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All Articles / Project Management

How to Become a Project Manager

Do you pride yourself on being punctual, and getting things done on time? Are you the friend in your group who’s known for rallying everyone for meals, nights out and holidays? Maybe you keep an old-school Filofax, or have more than one calendar app going on at a time?

If so, chances are you’ve thought about becoming a project manager.

Jokes aside though, project management is a rewarding profession (personally and financially). There’s a lot of opportunity and growth projected for the future, too. According to some of the latest stats:

  • There are over 100,000 project management professionals in Australia, including specialists like ICT project managers
  • The global demand for project managers is projected to grow to over 87 million (!) by 2027
  • The average salary for project manager in Australia is $130,000 – $150,000

Those are certainly some promising numbers. But what’s it really like to be a project manager? And how hard is it to become a PM in the first place?

In this article, we’ll explore some of the daily tasks and responsibilities involved in this job. We’ll also look at what it takes to become a successful project manager, from the core skills to the qualifications and certifications.

A day in the life of a project manager

A day in the life of a project manager involves a diverse set of tasks and responsibilities, geared towards planning, executing, and finalising projects within specific timelines and budgets. Here’s a breakdown of what a typical day might look like.

Morning

Start the day: the day usually begins with checking emails and messages to catch up on any updates from clients or team members, especially those from different time zones.

Daily standup: conduct a brief daily stand-up meeting with the project team. This is an opportunity to discuss the day’s priorities, address any obstacles, and ensure that everyone is aligned on their tasks for the day.

Project planning: review and update the project plan, adjusting timelines and resources as needed based on project progress and any new developments.

Midday

Client meetings: hold meetings with clients to provide updates, gather feedback, and discuss requirements. This might involve video calls, especially if clients are overseas or interstate.

Coordination with stakeholders: engage with other stakeholders, such as suppliers, partners, and internal departments (like finance or legal), to ensure that all aspects of the project are aligned and progressing smoothly.

Afternoon

Task management: oversee the team’s work, providing support and guidance. This includes troubleshooting issues, providing resources, or re-assigning tasks to manage workload and maintain productivity.

Risk management: review and manage potential risks to the project, planning mitigation strategies and communicating these plans to relevant stakeholders.

Late afternoon

Documentation: update all project documentation with the latest progress and decisions. This includes maintaining accurate records for project deliverables, financials, and client communications.

Reporting: prepare and review reports on the project status to present to senior management or external clients, highlighting achievements, upcoming milestones, and any concerns.

Evening

Reflection and planning for the next day: review the day’s achievements and outline the next steps for the following day. Prioritise tasks and prepare for any scheduled meetings or deadlines.

Professional development: when time allows, engage in professional development activities, such as reading industry news, taking online courses, or networking with other project managers.

Throughout the day, the project manager must be flexible and ready to address unexpected challenges or opportunities. They need to maintain clear communication, strong leadership, and strategic thinking to guide their team and ensure project success.

What project managers love about their job

“As a project manager, I love the challenge of turning complex ideas into reality. Guiding a team through the intricacies of a project and watching our collective efforts lead to tangible, successful outcomes is incredibly rewarding. Every day brings new problems to solve and opportunities to innovate, which keeps the job exciting and fulfilling.”

Terrena Hooper, Monarch Trainer

Throughout the day, the project manager must be flexible and ready to address unexpected challenges or opportunities. They need to maintain clear communication, strong leadership, and strategic thinking to guide their team and ensure project success.

  • Variety of work: every project brings new challenges and learning opportunities, making the work diverse and interesting. In Australia, there are roles across all kinds of industries, from healthcare and construction to education and IT.
  • Problem solving: they enjoy the challenge of solving complex problems and finding innovative solutions to overcome obstacles.
  • Team leadership: leading and motivating a team, and seeing individual and collective growth, is highly rewarding.
  • Impact: seeing the tangible results of their work and knowing they have a direct impact on the success of their organisations.
  • Interpersonal interaction: working with different teams and clients provides a dynamic and social work environment.
  • Continuous learning: the need to stay updated with industry trends and new management techniques keeps the role intellectually stimulating.
  • Project completion: the satisfaction of bringing a project from conception to completion is a major high point.
  • Autonomy: having the authority to make decisions and drive the direction of projects is empowering.
  • Strategic involvement: being involved in shaping the strategy and goals of their projects and sometimes the broader organisation.
  • Networking: building a vast network of professional contacts across various industries.
  • Flexibility: often project managers have some flexibility in their work schedules, which helps in balancing personal and professional life.
  • Recognition: receiving recognition and appreciation from peers and stakeholders when projects succeed.
  • Career advancement: project management roles often clear paths for career advancement and development into higher management roles.

Each of these aspects contributes to why project managers often feel passionate and enthusiastic about their work.

Project manager skills, experience and technology

Studying project management means challenging yourself and developing a variety of new technical skills and abilities, like formal project management methodologies and systems. However, there are several relevant skills – including soft skills – that you may already have from previous work experience. These skills, when honed, help in managing projects successfully by ensuring that they meet deadlines, stay within budget, and achieve their intended goals. Here are some key skills that can make someone a good project manager.

