4 Tips for Getting Your First Project Management Job

4 Tips for Getting Your First Project Management Job

By Helen Sabell, CEO & College Principle, The College for Adult Learning

Make no mistake, the role of a project manager is difficult and demanding. It requires immense flexibility and unwavering leadership, but to helm, such a role is equally rewarding. The profession covers a range of industries, from IT and software development to construction or human resources.

Your role will include planning, organizing, delegating, budgeting, and documenting every aspect of a commencing project. You are the cartographer of every individual worker’s efforts. The fulfillment of completing a project you’ve managed is why a career in project management gives you a promising scope of opportunities in the future to come.

By understanding the role you’re going to fill, you can scope out the steps you need to achieve it. Here are some important tips to take into consideration when venturing out into the world of project management.

Research What the Employers Want
Entry level positions in project management are considered very unlikely to come across. As such, it is good to understand what qualities employers will be looking for. Here are some of the essential qualities employers will expect you to be proficient in:

  • Strong Leadership
    Large or small, your ability to understand the team you’re working with, empathize with them, and create a strong foundation for team building will determine the efficiency of a project.


  • Clear Communication
    Nothing will break down a project like bad communication. The ability to communicate and delegate responsibilities with your team and discuss project advancement with stakeholders and clients will determine not only efficiency but trust as well.


  • Honesty and Integrity
    A key requirement of being a trustworthy project manager is that you are honest. The basis of quickly admitting mistakes and being ready to claim responsibility will make you a reliable role model, and your own colleagues and clients will appreciate your sense of integrity.


  • Foresight and Initiative
    Assessing situations and making decisions is your pivotal role in the project. You should be able to analyze a current problem and understand a workplace environment to find the shortest solution in a moment’s notice. Some projects will be high stress and high speed—your confidence and ability to steer the project will be your defining factor.

Review your Experience and Know your Limitations
In order to build an understanding of your own qualities, you should take a look at yourself and your experiences. Pull up all of your past roles and responsibilities and find where the overlap of skills occurs.

For example, look at your current occupation, no matter how big or small. Have you:

Worked on an assignment that has required you to take charge and make important decisions?

Volunteered in the past and performed clear communication between you and many other people?

Had any leadership positions both in and out of your educational studies?

No matter what experience you’ve gained, dig away. Accentuate all the qualities that align with project management and reinforce confidence in your own skills. And if you don’t possess some of the skills you think you’ll need, check the next step to see how you can fill that gap.

Get Qualified
Entry level positions in project management are becoming increasingly hard to find and apply for, and qualifications can vary from profession to profession. Whether it’s a Bachelor of Business, or a Diploma of Project Management, having a qualification is your essential first stride to getting a job.

And if not, don’t fret. The modern day world has opened up many pathways to learn project management online without committing to an on-campus degree. Countless global and local run institutes can teach and strengthen your skills. If you choose to learn project management online, you’ll find that getting that certificate to have your skills recognized has never been easier than in the digital age – it’s up to you to take the step.

Remember that age is never a disadvantage when you need to study for a career path, adult education courses are available in a multitude of different institutes.

Prepare Yourself to Step Up
In the studying phase, knee-deep in job hunting or preparing for an interview? Whichever is most like you, maintaining your motivation and a positive attitude will get you far. If you’re working your way up through a company, then try keeping that goal in mind at all times. You’ll find that your determination may bring forth consistent motivation.

The backbone of talent is the ability to take any chance and be calm enough to learn from your mistakes. Whether you’re aiming to enter your first job in Project Management, or striving to ascend the ranks into your new position, keep your mind determined and take hold of every opportunity.

Author Bio

Helen Sabell works for the College for Adult Learning, and she is passionate about adult training. She has developed and authored many workplace leadership programs, both in Australia and overseas.


Comments (6)

  • Sirhc Ellav

    Hi there Elen. I just been promoted to a project managers position at my job so naturally, I am looking for some info I can use to become better at my job.

    I was linked to this site from this post (http://thinkthyme.com/project-management/how-to-become-a-project-manager) and like your posts, it says that I need to get qualified.

    I am self-thought and my boss obviously knows this. Now, although I am skilled at the project I am now managing, I am wondering if I should get a course on project management.

    Do you think I need to do it? Also, if so; are there some courses (ideally online) that you can recommend?

  • J. LeRoy Ward

    Hello Sirhc, this is LeRoy Ward, EVP of Enterprise Solutions here at IIL. I thought I’d take an opportunity to respond to your comments. Many project managers, and those who aspire to the position, find it valuable to continue their training and education in project management in order to improve their skills just as you seek to do. As project management is a multidisciplinary field the selection of training is quite large, from leadership and other soft skills, to the “hard” skills such as risk management and cost control. IIL (www.iil.com) has a vast offering of courses that you would find beneficial so please visit our site. You will have the best understanding your strengths and where you need some additional help.

    If you are interested in delving into all that the PMBOK Guide has to offer, may I suggest The Project Management Certificate Program: The Kerzner Approach to Project Management Excellence, named after the venerable, and venerated, Dr. Harold Kerzner, our esteemed colleague. Not only will you be exposed to all PMBOK Guide knowledge areas, the program also helps prepare candidates to earn the Project Management Institute’ Project Management Professional (PMP) credential, the most sought after credential in project management worldwide. Close to 800,000 professionals currently hold the certification. The Certificate Program is also offered “on demand,” meaning you can take it anytime and anywhere. It includes 13 dynamic video modules, a downloadable course workbook, project management templates, and full access to IIL’s Project Management IQ containing 1200 questions to help you prepare for the exam if that is also your goal. Please let me know if we can help in any way.

  • Kori

    HI Helen, I really liked reading your article. Currently I work for an electrical contractor as an office manager and wanted to take advantage of the experience I am getting here and go back to school (in a certificate program) and learn about Project Management. I thought combining my experience here as an Office Manager, having a B.A. in Human Resource Management and then using the certificate/knowledge I learn from a Project Management certificate program and construction management program could translate into an entry level PM position. However, before I went back to school I wanted to hear from a professional what their thoughts were on this, if all of that experience could translate into an entry level position in PM or if going back to school is not completely worth it. I know getting a certificate can only help in this case but really what I want to know is if that will be enough to land a job or if companies are really looking for people that have Bachelor Degrees in PM and the specific industry they want to go into.

  • Geoffrey Barnes


    Thanks for putting together this post on tips for getting your first project management job.It is a great read. I particularly find your thoughts about getting qualified really interesting.
    keep up these insightful posts.


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