One common question I get from young and aspiring project managers is: Where can I get experience?
Volunteering is one of the most recognised and reliable ways by which aspiring and young project managers can get project management experience.
Volunteer organisations are always looking for young, ambitious and hard-working people to help organise, execute and manage their projects and other activities. So let’s take a look at how aspiring and young project managers can gain project management experience:
1. Be Willing to Volunteer
There is this no”why should I work for free!” Most of our youth have not really understood the meaning, value and benefits of volunteering so they are not willing or open to volunteer. To help solve this notion, we must start encouraging volunteering at secondary school levels. This will help our secondary school students who are not learning about project management in their school curriculum to able to learn it through experience which will in turn help them to understand the real value of volunteering at a young age.
2. Plan Yourself
To be committed and motivated throughout your volunteering program, you must first make up your mind and be willing to volunteer. Your mind set needs to be right, prepared and focused because some volunteering activities can be time and energy consuming. Second, you need to determine what you want to do and what you intend to get out of that volunteering experience. This will help you channel your mind and focus your search on organisations that align with your goals and needs. You have to figure out what is the best fit for you.
3. Search and Join a Good Volunteer Organisation
Once you know what you need and what’s best fit for you based on your volunteering mission or goals, you will narrow your search on that. Join a volunteer organisation that values project management and that’s right for you.
Let me also tell you that technology is having a growing impact on volunteering. There is an increasing growth of online or virtual volunteering opportunities around the world, and you can join any too. You can also use the Internet and social media to search for volunteer organisations around your locality.
In addition to the experience you would gain while volunteering, the time and effort you put in can also add up the necessary hours required to do an experience-based certification exam.
4. Be a Team Leader
There might be some opportunity for you to be the team lead once you have understood how your volunteer organisation operates. Being a team lead will offer you the opportunity to develop or enhance your management, leadership and communication skills.
5. Be a Mentor to other Young Ones in Your Volunteer Organisation
Most volunteer organisations work with young people, so there is an opportunity for you to be a young mentor. Mentoring and coaching your fellow volunteer members on how they can successfully execute the organisation’s community projects as effectively as possible will help sharpen your own project management, leadership and mentoring skills set.
6. Be Ahead of Other Job Seekers
Volunteering is an exercise of developing your soft skills and emotional intelligence. Therefore, if you are a project management job seeker, by getting volunteering experience, you are way ahead of your fellow job seekers. In addition, when you get into the process of applying for a project management job, you have already demonstrated that you can perform and do something professionally. Most companies prefer persons who have gained some level of project management experience so they would not spend much resource on training.
Bonus Advice – Stay Positive
When you are walking into an interview, be confident. Focus on the positives and on all of the great things that you can do. Prove to your recruiter, hirer or human resource manager that you are an accomplished problem-solver, a team player and a hard-working person. If you can give them a glimpse of the amazing projects and teams you were part of while volunteering, they would know that you have passion and dedication for the project management profession.
Project Management for Africa Initiative
It is not enough for me to tell you the benefits of volunteering but also to provide a platform where you can practice your project management and leadership skills. I am working towards establishing an initiative known as the “Project Management for Africa Initiative.” My mission for setting up this initiative is to help create more awareness, promote and advance the best practice of project management in Africa. We will also be conducting grass root campaigns on project management in various sectors of the economy.
It is an initiative that’s working towards collaborating with other project management organisations who are into volunteering. Soon, you will be able to join us or offer your support as a volunteer project manager. You will also find mentors who will want to help you gain the necessary skills to make your project management career a success. Therefore, I very much will recommend it.