a project manager.

Project Manager Jobs: a UK website with great info on finding jobs in project management.

Project Management Institute: A professional association for project managers in the construction industry.

Manage that Project! An online magazine for project managers including interesting articles, recommended reading, and tips.

Project Management Software: If you want a great tool to manage your projects, you can’t beat WorkflowMax!

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