Project Management Institute

Ready to accelerate

just starting out and looking to jump-start your career? Here are some ways to get ahead


By Bhanu Vadlakonda, CAPM

Traditionally, becoming a full-time, full-fledged project manager requires four to five years of experience working on a project team or as a project coordinator. For the young and ambitious, a half-decade can seem like an eternity. But there are ways to accelerate your progress—all you need is a hunger to learn and a proactive stance at work.

Developing the project management mindset will help you master key skills faster.

Earning a specialized degree or certification will help you understand project management methodologies and show superiors you're serious. PMI offers many certifications—the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)® is a good place to start. I earned my CAPM® with just a year of experience on a project team. More advanced certifications will require more formal training, perhaps through one of PMI's Registered Education Providers.

But credentials are one thing—thinking like a project manager is another. Developing the project management mindset will help you master key skills faster. When it becomes second nature, your career is bound to advance.

The best way to gain this mindset is simple: Observe experienced project managers to understand how they execute projects and handle challenges. If possible, approach a superior and ask to assist him or her informally with trivial tasks.

I did this at the start of my career. I asked a project manager to allow me to attend his project meetings to take minutes. There were plenty of discussions I didn't understand—so I asked team members to explain new topics to me. I ended up learning a lot, and it helped me advance at my organization.

If a superior agrees to let you help out, be sure to carefully execute tasks and exceed expectations. If you think something can be done in a better way, speak up. If your suggestion doesn't work, you'll learn why. And here's the nice perk of this sort of informal training: There's no penalty if you make a mistake, because you've volunteered to help.


Another way to push your knowledge and career forward: free project management tools. There are hundreds of online tools—,, and are good places to start. Take advantage of a free trial to plan and execute personal projects, such as a road trip with family or friends, or a birthday party. Most of these tools come with free training videos to get you up to speed quickly.

The bottom line: There's a world of opportunity out there for any aspiring project manager. It's up to you to be on the lookout—and seize every opportunity to take your skills to the next level. PM

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