Depending on your education level, you need to have spent either 4,500 or 7,500 hours leading and directing projects. The high entry barrier is part of why PMP is the project management gold standard. So how do you even get started?
Keep a record of your work
It’s important you understand this now. If you don’t keep a record of your work, it might get missed from your PMP application. PMI expects details of the project work including qualifying hours, dates of employment, role, organization details, reference, and an experience summary. How do you know if something you worked on qualifies as a project? PMI’s definition is “a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product or service.” So really, anything with a specific deliverable and deadline.
You can volunteer as project coordinator or expediter. Because it’s unpaid work, there are often more opportunities for the less experienced. Remember that it takes thousands of hours leading and directing projects to qualify for PMP. So you might prefer to work those hours into your day job. There’s probably only so much time you can dedicate to volunteering.
Conferences are a great way to get advice about starting out in project management. Not only that, but with the right networking, you might be able to get a job from it. Even the most seasoned project managers value networking. It’s worth developing a strong professional network early in your career.
Consider your industry
Software vendors and consulting firms are popular environments for project management. For entry level roles, look for titles like business analyst and test manager. Bear in mind though, building websites, producing media, and organising events all count as projects. That means there are many other industries you can work in.
Companies don’t hire entry level and junior project managers. Your best bet is to move up within a company until you can run a low risk/low visibility project. Once you’ve got enough experience under your belt, you can move on to bigger projects or companies.
Run your own projects
Suggest small projects you can lead to your managers, like a new way to process vendor invoices. To find the basis of your project, ask yourself and others in the company:
- What processes take the most time to complete?
- What processes cost the most money to complete?
- What processes are the most frustrating?
Map out one of these processes, like a monthly report and see what you can take out or automate. Test out your new version for quality and speed. Then write a report detailing how much time and/or money you can save.
Ignore job titles
If you provide examples of new products, services, processes or systems you created, the job title you had at the time doesn’t matter. In fact, PMI doesn’t even care about your current title. All you need is a reference who worked with you on the project to verify that your description of it is accurate.
Get a CAPM certification
If you haven’t led a project before, you can get a Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) certificate. This will help you understand the PMBOK® Guide ahead of the PMP exam. This qualification can also help you find new opportunities. If you’re struggling to break into project management, this should be the first certification you pursue. You can get an accredited online training course here.