There are an increasing number of persons now taking a project management degree course in other to pursue a professional career in project management. However, most of them find it very difficult and confusing to define their own career path and therefore get stuck in a career hole after they graduate.
The project management career path is not yet well defined or well structured like that of other old and existing professions such as medicine, law, architecture, engineering and pharmacy. Project management graduates around the world take different career routes from the entry-level to the mid-level and to the high-level job positions.
In this article, I will show the project management students some of the ideas and actions they can take while in school that would help them define their own career paths so as to avoid the career confusion that so many project management graduates are currently facing. Moreover, if you are a recent project management graduate, you may as well tap from some of the ideas I would be sharing below:
Which Industries or Sectors are You Passionate About?
Project management is a skill that can be applied or practised across various industries and sectors of the economy. It is a blessing if you possess the skill but it can as well be a curse if you do not have a long-term defined career plan. So many project management graduates are confused as to which industries or sectors to focus on, so are open to anything and everything, as long as it puts some money in their pocket. Now, let me help you determine the industries or sectors that you might be passionate about. While you were in secondary or high school, what were those professions that you admired the most? What was that course that you had really wanted to study (in the university) before choosing or “accidentally” finding yourself studying project management? Here’s my story: Throughout my days in secondary school, I had always wanted to study computer science. I loved being around and learning how to use computers and smart electronic gadgets. Then, the Internet boom came into Nigeria and I was hooked up. While learning how to use the Internet then, I discovered some opportunities and possibilities that the Internet could offer and I became a true fan of the “Digital World”…And then I discovered project management. Right now, my interest is in digital project management. I am an advocate of incorporating social media in project management practices. So, who were that person that you were dreamig of being or that profession that you admired and were looking forward to practicing or that course that you had really wanted to studey in the university? Which industries or sectors is that profession or course connected to or being practised in? List down those industries or sectors, visit your local library and search for good books that have been written that is connecting project management with any of those industries or sectors. Make sure you read up the books for more knowledge and ideas at your free time. (I am currently working on a plan to make sure such good books on project management are available at your school or department’s library.)
Passion is Not Enough: Go Digital and Subscribe to Rich Blogs
Now that you have listed the industries or sectors you are passionate about or would like to pursue your career in, you may not find enough educational resources at your local library on how project managers are pursuing their careers or practising the profession in those industries or sectors. So, you need to go digital. Researching and subscribing to good project management blogs would be a very smart move as it would also give you the latest knowledge, insights, tips and tricks to help keep you stay current on your industry or sector choice.
Follow Companies in Those Industries or Sectors of Your Choice
As you have gone digital, go to social networks like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter and create a profile. You do not need to wait until you graduate before taking advantage of the networking opportunities that the Internet and social media offer. Search for organisations or companies that are operating in those industries or sectors of your choice and connect with them. Get to connect with some persons in those companies who are on social media and contribute positively to discussions about the companies.
Join Project Management Membership Associations
There are project management membership associations in the country that offer membership package for students. Join such associations; attend membership meetings that are scheduled at a convenient time for you and network with other professionals in the association. Do not be shy to let them know that you are a project management student with passion for the profession.
Use Your Industrial Training Period Wisely
My 6-month industrial training (IT) period was a great opportunity for me. I used that period to practically develop my project management skills, meet with project management professionals, perform some research on the profession and attend some PM events that were organised during that period. Your IT period will help shape the way you think about project management, so use it wisely.
Get a Mentor or Career Counsellor
It is always a good idea to discuss your career with a professional career counsellor who understands project management. If you have a mentor or career counsellor, you should discuss about your goals with him or her. He or she would know first-hand what you should do—and what you should not do. He or she would be able to point you in the right direction in terms of defining your own career path.
A career in project management is a very rewarding one if well planned and it is currently one of the most sought after careers, globally. If you follow the ideas I have shared, you should be able to define your own career path before graduating. There are also other career development tips on this blog for your career success.