How to progress faster in your project management career

Project management is an incredibly rewarding role which can open up opportunities to higher management roles and even directorship in time. As a team leader or junior project manager, your career is already progressing, but wouldn’t it be nice to progress it a little faster? Wouldn’t it be nice to get that promotion now?

Of course it would. You’re eager for success. Who isn’t? Unfortunately for you, project management is a hotly contested role. You’re going to have competition from within, and externally, if the organisation you work for jumps on a recruitment drive. Sounds tough and it can be. But you can still progress.

Staying ahead of your competition is the key to progressing faster. It sounds simple, but everyone will be doing it. So you need to stand out. There are a few ways to go about this, so here’s what you can do now to accelerate your progress.

Get certified

As a team leader or junior project manager you have already won the respect of your immediate boss which is why you got the job in the first place. But many of you may have found your career has stagnated ever since. That’s because you don’t fit the role above your current one yet. To counteract this, get certified.

Getting certified means achieving a nationally-recognised professional certification in the field of your expertise. The most common path to achieving a certification is by undertaking an accredited course and passing an official exam. Presently, PRINCE® and APM Certification Schemes are the most demanded in Project Management in the UK:

  PRINCE2® Certification Scheme APM Certification Scheme
Beginner level

(for career new entrants)

PRINCE2® Foundation APM Project Fundamentals Qualification (PFQ)
Intermediate level

(for specialists)

PRINCE2® Practitioner APM Project Management Qualification (PMQ)

If you already have 2 years’ project management experience you could progress straightaway to APM PMQ certification, however, in all other cases you would be expected to achieve a Beginner level certification prior to being able to progress to the next level.

Beginner level certifications are great for those wishing to enter the Project Management career as their achievement confirms that you possess the relevant Project Management knowledge to undertake a job within this domain. Whereas, achieving an Intermediate level certification confirms that you are a specialist in Project Management and you have the necessary skills to lead the projects.

These certifications will enhance your application for any Project Management position and even increase your chances of actually securing a post.

Offer yourself

It can be all to easy to fall into a comfort zone at work. Feels great being there. Trouble is, it’s bad news for your career progression because it ensures you never stand out. You’ll go unnoticed, or worse, you’ll be pigeonholed.

To progress in your project management career you need to offer yourself to more demanding assignments and roles. Not only will this get the attention of your boss, but it will develop your own experience. One of the biggest barriers in the way of promotion is work experience. There’s no better way to get it than by asking for it and doing your best to demonstrate your capabilities.

Embrace failure

Failure should never overtake your determination to succeed.  Engines go bang and projects fail. It’s a fact of life. But as Alfred Pennyworth so eloquently asked of Bruce Wayne, “And why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.”

This quote is relevant to every project manager. It means even if a project is underperforming or completely fails, you learn a lesson.

Embracing failure means to understand what went wrong and preventing it from happening again. This attitude is a key trait of every successful project manager. You learn why you failed, and you put into practice that lesson on the next project.

Discuss your ambitions

You can’t rely on your boss or the organisation you work for to have a light bulb moment and promote you or create a higher project management role for you to fill. You need to make them aware of what it is you want to be in the future. You may be undertaking a number of activities towards your goal, however, only by sharing these ambitions with your line manager you can be sure that they are aware of them. Realising your goals will encourage them to provide you with the necessary advice and guidance for your path to progression; also, it may potentially increase your chances of actually being considered for a higher-level post during the next recruitment cycle.

Want to be a senior project manager in the next year or so? See yourself as project lead? Lay the foundations for it by discussing your ambitions. The best time to discuss your ambitions with your line manager is during your performance review which should be taking place every 6-12 months.

If you are friendly with your boss or someone higher up than them, a discussion out of hours, such as somewhere relaxed and perhaps out of the office won’t go amiss. However, this isn’t the right place or time to discuss potential promotion opportunities, so it’s better to leave the heavy talk for your performance review. Even if you do not have official regular performance review meetings, take the opportunity to discuss it with your line manager during any other official one-to-one meeting with them.