Apprenticeships can be valuable when you’re still in your early career (perhaps you’ve just finished school or university) leveraging apprenticeships can be a game-changer in your professional journey because they’re an excellent way to gain hands-on experience and develop your skills.
When it comes to project management roles, this hands-on experience becomes a compelling asset, particularly in the competitive job market. Even if you have work experience at a previous role, you can benefit from an apprenticeship; exploring the necessary technical and soft skills to step confidently into a project management role.
Here are some ways you can strengthen your entry into a project management career by making the most of your apprenticeship:
Focus on your professional development
Apprenticeship frameworks focus on developing a spectrum of skills vital for a thriving project management career. From project planning and budgeting to risk management and leadership, apprenticeships ensure you cultivate a holistic skill set. These technical and soft skills contribute to your overall personal and professional growth, becoming assets for life. But your professional development doesn’t stop there, you’ve got to take initiative to stay updated about the latest project news. It’s also important to meet other project professionals outside of your apprenticeship.
- Pursue professional qualifications
To strengthen your technical knowledge and theory of project management, it’s crucial for you to become qualified. Most apprenticeships offer opportunities to gain qualifications, and having a recognised project management qualification significantly enhances your chances of securing a project management role.
The APM Project Management Qualification (APM PMQ) or the International Project Management Association (IPMA) Level D, for example, can help you get to grips with project management best practice, which will help you in your role. They’re also well-recognised, helping you stand out as a committed and knowledgeable professional. You should also consider pursuing industry-specific qualifications based on your desired sector. If you’re keen to work in IT or Finance, for example, explore some certifications and courses that can help you.
- Hone your soft skills
Whilst you’re learning all about the iron triangle of project management and differences between project life cycles, think about improving your interpersonal skills. For example, effective communication is paramount for clarity across all levels; leadership and team relationships are building blocks for positive change; and negotiation skills contribute to organisation benefits. There are many more soft skills worth exploring so you can find opportunities at work to practise and enrich your professional development.
- Take advantage of other resources
Whilst you may be working towards a qualification as part of your apprenticeship, and practising those problem-solving skills at work, look out for other resources that can help you deepen your knowledge of projects, programmes and portfolios. There are lots of publications, blogs and forums, that you can explore to stay updated on the latest developments and news, for example the role of AI or sustainability in projects. The Association for Project Management has lots of online and offline resources like Project journal, webinars with experts, and regular email newsletters that are a goldmine of information.
- Network as much as you can
It’s important to actively build relationships with experienced professionals that can support you during and after your apprenticeship. Connecting with project professionals is an important step you need to take in your early career because they can offer guidance, support, and valuable advice that opens doors to future job opportunities. You can build this relationship in person and online – remember to add connections on LinkedIn and try to attend events, like seminars and conferences often.
Be prepared to work hard
Project management is a rapidly growing sector, attracting talent from various backgrounds. With intense competition, striving for excellence will set you apart, whether you're changing careers or climbing the ladder within your current company. Approach your apprenticeship with a positive mindset, well-defined roadmap, and honesty; seizing opportunities to take on additional responsibilities that will help your professional development in the long run.
- Define your goals before you begin
Create a personal plan and road-map for yourself – what do you want to achieve? Clearly outline your goals and objectives for your apprenticeship so you can check your progress. Make sure to also meet with your line manager to create some more role-based objectives and professional development goals. Having clear long-term milestones is essential, so make sure you’re open and honest with your manager. They can help you structure your apprenticeship programme to ensure you’re getting the very best experience in managing projects.
- Show willingness and passion
Demonstrate your eagerness and passion for project management as soon as you set foot through the door. Employers really value apprentices who are enthusiastic about their work and keen to learn. Offering support to other colleagues or asking if you can get involved not only shows you’re a team player but also how enthusiastic you are about project management. Initiative and drive are also key traits of a successful project manager, so build the confidence to solve problems and make decisions, demonstrating your ability to lead effectively.
- Ask for help whenever you need it
Working hard isn’t about doing things on your own – you’re in your early career, so you’re not expected to know everything. Your managers are there to support and encourage you and your professional development. If you don’t understand something or need some help, ask for clarity and a guiding hand. The team around you can also bring a fresh new perspective, and they understand what it feels like to be starting out in projects so don’t try to tackle everything alone.
With the right blend of practical experience, professional qualifications, and continuous growth, you can carve a successful path in the dynamic world of project management during your apprenticeship. Take advantage of what the organisation and your peers have to offer, whilst exploring online resources and building your own network of professionals to guide you.