Are you an aspiring project manager but unsure how you can get there without experience? While the field is awash with many experienced, certified Project Management Professionals (PMPs), you may be happy to know that, yes, it’s possible to enter this coveted field without any years of experience at all.
Transitioning to an entry-level or fully qualified project manager and taking your career to the next level will require more varied experience and capabilities. Training and certification also helps.
In this article, I’m going to cover some of the entry-level project manager roles, how you can enter project management as a beginner, job search tips, required skills and training, and more.
What Is An Entry-Level Project Manager?
There are many entry-level positions and career levels in project management. Some beginner titles include:
- Assistant project manager
- Project management coordinator
- Junior project manager
In these or similar roles, even with less than one year of experience, you can still make an average base junior project manager salary of $60,000+ annually (get more project manager salary info here). Let’s take a quick look into what you need to do to make this attractive income if you have limited or no experience.
What Does An Entry-Level Project Manager Do?
Entry-level project roles, regardless of your title, typically assist more experienced project managers in handling all aspects of project responsibilities, including:
- Gathering project information throughout the project life cycle
- Running reports
- Analyzing data
- Documenting project details
- Attending meetings, taking notes, and following up on tasks later
- Sending out communications
- Tracking and reporting back on the status of tasks and schedules
- Updating various documents as warranted
Many of these tasks will help prepare you for advancing to the next level as a full-fledged project manager, all while you gain more experience and increase your level of responsibility. But how do you go about landing one of these entry-level roles if you’re new to project management? These steps can help you get there.
How To Become A Project Manager As A Beginner
So you are completely new to project management and have zero experience—follow these steps to get your foot in the door toward becoming a project manager.
1. Get Familiar With The Required Skills And Qualifications
Project management can be challenging at times, but if you have strong organizational skills along with these other technical project management skills, soft skills, and qualifications, you’ll be leading projects like a pro in no time.
|Hard Skills||Soft Skills|
Agile and other Methodologies
Project scope management
Strategic project management
Find our full list of project management skills here.
|Project Phases||Knowledge Areas|
|1. Project Initiation|
2. Project Planning
3. Project Execution
4. Project Monitoring & Controlling
5. Project Closure
|1. Project integration management|
2. Project scope management
3. Project time management
4. Project cost management
5. Project quality management
6. Project resource management
7. Project communications management
8. Project risk management
9. Project procurement management
10. Project stakeholder management
What if you’re completely new and just don’t have this knowledge or work experience yet?
2. Find A Project Manager To Mentor You
No matter what industry you work in, odds are there is a project management office (PMO) or project team with a seasoned project manager you can shadow. You may even know someone there who is willing to help you get up to speed on what's required to be a project manager.
Contact them and ask if they would be willing to be your mentor. You'd be surprised how many project managers will be willing to help guide you because they understand the complexities of project management and have been mentored by others as well.
Project management is a complex area, with many moving parts, and often riddled with ambiguity. If you're fortunate enough to have a mentor, you’ll no doubt witness the hectic nature of their schedule and numerous responsibilities. Be respectful and take the time to listen carefully, ask many questions, and make sure to document everything.
3. Volunteer In An Entry-Level Role
What if you can't find a mentor? Approach your supervisor to become a volunteer entry-level project assistant or take on an internship. With 25 million new project management-oriented employees needed to meet global talent demands by 2030, I’m sure many employers need more project talent and would be interested in having you volunteer in an entry-level capacity.
This is a win-win for you and your employer. Your employer gets the extra project help they need, and you can bolster your resume with your new project management experience.
4. Ask To Sit In On Project Meetings
If experience with specific projects or types of projects is what you’re looking for, take a look at some of the projects happening around your company. Then, talk to your direct supervisor about your career aspirations. Request their approval to approach other functional managers about sitting in and learning about their projects and how each is managed.
It goes without saying that your manager would need to feel comfortable that this wouldn’t impact your existing workload or commitment to your current team members.
To achieve this, it’s a good idea to quantify and document your current workload and identify the time you have available to take on opportunities to learn about project management. It’s even better if you can share with your manager how it benefits your team.
5. Take Online Project Management Courses
If work time is already overloaded, there may be other options, such as using some of your personal time to get up to speed on project management through online courses and training.