  • Communication skills: effective communication is crucial for project managers, as they need to convey ideas, intentions, and instructions clearly to team members, stakeholders, and clients. This includes both verbal and written communication.
  • Leadership abilities: strong leadership skills are essential to inspire and motivate team members, make decisive actions, and provide direction throughout the life of a project.
  • Organisational skills: being highly organised helps in managing multiple tasks, keeping projects on track, and ensuring that all aspects of the project are aligned.
  • Problem-solving skills: the ability to quickly identify problems and think through solutions systematically is crucial in keeping projects moving forward smoothly.
  • Negotiation skills: negotiating contracts, resources, timelines, and priorities are all part of a project manager’s role. Effective negotiation helps in achieving favourable outcomes while maintaining good relationships with all parties involved.
  • Time management: managing one’s own time and ensuring the team meets deadlines is key to successful project delivery.
  • Budget management: understanding and managing finances and keeping the project within its budget are critical for a project manager.
  • Risk management: being able to anticipate potential risks and having contingency plans in place to mitigate these risks before they become issues is an important skill.
  • Adaptability: projects rarely go exactly as planned, so being adaptable and flexible in the face of changing circumstances is a valuable trait.
  • Team building: the ability to build and maintain an effective team environment and handle interpersonal dynamics can significantly influence project success.
  • Technical proficiency: depending on the industry, having a good grasp of relevant technology and industry-specific knowledge can be very helpful.
  • Critical thinking: the ability to analyse situations, consider multiple aspects, and make informed decisions is crucial in managing projects effectively.
  • Attention to detail: being detail-oriented helps in understanding complex project requirements and ensuring quality standards are met.
  • Conflict resolution: the ability to handle and resolve conflicts within the team or with stakeholders diplomatically is important for maintaining a cohesive working environment.
  • Stress management: projects can be high-pressure environments, so being able to manage stress effectively ensures personal well-being and maintains project performance.
Two people negotiating

Wondering what the technical side of project management is all about? Technical skills and technology abilities are increasingly important for project managers, as these competencies help them to efficiently and effectively oversee projects from initiation through to completion. The specifics can vary widely depending on the industry, but some general technical skills and technology proficiencies that are beneficial for project managers include:

Core technical skills:

  • Project management software proficiency
    • General tools such as Microsoft Project, Asana, Trello, or Basecamp, which help in task scheduling, resource allocation, and tracking project progress.
    • Agile tools including Jira, Confluence, or AgileCraft, for managing projects in an agile environment.
  • Understanding of methodologies
    • Familiarity with project management methodologies such as agile, scrum, Kanban, lean, and waterfall is crucial. Each methodology has specific tools and approaches best suited to different types of projects.
  • Budgeting and financial software
    • Knowledge of financial management tools to create and track budgets, forecast costs, and manage procurement processes effectively.
  • Risk management tools
    • Ability to use risk assessment tools to identify, analyse, and mitigate potential risks in a project lifecycle.
  • Documentation tools
    • Proficiency with tools like Microsoft Office suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) or Google Workspace for creating and maintaining essential documentation.
  • Collaboration and communication tools
    • Familiarity with communication and collaboration platforms such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Skype to facilitate effective communication across teams and with stakeholders.

Advanced technical skills

  • Data analysis and reporting tools
    • Knowledge of data analysis tools such as Excel, Google Sheets, or more advanced analytics platforms like Tableau or Power BI to interpret project data and generate actionable insights.
  • Database management
    • Understanding the basics of database management systems (DBMS) like SQL, which can be crucial for projects involving large data sets or complex information systems.
  • Enterprise resource planning (ERP)
    • Familiarity with ERP software like SAP, Oracle, or Microsoft Dynamics, which helps in integrating project management, procurement, and financial data across the organisation.
  • Customer relationship management (CRM) tools
    • Knowledge of CRM software such as salesforce or HubSpot can be important for projects that involve sales, customer service, or marketing activities.
  • Technical understanding related to specific industries
    • For IT project managers, understanding programming languages, software development processes, and system architecture.
    • For construction project managers, knowledge of CAD software, building information modelling (BIM), and construction management software.

Emerging technologies

  • Artificial intelligence and machine learning
    • Basic understanding of AI and ML applications in project management, such as predictive analytics for risk assessment or resource allocation.
  • Cloud computing
    • Knowledge of cloud services (AWS, Azure, Google Cloud) is advantageous for managing projects that involve cloud migrations or deployments.

Having these technical skills not only enhances the efficiency of project management but also improves the overall success rate of projects by enabling more precise planning, execution, and monitoring.

Project-manager related courses

There are lots of different pathways to becoming a project manager. While many hold a degree in project management, a Bachelor’s isn’t essential to get started. Lots of project managers begin working in other roles within their field, before transitioning to project management. Others move into project management through pure work experience. But there’s a faster pathway if you prefer to learn in a practical, hands-on way – nationally recognised VET courses.

Monarch Institute’s 100% online Diploma of Project Management is endorsed by the Australian Institute of Project Management. It’s overseen by expert, veteran project managers with decades of experience. The course mirrors critical global standards including PMBOK (6th edition) and ISO 21500:2016, as well as PRINCE2 principles.

Monarch project management students also get access to Microsoft Project – essential for practicing skills using real professional software.

The course covers:

  • Project initiation: understanding the nature of project work, including key functions and stages
  • Scoping and evaluation, including budgeting: techniques for estimating, project quality management, and more
  • Defining and planning project work: procurement processes, stakeholder communication, and active risk management strategies
  • Delivering, closing and reviewing projects: how to formally end a project, including documentation and methods of learning from experience.

Looking to keep your options open? The Diploma prepares you for the real world of project management, whilst also creating pathways for further learning. For example, many universities allow advanced standing (credits) for Diploma holders looking to move into a degree program. The flexibility and self-paced nature of Monarch’s Diploma also means you take advantage of opportunities to do short courses and certifications while you’re doing your main qualification.

If you’re ready to take the next step towards an exciting new career as a PM, get in touch with our friendly Course Consultants today. They’ll answer all your questions and help you get started whenever you’re ready.

Sources:

Labour Marketing Insights Occupations, 2024

Project Management Institute Talent Gap Report, accessed 2024

Seek salary guide 2024

Any questions? Ask away!