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How to Become a Project Manager: The Complete Guide

We’ve all seen the scenes in Alan Sugar’s – ‘The Apprentice’, when each week individuals put themselves forward to be the project manager and then after a short vote, one lucky person takes home the title. 

As we know, in reality, getting your dream role doesn’t quite work like that. . That’s why we’ve put together this complete guide on how you can become a project manager. So, without further delay, let’s get stuck in. 

What Does a Project Manager Do? 

Exactly what the project manager does will differ slightly depending on the sector that they work in. However, there are some responsibilities that are exclusive to project managers across the board. 

The responsibilities of a project manager may include:  

  • Developing ideas for projects. 
  • Devising detailed project plans and project proposal documents.
  • Managing the budget.
  • Overseeing the project scope and timeline to ensure timely completion.
  • Communicating with external and internal stakeholders.
  • Motivating and supporting team members working on the project. 
  • Tracking and monitoring the progress of the project. 
  • Overcoming any challenges or issues that may arise. 
  • Delegating and assigning tasks to the correct team members or department.
  • Ensuring that the correct processes are followed.
  • Evaluating the projects’ effectiveness.

This list is not exhaustive, but these are the main responsibilities of the project manager. Ultimately, it is their responsibility to oversee the project from idea, to execution, to the final piece. It’s also their responsibility to evaluate how it went and what can be improved on for future projects.

What Skills Are Needed to Become a Project Manager? 

As you can see from the previous section, the project manager has a lot of plates to spin. They need to keep their eye on the ball at all times, and it can be a lot of pressure. For that reason, there are certain skills that will come in handy. These include: 

  • Leadership
  • Creativity 
  • Strong communication
  • Decisiveness 
  • Problem-solving
  • Adaptability
  • Drive
  • Passion
  • Accountability
  • Stress management 
  • Strategic thinking 
  • Integrity 
  • Organisation  

Again, this list is not exhaustive, however these are the key skills that many successful managers possess. You don’t necessarily have to be a natural-born leader to be a project manager, or have every single skill one of these skills mastered. 

You can learn and develop your skills along the way, and you may even find you don’t get the opportunity to fully expand your skill set in all these areas until you’re actually in the role. With that being said, the skills you will need from the get-go are passion, drive, and determination. A passion for what you do, and the drive and determination to see your projects through to fruition. 

The Different Types of Project Managers

So, now we’ve taken a look at what exactly the role of a project manager entails, and what key skills they possess, let’s look at the different kinds of project managers. There are generally two kinds of project managers. The first kind may have taken a formal qualification, or gone into an apprenticeship in order to gain the role of an official project manager. 

The second, is the unofficial project manager. That is, they have all the responsibilities of a project manager, but it isn’t in their official job title. For example, you may be in a managerial or senior role, and as part of that role you take on the responsibility of a project manager. 

On the other hand, you may be in a less senior role, but taking on all the responsibility of a project manager. (In that case, it might be time to talk to your manager about a promotion). 

The point is, depending on the structure and size of your company or organisation, project managers aren’t always referred to as such, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a person fulfilling that role. In this article we’ll look at a few ways you can get into project management / project management oriented roles. 

How To Get Into Project Management  

As we touched upon earlier, there are generally two routes to becoming a project manager. The first one is by completing a formal qualification, and then seeking a PM position. Even if you  didn’t initially set out to become a project manager, but have found yourself in a PM-like role, you may now want to take that to the next step. 

The Direct Route 

Though taking an official or formal course in project management will heighten your chances of getting into project management, it’s important to note that it’s not the only route, nor does it guarantee you a PM position straight away. However, it will help you stand out during the selection process, and teach you valuable skills and knowledge that you may not otherwise have been exposed to. 

If you know from the get-go that you want to be a project manager, or perhaps you’re already heading down that path and want to level up your skills in the area, then embarking on a course is a good call. Some questions that might help you decide are; 

  • How much time and resources can you dedicate to the course?
  • Is there a particular course that’s mentioned a lot within your company, or on lots of job descriptions? 
  • If you’re already in a job – will the course accommodate for this? 
  • Will you need funding for the course? If so, are you eligible?  

