Become a project manager

In the third of a new series about taking on new roles we look at how to become a project manager.

In the third of a new series about taking on new roles we look at how to become a project manager.

The Basics

Here’s a short summary of what a project manager is and does.

A project manager is in charge of making sure a project runs smoothly and is finished on time. They typically manage people, time and money. Project managers are found in almost every sector, from marketing and advertising to IT and construction. They are exceptional organisers and have great communication skills.

Step by step

Taking on any new role can be daunting. Here’s a step-by-step guide for getting started with project management.

1. Consider if you naturally fit the profile of a project manager
2. Research what sector you might like to work in
3. Find out if you need any specific qualifications for your preferred sector
4. Learn more about the skills required for project management
5. Practise your skills on work placements or on small self-initiated projects

Key Skills

Find out what abilities you need to be a project manager.

Organisational skills
As a project manager you’re going to be managing a lot of things: time, budgets, expectations, clients, paperwork. You will need to have organisation down to a fine art and thrive on juggling lots of different parts of a project.

Empathy
As Elizabeth Harrin a Project Manager in healthcare says ‘being able to relate to people is vital. The workforce is diverse, with multi-generational teams, as well as a wide range of cultures represented in our workplace’. If you’re going to effectively negotiate with people on projects you need to be able to understand things from their perspective.

A cool head
In every project things will go wrong. The project manager is the one who needs to stay calm and rational to get things back on track and keep everyone working harmoniously.

Communication skills
When projects start to get difficult you’ll need excellent negotiating and communication skills to resolve any conflicts. You’ll need to get your hands dirty – a project manager ‘cannot get stuck in orbit, hovering over the project like an observer and a reporter’ (Effective Agency).

Dos and Don’ts

Discover what to do and what not to do as an aspiring project manager.
Do

✅ Research types of project management (Agile, Kanban)
✅ Try to shadow a project manager to get a sense of the role
✅ Find out what sector you might like to work in

Don’t

❎ Forget that people can make or break a project
❎ Assume it will be easy – projects need constant supervision
❎ Stop learning – there are always ways to improve your skills

Advice from the front line

Hear what advice current project managers have to offer.

Luke Become a Project Manager

Luke, Digital Project Manager at TMW Unlimited, says…

“A successful project manager must have a good working relationship with their immediate project team. They must be approachable, with good communication skills and have the ‘can do’ attitude to tackle any problem head on. If you can be seen to be making a positive, constructive influence on a project, it’s easier for the team to follow suit. Any project, no matter how difficult, will have greater chance of being delivered successfully if the team remain motivated and are all pulling in the same direction.”

Fiona, Project Manager at FutureLearn says…

“I think it’s always wise to not assume. If you assume, you make an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me’! Other tips: always send an introductory email outlining where people can find key documents, what the key milestones are for a project and who’s responsible for what, even if it’s fairly top level. Also, putting stuff in writing and putting people’s names next to things quickly let’s you realise if you got something wrong! Finally, get consensus on your assumptions – silence is not always golden.”

Courses to help you grow your project management skills

Get practical help to become a project manager with courses from top organisations.

Master the basics of project management with these courses:

Business Fundamentals: Project Management by The Open University

Fundamentals of Project Planning and Management by the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

Category Learning

Comments (14)

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  • mary

    Why does it trouble and annoy me to find so far into the clips that the two highlighted links are from USA. Indeed there is nothing wrong with USA, (in this sector?) but they do things differently there and so much of what is there is for me either SDO or waffle. I imagine that would be borne out in difference between the OU and the US uni courses. This s my problem not everyone else’s, but mostly I am dealing with UK and a bit of French EU, and US “accents” or styles don’t appear to take cultural aspects into consideration. I could be wrong and prejudiced, but I need to understand why?

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