Project Practitioners > Are You New to Project Management?

Are You New to Project Management?

By Josh Nankivel

1 I received an email from someone the other day who is very interested in becoming a project manager. She doesn’t have any experience in the field yet, and wanted some advice on how to proceed. She assumed that the PMP exam is what she should be looking into getting.

She mentioned that she is saving up for a training camp that claims they can train her to pass the PMP exam without project experience. I want to thank her for writing to me and taking action towards her career goals!

Unfortunately, that training camp is engaging in unethical practices. If they are condoning that people take the PMP exam without any work experience as a project manager, that really burns me!

Becoming a Project Manager

For those who would like to get started in project management the RIGHT way, here are a few suggestions:

  1. I’ve said this before, but when it comes to project management, general management, and many other careers you just need to go get some experience.  Get on a project team somehow and find someone who is doing what you want to get into.  Ask them to mentor you.  Do odd jobs for them, things they find tedious but that you will learn from.  Go above and beyond and tap into the veterans.  You will be surprised how quickly a great attitude and passion can open doors for progressively greater levels of responsibility.
  2. If you have no experience yet, the PMP certification is NOT for you.  Neither are the IPMA certifications.  The lowest-level IMPA certification requires “2 FTE years working on projects or 6 months and BA/BS” experience.  The PMP requires 3 of experience with a BA/BS, or 5 without.  I interpret “leads and directs project teams” as experience as an actual project manager.
  3. A great way to get some formal education and an introductory certification is to go for the CAPM exam.  The minimum requirements for this exam are 23 contact hours of project management education OR 1,500 hours where you “contribute to a project team”.

If you do seek education in project management, I would like to add that it’s value is greatly diminished unless you are actively working in a project environment where you can implement the concepts you are learning, or at least use a real project environment as a means for comparing “book learning” to real life.

All that said, there’s one product I endorse for both the CAPM and PMP exams…if you don’t have the experience to qualify for the PMP exam, this training is still very useful and inexpensive.  It’s what I bought and used to study for the PMP exam, and I liked it because it focused on the concepts and leveraging stories of real-world examples instead of trying to get you to memorize the answers to questions.  I also like the fact that I could pop the MP3’s into my player and drive to and from work while studying.  It was excellent.

I hope that helps if you are wanting to break into project management.  Any more advice from veterans out there who are reading this?  (Besides “run away!  What are you thinking?!?  It’s hell in here!!!!)

photo by Mads Boedker via Flickr

Not all comments are posted. Posted comments are subject to editing for clarity and length.

I agree completely, Josh. After 30 years as a working project and program manager, I recently took a PMP exam prep course and ultimately passed. However I did see and talk to many very inexperienced PMs who thought taking the prep course was enough. Luckily our course, sponsored by the local, Honolulu chapter of PMI, was very clear that they were not teaching project management, that you needed a lot of real-world experience. There were a few youngsters who were there primarily to audit the course and I believe they learned a lot from the questions and discussions that came up during the 36 hours of classwork.

I also have had on-line discussions with PMs who have good experience managing projects, but have never really takes any formal training or worked in an organization with several other PMs. They will likely discover gaps in their experience compared with the PMI knowledge areas.

I was lucky enough to "grow up" in organizations that valued PM and had more-experienced PMs coach the new PMs. Many of these organizations made sure that PMs got training in both "official" PM subjects as well as the myriad general management skills we must also rely on. Nowdays, many organizations are starting PMOs, but there are still many, many companies that do not understand the leverage this can provide in executing their projects. Thanks for your perspective and advice.

It's excellent that your PMI chapter approached the PMP exam prep course that way.

I'm not sure I would agree that experienced PMs have gaps in their experience, but that using something formal like the PMI framework (or any other) helps people look at what they do from a new viewpoint, and doing that is an essential part of kaizen.

Josh Nankivel

I have heard a lot of people chatting about the age of accountability in the Project Management sector. IPMA-USA is a LinkedIn Professional Group (asapm: American Society for the Advancement of Project Management) presenting a old approach with NEW flavor in regard to how a Project/Program Manager's credentials should be validated. They are leaning more along the lines of heavy validation, 360 Reviews, Certification Sponsorship before handing out a certificate in a Cracker-Jack box. I am finding it pretty invigorating researching this 50+ year old Project Management Body of Knowledge based out of Europe, but also having a US presence ( Does anyone out there have experience or knowledge of this new wave of accountability in our field? I would like to hear your take on this?



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