Project Management Institute

Gaining the edge

launching a career is a project unto itself. Two things above all can help young project managers get ahead

Launching a career is a project unto itself. Two things above all can help young project managers get ahead.


Around the world, organizations across many different industries are facing a project management talent gap. That means young professionals have a better than good chance of building a promising career in the world of project management. But no career path is guaranteed: Inexperience and a small network pose challenges to young project practitioners’ professional development, as they do to anyone at the outset of a career.

There are two easy ways to overcome these challenges: volunteering and networking.

It can be hard to find time to volunteer, but the benefits are enormous. Volunteering is the perfect way to discover something you're really good at and develop a new skill.


Volunteering and networking may seem to be two different topics, but for me, they're linked. When you volunteer, you meet new people whom you can network with. These people may or may not be in the same domain, field or business as you, but that doesn't mean a relationship with them won't be beneficial. You might even find a mentor who can guide you down your career path and offer advice when you hit a roadblock.

I started volunteering for a local PMI chapter at the beginning of my career. I was able to interact with experts and veterans in the industry who gave me invaluable guidance and suggestions for gaining work experience. For instance, the chapter hired a vendor to provide technology solutions for day-to-day operations. Since I worked as a technology support executive, I was given the opportunity to articulate the requirements to the vendor. That was the moment I connected the dots: I could practice requirements management by volunteering for this project and build on my professional experience.

To date, I still receive guidance from the connections I made while volunteering.

How else can you contribute to your project management community while gaining knowledge and contacts? Consider planning and implementing a major fundraiser, organizing a conference or networking event at a local chapter, or supervising and training other volunteers.


Use your volunteer opportunities to meet new people, connect personally and share knowledge. The more you network, the more you get noticed. Don't hesitate to contact people for help or guidance. At the same time, offer to help others whenever possible.

If you're just starting out, the biggest payoff of networking is job opportunities. The more you're connected with other professionals, the better the chances of being referred to a prospective job opening. (My first international job resulted from a referral by a friend I met while volunteering.)

But always remember that networking is not all about you. Don't forget to grow your network by introducing your connections to others in your network. One such introduction by me led to an active client-vendor relationship between my connections. Many companies recognize and capitalize on the benefits of referrals, so a referral can go a long way for a new project professional.

Tremendous possibilities emerge when you build strong relationships—which are what successful careers require. So start making connections now. You never know which doors they might open. PM

img Bhanu Vadlakonda, CAPM, is a project manager in the project management office of the change management division of a multinational bank in Singapore.
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