Once you have completed the course, you might need to take on a less senior role, such as project coordinator or assistant project manager. There’s no need to be disheartened by this, though, as these roles will provide you with the practical experience that you need to become a successful PM.  

In addition to this, it’s not going to be enough to simply get the qualification and never think of it again. Some courses expire after a few years, so you’ll need to retake them to prove your knowledge is up-to-date. 

Even the ones that don’t, you will need to ensure that you stay on top of industry knowledge and are constantly striving to improve, if you want to succeed as a project manager. 

The ‘Accidental’ Route 

Another way into project management might be less direct. Perhaps considered ‘accidental’ in the sense that you didn’t set out to become a project manager, but you have found yourself exposed to a project management orientated role, and you want more.  

This route is in no way less valuable than the more traditional route, and you can still be in the same role as someone who obtained a degree, the road may just be a little more windy. 

If you are already managing the odd project, or are involved in lots of tasks contributing to the completion of the project, there are a few steps you can take that will help you propel into the role. 

Shadow the Current Project Manager

By shadowing the current project manager, you will be exposed to their day-to-day duties. Take the opportunity to learn how they approach each task, as well as how they organise themselves. Learning from those already in the role will help you massively when it’s your turn to take the reins. 

Level Up Your PM Knowledge 

Just because you don’t currently have, or aren’t planning on, getting a degree in project management. That’s not to say you can’t still learn more about it. You could ask your manager if there are any short courses the company would be willing to send you on, or if there’s any internal training you can attend. If not, you can carry out research in your own time, there’s an abundance of short, online courses out there that are either free or don’t break the bank. 

Not only will this expand your knowledge and skill set in the area, but it shows initiative and drive too -traits that are important when it comes to managing a project.  

Take the Lead 

Once you’ve shadowed on a couple of projects and spent some time furthering your knowledge in the field – then it’s time to take the lead. One of the best ways to learn is by simply doing. So throw yourself in at the deep end and ask to take the lead on a project. If you’ve been unofficially managing projects for quite some time, learning from your colleagues and researching the topic, this shouldn’t come as a massive shock to the system, and is the natural next step.

Our Top Tips

Whether you’re on your way to becoming a project manager or have just landed the role, here are some helpful tips to help you flourish; 

  • Never stop learning. Whether you’re one year into your PM journey or ten, there is always something new to learn. Seeking to learn new skills from a mentor in your company, or an online course – expanding your knowledge in the field can only work in your favour. 
  • Be open. Just because you’ve always done something a certain way, doesn’t mean you always have to. Be open to try new methods and approaches — you never know how it might turn out. 
  • Listen to feedback. Actively seek out the opinions of your team and address any issues that they raise. Doing this can go a long way to improve current processes and styles of working. In turn, you may see an influx of projects heading your way. 
  • Communicate well. Being an excellent communicator is half the job of being a successful project manager. Communicate effectively with your team, wider departments and stakeholders. Keep everyone sweet and on the same page, and you’ll find your job will run a lot smoother. 
  • Appreciate your team. It’s true that no one works harder than someone who feels valued. Those around you are more likely to do a better job, and even go above and beyond, if they know their efforts are seen and appreciated. But beyond that, good manners and politeness are a basic common courtesy that no one, even the PM, is above.  

How Verto 365 Can Help You Become a Project Manager 

We have  partnered with Microsoft Teams to bring you all the tools of both systems under one roof. So instead of having your communication platform and work management platform running separately, both Verto 365 and Teams can run together, within the one system.

Verto 365 is a work and project management system, so it will come as no surprise to hear that it’s going to improve your project management journey tenfold. Project managers, budding and current, rely on our service to streamline their process and workflows. 

Verto 365 assists with project planning, reporting, collaborative working, team and task management, stakeholder engagement and so much more. Alongside this, our features allow for Kanban board and Gantt chart creation, instant messaging, document management and more. 

Teams use Verto

About the author – Laura Watts

Laura is the Marketing Manager at TMI Systems Ltd., working predominantly on Verto 365 and closely on the Microsoft partnership enabling the platform to be used in its entirety from Microsoft Teams. Laura and her family moved from London in 2021 and now live and work in Gloucestershire.