A career in project management has proven to be one of the more recession-proof career paths, as 15.7 million project management positions will be created globally by 2020 according to the Project Management Institute’s Project Management Talent Gap Report. So with unemployment rates in the United States over 12% for those under 29, and 44% of college graduates in their 20s stuck in “low-wage, dead-end jobs,” students looking to position themselves to be attractive to future employers would be well advised to pursue studies in project management and learn the foundational skills needed for the career.
In addition to building skills, aspiring project managers should treat their careers like a project itself and plan its roadmap.
The first step is to make an honest assessment of your skills. Being a successful project manager requires skills beyond those learned in a classroom, and generally suits some personality traits more than others. Project managers need to be able to:
- Be honest in all communications, whether delivering positive news or negative
- Maintain focus on the project’s goals and filter out peripheral distractions
- Be organized and detail-oriented – they need to sweat the small stuff
- Have a positive attitude, even (or especially) when projects are facing difficulties
- Engage and motivate your team members to encourage a culture of collaboration
- Be client-focused, but still advocate for the best interests of the project at all times
Next, gain experience. Whether by shadowing your company’s other project managers on larger projects or managing smaller projects or events on your own, seek out opportunities to involve yourself in the process. Not only will you gain valuable experience that you can leverage for future opportunities, but you can assess your suitability for the field with real-world examples.
Then, pursue an advanced degree that teaches the more practical and tangible skills that serve as the foundation for every project manager’s toolkit. Effectively managing projects is both an art and a science and a formal education in the field will equip project managers with the technical skills needed to succeed. Tools like GANTT and PERT; strategic management techniques including budgets, schedules, workflows, and mitigating risks; and quality analysis and problem solving skills as they relate to the coordination, planning, and execution of projects in an organization are core competencies of any effective decision maker.
New England College’s Master of Science in Management’s – Project Management concentration teaches relevant project management techniques and theories. By studying online, students can immediately marry their education with their real-world careers. The comprehensive curriculum builds on students’ knowledge and addresses management areas of ethics, transformational change, strategic communications, accounting, and finance and their applications throughout the lifecycle of a typical project.