Blog post header image with text saying Career Stories: Project Manager. Posted by Charlotte Whitehead, Career Coach at Career Practic.

How to become a Project Manager?

Project management is one of those career areas that lots of people consider going into. I’ve had quite a few clients express an interest in it so I thought it might be helpful to interview someone who already works in that area to see how they got into it. Joseph Romasiuk kindly agreed to do the honours. Here’s what I learned from him.

Photo of Joseph Romasiuk.

Joseph currently works as a Project Manager at Diligenta, a UK-based company that specialises in providing business process services for the Life and Pensions Industry.

Diligenta’s aim is to transform client operations using an industry-leading platform and digital capabilities, and to support its clients to launch new products and propositions.

How did you get into project management?

Prior to his current role, Joseph worked in the public sector. He began developing an interest in project management while working for West Mercia Police. He had been working in an operational role when an opportunity arose for him to get involved as a Junior Project Manager in a large scale programme of change within the Emergency Service section.

Joseph has a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management. The degree (which he studied via distance-learning through the Open University) took six years to complete while working full-time. 

Alongside his degree, Joseph completed several certifications in project management including Prince2 Foundation, Prince2 Practitioner, and the APM Project Management Fundamentals (PMF) qualification. He has also studied Agile Project Management and attended courses offered by the Project Management Institute.

What is project management?

In simple terms, project management is about getting something from A to B, for example a systems upgrade, or a new product or service. 

What tools does a project manager use?

Prince2 (PRojects IN Controlled Environments) is a traditional methodology for managing  a project from start to finish. Using this approach, a Project Manager knows what the end goal is and gathers detail up front in order to break the project down into manageable stages. 

Agile is another project management methodology but, as the name suggests, tends to be used in a more dynamic way to develop an idea for a product or service and bring it into reality often under time pressure. Insights are generated and acted upon as the project evolves.

Regardless of which method or tool a project manager uses, they need to be able to plan, communicate, identify and manage risk, and influence stakeholders.

What qualifications does a project manager need to have?

I asked Joseph whether you need to have a degree to be a project manager and although he said no, he stressed that anyone looking to enter the profession will benefit greatly from completing one or more of the qualifications mentioned above.

Although Joseph himself does have a degree in Business Studies, he thinks that curiosity is arguably more important because you have to have a good understanding of the broader business context. As soon as you start working in a new organisation, you need to be seeking to understand the internal and external factors that may be influencing what’s going on.

That said, Joseph reflected that as his own career has developed, he’s always had or been able to acquire the expertise that he’s needed in each role. It’s not necessary to know everything when you start out.

What skills do you need to be a project manager?

Joseph said that although a lot of people are attracted to the idea of project management, in practice it’s not for everyone. Two core skills are essential for effective project management:

First, the ability to communicate in an effective and appropriate manner with people at all levels including top management, subject matter specialists, staff members and project teams. You also need to be comfortable talking to people 1:1 and giving presentations to large groups.

The second core skill of a project manager is planning. Joseph sees this as encompassing:

  • foresight & vision: being able to see what type of change is needed (e.g. improvements to operations or technology), where the potential obstacles might be, and what the end result of the change will look like.
  • courage and conviction: having confidence in how you’re seeking to deliver the desired outcomes and the conviction and courage to take those ideas forward.
  • discernment: being able to cut through noise & distractions. In any change situation, some people may have a vested interest in wanting things to stay as they are. It’s your job as a project manager to determine whether the issue they’ve raised is a genuine risk to the project, or simply a gripe that needs to be handled diplomatically.

Which is the best qualification for project management?

So far, Joseph has completed three certifications: two related to Prince2 and one from the Association of Project Managers (APM).

He recommends starting with the APM Project Fundamentals Qualification and progressing from there. The advantages of studying through the APM are:

  • It’s the only chartered institute of project management in the UK.
  • By following APM’s courses, you can work towards becoming a chartered project manager.
  • The APM courses use real world case studies and scenarios which makes what you’re studying more real.
  • If you become a member of the APM, you have access to a community of project management professionals which enables you to gain insight into the different contexts in which people work and the types of project management they do.
  • You’ll also benefit from having access to a huge library of best practice material.
  • And you get to hear about job opportunities.

