How to Become a Project Manager – Do You Really Need to Do Formal Training?

download (23)Looking around, I am sure that you have observed good managers and leaders who have little or no formal training. You may feel that you have an inherent ability and have seen others manage in a variety of ways and so are prepared for the job without having to go to project management school.

To some extent, you may be right. After all, isn’t project management or management of any kind just common sense? It’s about organising such that specific outcomes are achieved either operationally or for a specific project and then leading the troops to success. Surely, anyone can organise themselves so as to achieve outcomes. We do it all the time e.g. organise a dinner party, a family holiday or a house move. You know what budget you have for entertaining, holidaying or moving house. You also know what the deadlines are and are able to have the dinner party ready on time or get your family to the airport before the flight.

While there is an element of truth in the fact that some individuals may have an inherent ability, this alone is unlikely to give you much visibility when looking for your first (or even a later) job. There is an expectation in this day and age that you have some formal training. Looking at job advertisements, you will find that employers list project management training as a requirement for many project management positions. The specific requirement may vary e.g. some may want a formal tertiary qualification while others may be looking for training in a specific methodology. In any event, if you decide not to do formal training, you will be limiting your opportunities.

If this is not sufficient to persuade you to sign up for a course, then consider the value you personally will get from the study. We are most fortunate to live in an age with a vast amount of available training. If you are hoping for your first project management job, then it is likely you will find a course of study most beneficial. You will be able to analyse whatever it is you think you already know against the backdrop of the structure of the project management discipline. It will help you put things in perspective and perhaps begin to understand at a deeper level why some projects fail. The experience will allow you to develop your own ideas into a roadmap that you can take with you into your first job as a project manager.

Even if you have some experience, I find that formal study is useful. Studying a generic approach or researching specific approaches can provide a background against which beneficial reflection can take place. Projects are often hard work and intense. Taking time out to analyse and reflect on how you and your teams have operated can provide you with fresh ideas as to how you could do something differently next time. The activity can be likened to the formal process of assembling and analysing ‘lessons learned’ at the end of a project.

If you still don’t think a study activity is worthwhile, then think about the value of meeting other project managers and discussing various challenges with them. Project management can be a lonely occupation; it can be that you are the only individual in an organisation who has a full picture of what is involved, how to get to the end and where you are up to right now. Meeting others and developing a network of like-minded people can be a valuable exercise.

In the final analysis, consider the value of taking a formal course of study, whether you are starting out or have already done some project management work. Use the time to reflect and strengthen your own approach to project management. Consider some specific things that you would like to get out of a course and aim to achieve this through class discussion or coffee break chatting.