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Switching careers into the Project Management profession

Published on: 22 May 2024

Project management is constantly evolving. As the world changes, society’s needs change and with that, project management must adapt and grow. This also means that there are plenty of opportunities for anyone to start their career in project management. What’s more, is how many new and different opportunities there are for career growth and diversification. But is it possible to move from one sector to another?

Switching careers into the Project

Absolutely, it is! Maybe you’re interested in construction projects after working in IT services for a few years, or perhaps you’re a business analyst intrigued by PMO. The good news is that project management is a career path that’s open for everyone, no matter your background or industry experience. In fact, moving between sectors and roles can: enrich and support your career development, help you become a more successful project manager, and improve career satisfaction and salary prospects. Let’s explore this horizontal link between sectors and careers, and the unique benefits it brings that can accelerate your professional growth.

Transferrable skills

There are many transferrable skills that are vital for project management, such as leadership, communication, stakeholder engagement and strategic thinking. Whilst different industries may have different processes or deliver different services, these skills are transferable across sectors. They will support your professional development as time goes on. And when you have experience in various roles and industries, you can refine those skills to apply them in different contexts.

As you plan your switch to projects, it's important to focus on the skills that are needed for the role you’re interested in pursuing, and in the sector you’re keen to move to. Build up your transferrable skills by embracing opportunities with diverse experiences that transcend industry boundaries. Transferable skills and adaptability are invaluable assets in project management that will enable your seamless transitions across sectors and roles.

Networking opportunities

When you’re joining project management from different sectors, you get to meet a lot of different people. Building strong connections by moving from one sector to another allows you to tap into new knowledge and specialist expertise, which expands your professional network. Connecting with stakeholders and industry experts from previous industries you worked in, provides valuable support, insights, and opportunities for career progression in project management.

This also increases the chances of finding a mentor to guide and support you as you continue down your career path. This is even more helpful when you’re looking to move into a different role and aren’t sure how to begin. The APM Mentoring programme is a great way to find a mentor and learn more about the sector you want to move into, from dedicated project professionals who are experienced in a range of industries.

Diverse perspectives

The beauty of moving between sectors and to different roles means that you’ll be exposed to different ways of working. Each sector has its own unique challenges, needing you to adapt and learn new things quickly – when you move between sectors, you gain vital understandings and cross-functional expertise. For instance, a project manager with experience in healthcare may bring a fresh approach to infrastructure projects, drawing on people focussed delivery.

Movement will enrich your perspective, broaden your skill set, diversify your insights and foster innovation as you understand the way projects work in different settings. And a diverse skillset is crucial in handling complex projects, especially those that require cross-departmental collaboration. It can also help you in the context of clients and stakeholders – having a broad understanding of different industries will help you work well with people from different backgrounds. This broadened outlook, that comes from experience in a range of industries and sectors, builds your adaptability and creativity, essential qualities for effective project management in dynamic environments.

Career satisfaction and salary growth

Moving between roles can help you progress along your career path at a more rapid pace, which leads to salary increases as you gain more experience, expertise and transferrable skills. When you have specialised expertise and experience because you’re from a different sector, you’ll be extremely valuable to employers. For example, a financial or IT organisation looking for a programme manager with a background in finance or IT. Often this means increased salary potential too, but there’s more than monetary compensation.

The variety of roles that come with moving from one sector to another keeps you engaged and motivated, because of the unique opportunities for growth. When you’re not bored at work, you end up feeling more satisfied! Career satisfaction hinges on the flexibility and opportunities that project management offers too. Whether you’re already in project management or looking to start your career, switching sectors gives you the chance to work in different ways. According to the APM Salary and Market Trends Survey 2023, () there has been a decrease in location as a key criterion for a new role, so hybrid and remote working are increasing in popularity amongst employers. You’ll not only find career satisfaction through a better work-life balance, but you can explore what style of project work suits you.

The switch is worthwhile

Project management is a career that has many pathways. You don’t have to start in projects to be a successful project professional, nor will working in different sectors hinder your potential to grow and progress your career. Switching into project management from a different line of work isn’t impossible – in fact you’ll already have a lot of the skills, networking capabilities and experiences employers are looking for.

As the project management landscape continues to evolve, adaptability, resilience, and a commitment to continuous learning will remain key drivers of success. And the link between sectors and careers provides a unique advantage; you can develop a well-rounded skillset, remain adaptable and unlock a variety of different opportunities as you start to walk down the project management career path. By embracing change when navigating between sectors, leveraging mentorship, and prioritising new experiences, you can find success on your project management journey.