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Graduates Wanting to Become Project Managers

But I’m a Graduate, What Other Project Management Qualifications Would I Need?!

For those of you recently graduating, or soon to graduate congratulations.  Perhaps I should say commiserations as you leave the comfort of the immediate social network of University life, the continuous pull of cheap nights out and the dodgy hairstyles.

It is unfortunately time to finally focus on developing that career and looking at your overdraft statements.

Welcome.   If you are considering project management as a career path then well done.  It is a discipline that grows and develops year after year.

The drive for cost effectiveness and the complexity of business has resulted in many organisations paying much greater attention to “proper” project management.

Implementing a corporate wide software roll out on budget and timescale does not happen by chance.

The career opportunities are therefore likely to continue to grow into the future as more and more organisation adopt more rigorous project management disciplines.

The world does however fall into two camps. Those that believe you must have industry knowledge before being able to work in project management (how can you manage a pharmaceutical drug development project if you are not a pharmacists or similarly qualified person?), and those that believe a good Project Manager can add value on any project, provided they are surrounded by subject matter experts (a good project team).

I am a strong believer of the latter, not the former, as are a number of larger pharmaceutical companies and a growing number of other organisations. Indeed our specialist project management recruitment team are often asked to source Project Managers for our clients specifically from outside their industry.

However, let’s be very clear, you are very unlikely to be given a role as Project Manager straight from University. There is a ladder to climb and your job is to find it and climb it quickly.

Many of our clients do look to recruit degree qualified junior Project Managers, but more often Project Coordinators who will then develop into Project Managers.  This is the quickest route to running your own projects.

A career path within an organisation is very likely to be based on gaining knowledge of that particular industry, but do remember that your skills in Project Management are transferable.

This is one of the significant benefits of our discipline, and every industry has projects, so they need Project Managers! A good Project Coordinator in the London area can command a salary of more than £30,000.

Graduate entry positions can range across industries but £18,000 to £22,000 is usual.

Differentiate Yourself

So how can you gain that first entry position?  How can you differentiate yourself from other intelligent, enthusiastic and debt ridden graduates?

There are a number of industry qualifications & training courses that could add significant weight to a graduate CV.  Most importantly they would immediately demonstrate your commitment to developing a career in project management.

Project management is not an obvious career choice so showing prospective employers that you have a genuine interest in the subject, an appreciation of the benefits and a desire to develop your career will very quickly help lift your candidacy to the top of the pile.

Firstly, as a Project Coordinator and in the future as a Project Manager you will be using project planning software such as Microsoft Project Online.

MS Project is the most commonly used tool and it is worth getting some professional training to add to you CV.  Saying “I have a working knowledge of MS Project” is not as strong a statement as “I attended and passed a course on MS Project”.

The Association for Project Management provides, what I believe, is the most well-rounded entry level qualification; the APM Project Fundamentals Qualification.

The APM also offers student membership and amongst other benefits, this will give you membership of AMP Inspire, an initiative that was introduced in 2005 to bring together students and young professionals.  This could be the start of your new social network!

Never Stop Learning

When you do successfully start working in Project Management do yourself a favour and use your planning skills to plan out your career.

Obviously things will change and opportunities will hopefully arise that you did not foresee (that’s projects for you), but do continue to thing about qualifications and plan to do something each year.

Whether you decide to attend Project Challenge, APM events, joining your local APM Chapter, or achieving further qualifications, do not leave your career development to chance.

I see so many weak CVs from otherwise good candidates.  They have not taken a pro-active approach to managing their own career, resulting in a CV that lists little more than work experience.

Make a note to add something to your CV every year.

And finally, give yourself a graduation present, a professional looking email address.

Graduate candidates listing themselves (and they regularly do) as bigdog@hotmail.com or misspinkbling@msn.com are perhaps not showing themselves in the best possible light.

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