I’m a college student majoring in Project Management. I have been involved in a few projects in my lifetime, but never in any lead positions, so I don’t have experience in actual project management. This article was excellent. I find that I share characteristics with more than one of your PM examples.
I am changing fields and I also am a graduating student with no experience. I followed reading your article with a navigation of the PMI site and came across CAPM. I know that you don’t recommend going after certifications coming out of the gate, but considering the economic conditions, how do you propose that new entrants distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack?
For example, I’m coming out of college in Nov with a double major, Project Management and Organizational Management, I have the opportunity to also obtain a LSS/ GB before I graduate, and I am planning on getting it.
However, I am also considering going after CAPM to compensate for my lack of experience. How would you suggest that I move forward?
Thank you for the great email Ryan! I’ll address your questions now, especially the ones I’ve bolded from your email to discuss.
Before those specific points, I want to stress something I always focus on when I’m coaching people for their careers.
Target Specific Organizations
These questions about what you can do now to further your career path require context.
What I teach is to begin by:
- Getting crystal clear about your starting point
- Getting crystal clear about your goals, short-term and long term
- Plotting potential career trajectories for yourself which includes all of these great questions you are asking, in combination with identifying target organizations.
See, you may find out that the Green Belt or CAPM are not only not known, but actually looked down upon by a company you would really love to work for. (It happens)
You can find these things out ahead of time, before you invest your time and effort into these activities.
Distinguishing Yourself With The CAPM
In my experience, the CAPM does little to distinguish you from other candidates. But there are some good reasons to get it as well:
- Getting a certification shows you have some initiative and are self-motivated.
- A few organizations value the CAPM because they strongly identify with the PMI standard/framework and have it woven into their processes. So if you have the CAPM, you can speak the same language.
- You WILL learn lots of great things, not least of which may be to think about project management as a formal discipline.
- If you plan to take the PMP at a later time, getting immersed in “PMI-think” is going to help down the line.
- In general, the CAPM is not well recognized.
- The ‘piece of paper’ isn’t worth much in my (not so humble) opinion
- If it’s a choice between volunteering to gain experience OR spending time and money on the CAPM, I’d rather see you gain experience.
Tip: If you do decide to pursue the CAPM, quality PMP training (the one I used and recommend) will serve dual-duty and prepare you for the CAPM as well.
Lean Six Sigma Green Belt
The Six Sigma Green Belt certification is better known and recognized than the CAPM, at least in the USA. Depending on what organizations you are targeting and what kind of domains you wish to work in, it can be a good move. All education is good of course; but it’s the cost-benefit of the alternative use of your time and money that should also be taken into consideration.
Again, I’d rather see you gain experience managing projects, even if it’s in a volunteer role and devote time there. If you can do both, great.
As a hiring manager, if I had to choose between two candidates:
A – Degree, CAPM, Green Belt, no experience managing projects
B – Degree, a year of experience managing projects in volunteer roles, within the school, etc.
With all other things being equal, I’m going to go with B every time. Both candidates show they are self-motivated and have gone above and beyond the standard degree. But in most management professions including project management, experience rules.
I can have a discussion in the interview with B about their projects – the challenges they faced, how they dealt with them, what they loved and hated about them, etc. If it was organizing a fund-raising event for a charity or who knows what else, great! I’m looking for interactions with stakeholders and team members, the planning process and how things were executed, lessons learned, etc.
With A, this is all still theoretical. Those certifications are great, but I’m going to be much less comfortable giving A a project team to run with.
To Ryan and everyone else with these questions, I hope you enjoyed this!
Do you have more questions? Do you disagree with me? Let’s discuss, leave a comment!
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