The transition from Contract Administrator to Project Manager is one of the hardest career steps we see in construction.
If a Project Manager role is in your line of sight, be prepared to work harder than your average CA to get there.
You’ll need to show, in an industry that’s become increasingly reluctant to give first time Project Managers a go, that YOU are a safe bet.
As a Contract Administrator looking to become a Project Manager, this is the biggest hurdle you will face.
Your employer will view your promotion as a potential risk.
And with the size of projects in your mid and top tier builders becominge larger and profit margins smaller, taking a chance on an inexperienced Project Manager is a roll of the dice and not something builders are generally willing to do.
Instead, they’ll assign their larger projects to their most experienced Project Managers. And that leaves you rubbing shoulders with a multitude of your peers looking to land your first gig on one of their smaller projects.
So, how do you stand out from the crowd when making this transition and gain the knowledge and experience needed to step up?
Below are some of the things I would suggest you actively work to do:
Understudy your Project Manager
Do the job without the title!
Participate as much as you can in your Project Manager’s day-to-day activities. Actively take what responsibilities you can away from them. That way, you can point to having already done that work when you’re looking to step up.
Some of the project management duties I would suggest you involve yourself with are:
- Stakeholder engagement – all communication between your team and the client.
- Design management.
- Programme management.
These are three essential project management task that you can assist with. And your Project Manager will recognise your initiative, which is generally information that goes up the chain!
Learn what the other people in your project team do
Knowledge is power.
The more you know about construction, design, programme etc. outside of the commercial aspect, the better. It allows you to understand the ‘why’ behind what’s happening on site.
And as a Project Manager, you will require an in-depth understanding of the construction process, beyond the commercial paper trail.
Demonstrate your ability to make decision
Decision making is at the crux of what a Project Manager does, day in day out.
So, you need to demonstrate that you can make decisions about what’s happening on site. Show that you can be the shepherd, not the sheep!
The next time you come across a problem at work, don’t go to your Project Manager with the issue without also having a solution.
You may not have the final authority or a broad enough knowledge base to say what action to take. But the person who does will recognise that you’ve taken the initiative.
Evaluate the business you’re in
The business you’re currently in is going to be paramount to your ability to secure a Project Manager role.
So you need to assess your current employer. And look at whether they promote their Contract Administrators into Project Managers.
Do they have enough smaller projects or are they targeting enough smaller projects to allow you to make the transition?
How competitive is the landscape of your business? Are you competing against a number of other Contract Administrators with the same career trajectory in mind?
Not every business you work in will be able to offer you the career progression you seek. The sooner you recognise that your employer won’t be able to support your development, the better.
Be vocal about your plans to step up
Finally – be vocal about your plans.
Tell your managers you’re looking to progress. Don’t sit back on your laurels and hope a promotion will come your way.
Quite often, your manager is busy in their day-to-day. They’re not focused on your individual career progression. So no matter how good you are, if you don’t make them aware of your goals, chances are they will leave you in the position you’re currently in.
Take an active approach to your career and put yourself on their radar!
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