How to get a job as a Project Manager

Dan Fox

Designers might get the plaudits, but project managers are the unsung heroes behind successful work. Use these simple tips to show what you’re best at and your dream job in an agency could be closer than you think.

As someone who’s spent the best part of 15 years in project management, I know full well that selling yourself doesn’t come too easily for us PMs.

We’re at our happiest squirrelling away in the background, making sure the cogs keep turning and things are smooth and efficient. But what we do is incredibly important (yes, I am biassed) and we should be shouting loud and proud about the work we do.

I have a distant memory of the first CV I ever wrote, with specific project management experience, when I made the move from a photographic studio to a design studio. It was daunting, I had no idea what to say and frankly, I felt a little uncomfortable shouting about myself to these amazing design agencies I hugely respected.

I quickly learned (after many failed attempts) that to stand out in a crowded market, you need to get to the point and clearly highlight what you’re going to bring to the table.

It’s all about you

First things first, this is all about you! Try to hit hard straight away by outlining the breadth of your experience, the agencies and clients you’ve worked with. It’s also important to be explicit about the types of projects you’ve managed, be that brand development, website design & build through to campaign and shoot production.

I want to know if you helped with scoping, statements of work and communicated directly with the client throughout. This gives me a good idea of what you can bring to the table.”

From experience this tends to be the most common element missing from PMs I speak to. I want to know right away if your experience is right for us as an agency.

Talk about what you enjoy and what brings you joy in your role, or the area you work in. As PMs we have a tendency to be quite nuts and bolts, but we are all human deep down. I want to see what makes you tick. Ultimately we all want to enjoy our jobs, and I wouldn’t want a PM who is unhappy in their work on my team.

Time to get specific

It’s also important to know what you did specifically for a project, not just the clients you worked with. I want to know if you helped with scoping, statements of work and communicated directly with the client throughout. This gives me a good idea of what you can bring to the table. It can also be helpful to mention budgets, to get a sense of the scale of projects you’ve worked on.

If you’ve managed website design and builds, include links to the sites. I can’t stress this enough. We want to see the fruits of your labour, along with any specific challenges that came with the projects. We know not every project can run like a dream. Let’s be open and talk about how you resolved any problems.

Teamwork makes the dream work

One of my favourite sayings in the studio! You’ll know that a cohesive team makes for the best work, and it’s our role as PM to help facilitate these relationships. I want to see the types of teams you normally work with: size, disciplines, characters — the lot.

It’s also helpful to know if you’ve worked with other project managers. Securing resource for your project is one of life’s trickiest battles in a studio with other PMs. Show how you can work harmoniously with others of your kind, with a holistic view of all projects in the studio, to get the best results for everyone.

What about qualifications?

Do you need specific qualifications to be a good project manager? In my opinion: no, you don’t. I don’t have a degree or any official project management accreditations, I learned my trade on the mean streets of agency life.

That doesn’t mean to say qualifications aren’t valuable. If you have it, flaunt it. But what matters more to me is your experience and you as a person. We have a philosophy at Output to not hire d*ckheads. If you can show you’re the right fit for the team and your experience is right, then sign me up!

Got any questions? We’re always on the lookout for great talent so feel free to get in touch.

Dan Fox

Dan (he/him) has progressed from Project Manager to Account Director at Output, via the Head of Production role, so he’s well placed to balance great client experiences with an environment for creatives to thrive. He shares tips on process for agency and client-side project managers, alongside practical advice for people getting into the industry.