Make sure to do your due diligence and confirm if the courses are from a reputable trainer or institution. Also, confirm the courses are recognized by employers.
PMI also has a list of authorized project management training partners.
6. Pursue PMI’s CAPM Credentials
If you’re looking to pick up a recognized project management credential to boost your career, project management certification with the Project Management Institute (PMI) is a great option. Initially, you can get an entry-level professional certification without a four-year degree.
Getting PMI’s Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)® certification can help you pursue entry- and associate-level jobs, such as project coordinator and junior project manager career opportunities.
The timeline for getting the CAPM is fairly short, and the credentials are recognized by many employers and hiring managers in the project management field. Following that, you’ll have more time to gain experience and get some leadership skills through hands-on project work to pursue a full-time project management career path.
When you earn your CAPM certification, you automatically meet the 35 hours of project management education and training required to write the PMP exam. Here are the requirements for the CAPM:
- You must have a secondary degree, such as a high school diploma, GED (general educational development), or global equivalent.
- You need at least 23 hours of project management education completed before the exam (PMI’s online Project Management Basics course can help fulfill this requirement).
There are currently 1.6 million PMI PMP Certification holders worldwide, including CAPM, PMP, PMI-ACP, and more. Why not join them?
Once you've completed the steps that work for your situation, you’re likely ready to update your resume to highlight your new project-based experience and training and pursue an entry-level role in project management.
8 Tips For Your Project Management Job Search
As a project manager who also started out with limited experience before getting my CAPM and then PMP, I’ve included some tips that helped me advance my career. Hopefully, they’ll help you to get hired as a new project manager much faster.
- Spend time transforming your old resume. Many resumes are more general in format and content. Really focus on sprucing it up. Find a project manager resume template and hone the content to make your project experience the focal point. With pretty much everything becoming digital, you definitely want to highlight any experience that establishes you as a progressive digital project manager.
- Ask your mentor or someone in project management to scour your resume to ensure it looks professional and captures the essential skills and capabilities required for an entry-level project role. Employers will want to see that you pay attention to detail and can do the job, especially as a beginner.
- Explore project management jobs at your current employer first. Unless you are unhappy with your current employer, it's the best place to start your new career. You’re on the inside track and have already established yourself.
- Put out the word with your network connections. Oftentimes people in your own network are looking for new project managers or know of others who are looking as well. While it doesn't remove risk completely, employers tend to feel more confident with new employee referrals.
- Leverage social media connections, recruiting, or project management groups. It’s estimated that 79% of job seekers use social media platforms in their job searches. Just type in words like “entry-level jobs,” then filter on the tab “jobs” and select entry-level or associate under the tab “experience-level.” This narrows down the roles to make it easier to find jobs for new project managers.
- Look for companies and recruiters that post they are hiring. Go beyond the job ads on LinkedIn. Follow companies, recruiters, or project management groups and check your newsfeed daily. Often, people will share posts when they need new employees. Enter the words “hiring,” “we’re hiring,” or similar phrases and click search. Then filter by company, location, industry, service categories, or other filters.
- Search reputable project forums, online magazines, journals, and communities. People often frequent these resources for tips on improving their job search and prospects. Not only will you find sage advice on navigating the world of project management and improving project outcomes, but you'll also find there are really great job-seeking resources. Make sure to sign up for newsletters with any sources that post project management positions. This way, you get notifications right away. The DPM community is also an excellent space to network, get career advice, or even find a mentor.
- Keep looking for opportunities to expand your skills and knowledge. Often what helps a new project manager become a successful project manager is their dedication to the profession. Highly experienced and reputable project managers are often easily able to advance their careers—but it takes a mindset of continuous improvement and education. DPM’s mini courses are a great and affordable way to expand your skill set.
Getting Invited To The PM Table
Having your foot in the door is just the beginning; remember, becoming a trusted project manager requires so much more. It takes dedication to advance your new project management career and the profession. This is what helps you go from no experience to an inexperienced project manager on your first project and finally to a senior project manager, excelling, demonstrating value to companies, and getting invited to the leadership table.
Still wondering if project management is the right career for you? We can help you decide.
If you found these steps toward a career in project management helpful, connect with me on LinkedIn and let’s chat about it—I'd love to hear your thoughts.
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