How Can I Plan My Project Management Career as a Student?

Project Management Degree Students

I believe this is a question that is on the lips of most persons who are currently pursuing a bachelor’s or master’s degree in project management. I have been there before so I know how it feels when you are confused as to how to define or plan your project management career as a (degree) student.

In 2008, when I gained admission to study Project Management Technology at FUTO (Federal University of Technology Owerri), I was so excited of not only overcoming the JAMB (Joint Admission and Matriculation Examination) stress but also overcoming the admission stress. JAMB really jammed me for some years, and anyone who has passed through that JAMB jamming experience knows how bad, frustrating, and insulting it is.

Gaining admission into a Nigerian university is so highly celebrated because if you miss out, then you would have to wait for another one year. During the waiting period, you would have to write JAMB again. If you beat the JAMB cut-off marks, then you would have to write the university’s post-UME examination and make sure you beat the department’s cut-off marks. So when you undergo all these stressful examinations’ protocols and you finally gain admission, it calls for a huge celebration in Nigeria.

During your first year, it is about you feeling fly that you are now a “university student” unlike your peers who could not make it and would now have to wait and write the almighty JAMB again. The first year is one of the most disorganised and stressful years in any Nigerian university.

It is in your second year that you would realise that pursuing a bachelor’s degree is not “fun” most especially if your first year results were not good enough. You would also get to realise that it is a time-consuming, an energy-consuming and a money-consuming “work”. No wonder most Nigerian graduates are always among the best graduating students at the master’s and doctorate’s levels in any international university that you find them because the system there is nothing compared to what they might have experienced while pursuing their bachelor’s degree in Nigeria.

Now at your third year, you should begin to think of not just your academic career (that is, your schooling) but also your professional career (that is, who you want to be). For project management students, you are now at a level where you would need to think of what kind of project manager you would like to be when you graduate. If you were not clear on that aspect (of who you want to be) before graduating, you would end up graduating with more confusion about the profession. Trust me, I am telling you from experience. No one gave me this candid advice during my schooling days but I am giving it to you now for FREE.

The project management profession is so broad that if you do not have a definite plan about your professional career before graduating, you would end up pursuing “any type of job in any industry” irrespective of the salary and with so much lack of focus that would make most hiring managers and recruiters confused on what to do with someone who has a bachelor’s degree in project management. YOU NEED TO HAVE A DEFINITE CAREER PLAN BEFORE GRADUATING. Do not adopt the jack-of-all-project-management-trade school of thought. Do not be drawn into the “I can practice project management in all industries and sectors, so no need for me to have a definite career plan” school of confusion thought. Do NOT limit your reading only to books sold by your lectures. Most of those books were academically written to help you pass their courses or exams and it would limit your scope of project management if you rely solely on them. Blend your reading or learning with good books that have been written by professionals who are currently practising or have practised project management in those industries or sectors that interests you. Books like that would help you understand how project management is being practised in those industries or sectors and in turn would help you to properly define or plan your project management career.

At your fourth year, you should begin to have that thought or feeling that soon your academic career would be over and you would enter into the labour market. Doesn’t that scare you? In most federal universities of technology, your fourth year period is when you would go for your 6-month industrial training (IT). The IT period will help you have a feel of the labour market, as you would need to search and apply for internship jobs. It is also a period you should use to practice your project management and communication skills, network and communicate with experienced project managers in your field or industry of choice and ask them intelligent questions concerning the project management profession in that industry and your career. By the end of your fourth year, you should have a clear vision of the type of project manager that you would like to be. By the end of my own IT period in December 2012, I knew that I would still like to be a Project Manager but I didn’t know what type of project manager I would like to be. No one gave me such specific advice then, so you should be lucky that I am giving it to you. However, I got to know what type of project manager I would like to be before graduating so continue reading.

In your final year, you should be clear on what type of project manager you would like to be or the industries or sectors that you would like to practice project management. You should also have an idea of how project management is being practised in those industries or sectors based on some of the books you must have read and the project managers you must have communicated with.

Now, I told you earlier on that I got to know what type of project manager I would like to be before graduating. When and how? It was during my final year. Around June 2013, when we were about to start our second semester examination, we were then informed that the school will be joining others in an indefinite strike. The strike lasted for almost 7 months. That 7-month period was the turning point for my career. That was the period when I knew I had to define my project management career and I did. That was the period when I discovered that there was a huge gap between the project management professionals and the project management (degree) students in Nigeria in terms of information dissemination relating to project management, and that was the period when I created this blog to help bridge that gap. That is not all. It was also a period when I discovered that I had in the dark in terms of “things” happening in the world of project management. In addition, I was not the only one who was left in the dark, most of my fellow project management students where there with me, too. With the intent to create my definite career plan and my passion for the profession, I began to connect, network and communicate with project managers around the world via the internet. It helped me a lot as I began to have a clearer vision of how I could use my blog to not only enlighten and update our project management students in Nigeria, but also to contribute my knowledge, ideas, opinions, thoughts and experiences to the world of project management, and help raise the next generation of project leaders in Africa.

P.S. I have a FREE 8-Day Email Course for students, graduates and job seekers on “How to Attract Good Job Offers Without Submitting Your CV to any Company.” In the course, you will learn how to create a good job search strategy. Click here to enrol!

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