It’s worth noting that APM courses are offered by training providers that have been accredited by the APM, rather than by the APM itself.

How long does it take to qualify as a project manager?

This is really two questions in one: 

  • How long does it take to get qualified as a project manager? 
  • And how long does it take to become competent at project management?

Professional qualifications in project management can be completed in a few days if doing an intensive course. For example, the APM’s Project Fundamentals Qualification (PFQ) is a 2 or 3-day course depending on whether you do it in person or online. Prince2 training can be completed in a 5-day intensive course. Self-paced distance learning options are also available.

However, doing the training and passing the exam is just the start. You have to get some hands-on experience in project management, and as with all professional areas, it takes a few years to develop competence.

Joseph suggests looking for junior project manager role in the first instance so that you can get immersed in a change environment as soon as possible. Junior PM roles can be found in a variety of contexts within an organisation, for example, estates, finance, audit, IT, web development, or human resources, and job titles can include project manager, project officer, change manager/analyst, business analyst. Each of these roles does something slightly different but they all come under the ‘change’ umbrella, whether that’s in relation to a project, a programme, or a portfolio of work.

When searching for such roles, you’ll need to consider where your interests lie in terms of the type of projects you’re interested in, the industry or sector in which those projects are located, and the type of organisation you’d like to work within (for profit, public sector, charity, large, small, etc.), and the type of role you want to try out.

Alternatively, you could look for opportunities in your current job to get involved in a project or change process as a subject matter expert. Joseph explains:

“Project Managers are unlikely to know the intricacies of the day to day running of a business operation they are tasked with changing, therefore they are almost always reliant on one or more subject matter experts to be the font of detailed knowledge. By putting yourself forward for these types of opportunity in an organisation, you are able to provide a valued opinion and informed viewpoint to the project manager, or the wider project team. And with that exposure, you’ll be able to ask questions directly to those working in change and observe how it functions from afar, without the additional responsibility or job change.”

What are the career prospects for a project manager?

A lot of people think about moving into project management as a way of getting a job and launching a career but, as noted above, you do need to have the right qualities to succeed.

Joseph has seen a surge in demand for project managers to help businesses and organisations catch up on the changes they were seeking to make when the pandemic struck. 

He himself especially likes the fact that project management offers several career paths.

One is being employed in-house as a project manager and having ongoing responsibility for project management within that business or organisation. Such positions offer scope for progression to more senior roles within the organisation or similar organisations elsewhere.

But project management also lends itself to self-employment as a project management consultant. This path could either offer greater variety or allow you to focus in on a particular niche.

Interestingly, Joseph said that project management is one field where job-hopping is more readily accepted because people may be hired on a short-term contract to work on something in particular. Joseph himself wouldn’t be put off if someone submitted a CV showing they’ve done two years here and six months there if they could demonstrate how each job had developed their project management expertise.

Do you have what it takes to be a project manager?

The key things you’ll need to consider if you want to be a project manager are:

  • What types of project interest you?
  • Which type of project management role might you be most suited to given your innate strengths?
  • Which sector might you enjoy doing project management within?
  • What type of organisation would you be interested in working for?
  • Which qualifications appeal to you the most? And how much time/money have you got to pursue them?

It naturally takes time to get the answers to these questions and you may need help pulling all that information together. Drop me a line if you’d like an initial chat to explore how strengths-based career coaching might help you manage that project(!)

Tips for getting into project management

You don’t have to know everything when you start out, but you do need to enjoy learning and be constantly curious. 

Look to get exposure to change in your own organisation if you aren’t confident about changing roles just yet. Getting involved in projects in any capacity is a great way to dip your toe in the water.

Find out more about project management

  • The Association of Project Management website has a whole section about careers in project management. 
  • has an excellent overview of project management and how to get into it.
  • also provides a helpful overview plus examples of Project Manager job descriptions. 
  • The Project Management Institute’s explains the difference between the project manager and business analyst roles.  
  • Wikipedia has a page about Change Management.  
  • And Joseph Romasiuk’s LinkedIn profile is here. If you’d like to get in touch with him directly, he’d be delighted to hear from you.

If you have a story you’d be willing to share on this blog in order to help others in their career development, I’d love to hear it. Alternatively, if Joseph’s story has got you thinking about your own career, get in touch to arrange an initial discussion.

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