How to Get a Job in Project Management

Finding a job in project management is an important project in developing your career.

You may be seeking a promotion to a higher level of responsibility. Or you may have finished a contract assignment with a company and it is time to search for your next role. In any case, you can use project practices to organize your efforts and find your next job.

Planning the Job Search Project

To organize your job search, use project management concepts to focus your energies. This approach will improve your results and put your project skills to the test.

1. Initiation

Before doing anything else, you need to set a vision for your job search. Assuming you are currently employed or have some financial resources, take the time to think about your job search in the context of your career.

Action: Describe your job search goal in one sentence by making reference to a target job title and company or industry (e.g. “My goal is to be a junior project manager at a technology company”)

2. Planning

Equipped with your project vision, it is time to create your job search plan. Depending on your background and experience, your emphasis will vary. At a minimum, the following activities are included in most job search plans.

Research. If you are interested in becoming a project manager at certain company, read job descriptions for the role. This will help you to ask better questions and understand what the job is all about.

Asking for Network Support. Project managers are masters of relationship building so use that skill in your job search. Politely ask people in your network for advice and introductions related to your job search.

Brainstorm a List of Employers. Create a list of 20-40 employers in your area that you are interested in.

3. Executing

It is time to get down to work in executing your job search. These steps are traditionally part of any effective job search.

Resume and Cover Letter Development. These two documents are designed to achieve a single purpose: obtain an invitation to a job interview. Remember: anything you write on your resume or cover letter may prompt questions so prepare accordingly.

Attend Job Interviews. Presenting yourself in job interviews is a skill that requires practice. Before you walk into an interview, take the time to practice answers to common questions such as your approach to problem solving. For live job interviews, arrive 5-10 minutes early and come prepared for a few questions that demonstrate your curiosity in the job.

Negotiating Job Offers.
As you grow in your career, you will have a greater opportunity to negotiate job offers. In addition to money, you can also negotiate for more vacation time, money for training and schedule flexibility. Write up a short list of what you’re interested in negotiating.

4. Monitoring and Controlling

Most people go about their job search without any system to organize their efforts. As a project manager, you know the value of monitoring and controlling your projects. Use the following methods to monitor your job search project.

Spreadsheet to Track Job Applications. Use a spreadsheet program like Microsoft Excel or Google Docs to track each job you apply to, the job title, dates for each step (e.g. date applied, date interviewed) and contact information for people you meet through the process.

Lessons Learned Exercise. After each job interview, reflect on your experience to look for improvement opportunities. With this practice, you will be able to detect patterns such as interview questions you find difficult to answer.

Track Your Project Metrics. In regular projects, you will track cost, schedule and scope metrics to evaluate whether or not you are making steady progress toward your goal. Your job search project also needs to be monitored. If you are completed 10 job interviews and received no offers, then you need to adjust your approach.

5. Closing

Congratulations! You have accepted a job offer and you’re looking forward to your first day on the job. Close your job search project and prepare for your new role using the following steps.

Update Your Network. Let everyone in your network know that you have accepted a new job. If certain people gave you specific help such as networking introductions, make sure to thank them for their support.

Update Other Employers. If you are under consideration for jobs with other employers, be professional and advise them that you are withdrawing from the process. Candidates hate when companies don’t get back to them, so avoid that mistake.

Reflect on the Job Search.
Take an hour to reflect on the whole job search project. What did you learn about yourself and your skills? At the end of your reflection, develop at least three action items for ongoing career improvement (e.g. set a weekly reminder to go for a networking coffee date or develop skill with a certain technology).

Plan Your First Week. First impressions at a new job matter. Ask your new manager if there is an orientation session, determine how to get to the office and arrive with a fresh notebook. You will have plenty to learn as you join a new organization.


Wiley Project Management Review is pleased to feature Project Management articles written by Bruce Harpham, PMP®. Bruce is a columnist at Projectmanagement.com, has worked on various banking projects and is the author of the upcoming book Project Managers at Work.

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