How do I get project management experience?
If you’re looking to gain project management experience, we’re going to assume you’re either working towards a certification that requires several hundred hours' worth of project management experience, or perhaps just need something to put on your CV to improve your chances of being hired.
If you’d like to know more then check out our project management courses.
The good news is, it really isn’t that hard if you know where to look.
We’re going to break down project management experience and teach you how you might get some experience under your belt, so stay tuned.
What qualifies as project management experience?
If you need to collect a certain number of hours to qualify for a project management certification, chances are, they’re right under your nose.
The Project Management Institute (PMI) Project Management Professional (PMP)® course for example, defines project management experience as any work which falls under the 5 PMP project management phases including: Initiation, Planning, Execution, Monitoring and Controlling, and Closing. That’s a lot of categories, which means even if your job title isn’t ‘project manager’ you’ve probably taken on jobs that qualify as project management experience.
There’s always a bit of creative room for you to wriggle in some tasks only loosely related to project management. But if you need any more help, look at the list below. If you’ve ever done anything that’s similar to these tasks, congratulations – you already have project management experience!
- Discuss project expectations with internal stakeholders
This means you’ve been given a task and have met with your superiors and co-workers to figure out what needs to be done and how best to do it.
- Coordinate project tasks through an entire project lifecycle
You can multi-task and swap jobs on-the-fly to make sure everything gets done on time.
- Supervise project team members
Simply that, you’ve helped a co-worker complete his/her task or given them some helpful tips.
- Develop business relationships
This is a no-brainer. If you’ve ever worked in an office, you’ll have met with coworkers to discuss daily plans, or you’ve talked to clients on the phone, or maybe you just made sure to attend weekly meetings.
- Prioritize tasks
You’ll often have to balance duties in an office role. Unless your job is very specific, you’ve probably handled a few jobs simultaneously. Interviewers just want to know you can juggle deadlines.
- Create project documentation
OK, so this is something you’ve either always done, or never done. Not every job out there requires documentation (or otherwise ignores documentation it because it’s a pain). Good news is there’s a lot of ways to interpret what ‘documentation’ really is. Emails, spreadsheets, memos or even just some helpfully placed notes all constitute project documentation.
- Coordinated inter-departmental dutiesAgain, it sounds complex, but it’s not. If you’ve ever had to run some files down to accounting or call up maintenance, you’ve helped two or more departments work together.
- Create effective communications
If you really want to impress interviewers, think of a time you helped improve communication between co-workers. Maybe you set up an online chat room, or maybe you just went for some after-work drinks and made a few friends? It all counts as fostering good communications.
- Maintain accurate schedules
Similar to documentation, you’ve either always done it, or you haven’t. This is all about recording how long it takes to accomplish a task for the purpose of establishing potential deadlines and prioritizing tasks. It’s not so much about managing your own time, but managing the time of others, so unless your involved in management, you probably can’t count your past experience towards this.
- Report issues to management if necessary
Simple, but also a big part of what project managers do during the execution phase of a project. If you’ve ever noticed that something can be done better and proposed a solution, well that’s a huge point to bring up in interviews.
- Conduct weekly, daily or retrospective meetings
Holding meetings aren’t just the responsibility of management. Often, co-workers will discuss a task over lunch or coffee. That’s a ‘meeting,’ even if it’s very informal, so count that towards your project management experience.
- Improve customer satisfaction or act as main customer contact
If you’re in a client-facing role, or if you answer the phone on occasion, you’re probably a dab hand at customer contact. Interviewers need to know that you have people-skills. Being a project manager means keeping your cool when things go wrong. You’ll have to negotiate some tricky situations; if you think you can calmly explain to customers why a project is late and over-budget, and smooth over some ruffled feathers at the same time, you might just be one of the best project managers we’ve ever seen!
- Measure project performance
This one’s a little tricky. Project management generally requires the knowledge of specific industry tools to measure project performance. If you want to learn more about these, you’ll need to research what tools are used in your chosen industry and take a few online courses to familiarize yourself with them.
Can I become a project manager without experience?
Generally speaking, no. There are very few businesses willing to take a gamble on an untested junior project manager. If you’re having trouble getting your foot in the door, consider volunteering your skills to a charitable organization. They likely won’t pay you, but you'll have the opportunity to work alongside some truly inspired people.
Can I become a project manager without a degree?
Maybe? That all depends on whether you can get a non-project management related role in your industry without a degree. Project management is all about experience and knowing the ins-and-outs of your trade. Working your way up from the bottom is a sure-fire way to one day become a project manager. If the entry-requirements to your work of choice are high, the requirements to become a project manager will be even higher.
And there you have it. Keep in mind, this isn’t a comprehensive list of all the ways you can acquire relevant experience, but we hope it sheds some light on activities you never thought might count towards project management experience.