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Why and how you should get into project management after taking a break/Getting back into a career in projects after taking a break - how to get back into work etc

Published on: 29 Apr 2024

So it’s been a while since you were working? That’s okay! Life is full of twists and turns, and sometimes we find ourselves on detours, taking breaks from our careers for various reasons. Getting back to work after taking a break can feel really intimidating – but don’t worry, there are lots of things you can do to make it smoother. Many people have come back to project management after being away and many have even started a career in project management after a taking a break from a different role. It’s not easy, but it’s definitely possible.

Why and how you should get into

The demand for skilled project professionals continues to grow, so there’s lots of opportunities out there, but how can you navigate the path to projects? Let’s get into why a career in project management might just be the best choice you make, as well as some strategies and steps you can take to fill the demand for project managers.

The benefits of being a project manager

Project management is a never-ending, ever-changing discipline that’s growing rapidly across the world. One of the greatest advantages is that project management is a career that brings professional fulfilment and career satisfaction. The sense of accomplishment that comes from successfully delivering projects can be really rewarding. When you’re a project manager, you get to see projects through from start to finish and how this makes a tangible impact on organisations and stakeholders. According to a poll by the Association of Project Management with Censuswide, a significant majority (82%) of project managers reported being happy or very happy with their organisation's ways of working. This includes options for fully remote work (39%), hybrid models (39%), or office/site-based full-time work (22%).

As the statistics show, project management offers a lot of flexibility in terms of work arrangements. And those arrangements will inevitably keep you happier because you’ll have a better work-life balance. If you’re a parent or carer then this offers the perfect arrangement for you to balance work commitments with personal responsibilities. If you want to work different hours or different days, remote or hybrid, lots of organisations will allow you work flexibility as long as you’re communicating clearly. Whether it's attending family events, managing childcare responsibilities, or pursuing personal interests, project management can accommodate diverse lifestyles. As long as you can meet your personal needs without compromising project deadlines, there won’t be any issues; and proper planning is, after all, a vital project management skill!

Navigating the journey back to project management

So how can you get into project management after taking a break from working? It’s not as complicated as you may think. Returning to work after time away poses a unique challenge, but when you plan and focus, it’s perfectly possible to successfully get into project management (again or for the first time).

  1. Take advantage of your transferable skills. Even if you’ve spent time away from the workforce, chances are you have a wealth of transferable skills. Communication, leadership, organisation and problem solving are highly sought after in project management. Highlighting these skills in your job applications will demonstrate how well suited you are to project roles. It’s also important to think about what skills are needed for the role you’re interested in, explore the APM Competence Framework to ensure you’re taking the right steps for your dream role.
  2. Fall in love with continuous learning. Project management is constantly evolving and changing – with new tools and technology emerging to change our lives. Projects also vary in scope, complexity, and industry, so it’s important to widen your skill set. It’s so important to focus on your career development and pursue new skills that can help you manage teams, lead with confidence and deliver success. Look for opportunities to enhance your skills through volunteering or entry level roles if you’ve never managed project before.
  3. Become qualified. Completing certifications and qualifications will help you stand out in the job market and improve your necessary skills to handle projects. Look into qualifications like the APM Project Management Qualification which is highly recognised in organisations. If you’re keen to work in technology or IT, then consider taking some qualifications in those areas as well; the more you can show your commitment to projects and your understanding of how they work, the more likely you are to score that job you’re dreaming of.
  4. Leverage networks. Use your professional network to explore insights and seek advice from experienced professionals in the field. Reach out to project professionals on LinkedIn or through a project network like the APM Community so you can gather more insights into a career in project management. Look out for any local or remote events that you can attend where you can meet others and build relationships. Networking will open doors for you – not just jobs, but mentoring opportunities too.
  5. Join a membership organisation. When you’re associated with a membership body that’s committed to projects, you’re signalling your dedication to employers; it’s an important badge you can show off. What’s more, membership organisations, like APM, will have lots of resources, private networks and events to help you improve your knowledge, build your network and update your skills as you continue to grow into your project management career.
  6. Be persistent to succeed. Re-entering the workplace after a break, whether it’s a few weeks or a few years, may not be easy and rejections are a part of life. But don’t let this bring you down; take every application or interview as a lesson and practice what you can change to be better. Maintaining a positive attitude in the face of frustration will ultimately lead to success.

From leveraging transferable skills and embracing continuous learning to tapping into the power of networking and staying resilient in the face of obstacles, you can make a successful comeback or entry in project management. It won’t be easy, but the fulfilment and satisfaction makes it all worthwhile.

Visit the APM website to read more on re-joining the world of projects.