Climbing the corporate ladder to the higher echelons of management is no easy feat. This is because, more than in other careers, experience and past achievements are given much greater weight than qualifications.

When you graduate in engineering, you are an engineer. You can continue to specialise and become a better engineer, but you are an engineer, nonetheless. Similarly, if you graduate from medical school, you are a doctor, and if you graduate in architecture, you are an architect.

However, when you get a management degree, you are not necessarily a manager. You start at the very bottom rungs because you have little to no experience. The dilemma is: how can one gain experience when all the management positions come with the prerequisite of already having experience?

Starting at the bottom and climbing your way upwards is a long and arduous journey fraught with uncertainties and no guarantees. Such an approach does not guarantee that you will gain the prerequisite experience for potential employers to accept your application to fill a management position seriously.

Many seek to bridge this experience gap by job hopping, enabling them to gain a wider range of experience in different jobs and industries. However, there is a better way to attain a more diverse range of management experiences and challenges in a shorter period of time. This can be achieved by taking a project management path early on in your management career.

A project is a temporary undertaking with the goal of achieving a specific objective. Whenever an organisation embarks on a change, big or small, this is achieved via a project. Project management is about getting a specific job done, such as developing a new IT system or executing a marketing campaign.

A project is temporary, with a start and end date. This is different from regular management, which is about running an operation repetitively on a day-to-day basis, which is ongoing, with no end date. In today’s ever-changing work environment, projects abound, whether we realise it or not.

As a project manager, or as an assistant to a project manager, you get to experience management in many different unique situations. You gain diverse experience, develop strong management skills, and learn about different aspects of the business. As each project is a temporary endeavour, you stand to gain different experiences in a relatively short period of time.

Planning is, by definition, central to management, and planning is even more intense in project management. This is because project managers are faced with a unique change situ­ation, having to develop plans from scratch, and only get one shot at getting it right. This contrasts with operations management where plans are refined and improved upon with each repetition of the operation.

Similarly, when it comes to control and risk management, project managers become highly adept at identifying risks and designing mitigating controls, as they need to do this for every project, and do not have the luxury of incremental refinement over the years.

In terms of people management and communication skills, again project managers face a more acute challenge in terms of people management and communication skills. In a project, a diverse set of individuals are brought together for a temporary period to bring about change.

The project manager is required to build an effective and functioning team in a relatively short time and overcome various forms of resistance to change, and engage in internal jockeying for influence at all levels of the organisation.

Then there is the goal or objective of the project itself. Depending on the nature of the change that the project is intended to bring about, project managers can also gain new and deeper knowledge and experience in different areas.

As a potential entry point to management, project management offers other advantages. Being of a temporary nature, completing a successful project brings with it a significant sense of achievement and job satisfaction. Changes in organisations are ongoing, so there will always be a need for coordination of such change.  Some changes will be strategic transformations, which are not for beginners or the faint-hearted. However, the majority of changes will be small and very well suited for the budding project manager.

Project management is a respected management specialisation in its own right, and a growing field with many opportunities for advancement.

Finally, project management is a transferable skill that can be used in a variety of industries and positions. If your goal is to climb the ladder of management, taking a project management path can serve as a great way to gain solid management experience in a relatively short time and provide the necessary springboard early on in your career.

Joseph Camilleri is head of portfolio delivery at Bank of Valletta plc.

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