Skip to main content

Navigating Your First Job as a Project Manager

Congratulations! You’ve passed the interview, shook hands with the boss and landed yourself a desk of your very own. Of course, that was the easy part; now it’s time to tackle your very first job in project management. For many PM graduates, this will be the most challenging aspect of the transition from student to professional.

The expectations will differ, very little in your environment will be familiar and instead of being at the top of the hierarchy, you’re now back to the bottom of the ladder and ready to work your way up. Check out these tips to make sure you navigate your workplace with all the cool intellect of an established project manager.

Use Your Study Experience

Leaving school doesn’t mean leaving all the important lessons behind. Even junior project management roles often require a qualification and the in-depth understanding and experience that comes with being a student of the industry. Study gives you foundational knowledge, and can be used to your advantage.

Related Article: 10 Must Have Skills of an Exceptional Project Manager

Looking for a project manager job?  Check out the Project Times job board

Whether you studied a Diploma of Project Management or undertook a degree, the theory forms a crucial part of navigating your first job. Beyond these important textbook definitions and case scenarios, the classroom also instils important attributes in students such as networking skills, organisation, and time-management. These are all highly employable characteristics and will prove invaluable to you as you work through this new and exciting experience.

Be Prepared To Make Mistakes

Project Management is an industry like any other when it comes to human error. Mistakes are an inevitable part of employee growth and will help you to become familiar with the expectations of your workplace. It is important to remember that you are not only a project manager but also a person, who is allowed to make errors in judgement.

Graduates should turn their attitude around and instead of being frightened by the prospect, see it as an opportunity to learn something new. Whilst it is better to avoid mistakes altogether, learning from the incident will make the best of a bad situation and demonstrate impressive diligence.


As the office newbie, the only way to understand the dynamics of your colleagues and projects is to listen. This doesn’t mean just hearing what they have to say, but also acknowledging, understanding and, where appropriate, questioning it. Listening is a sign of engagement and respect to those around you.

It also goes without saying that theoretical knowledge is not the same as true industry experience. Your colleagues will provide you with valuable insight and tips to succeed. Leaders of project management will be able to listen, understand and direct their coworkers with ease – a unique talent that can be built up through experience.

Pick A Mentor

Progressing in your career is a great feeling, and often young professionals will be guided by mentors towards promotion. The importance of a mentor to achieve this cannot be undervalued. In sport, a player will look to their coach, in the classroom you looked to your teacher, and in the workplace, it is a good idea to choose someone that has all the qualities you would like to develop yourself.

A positive influence and someone you can look to for assistance and advice is an important support when starting a new job. It will help to anchor your position within the business, and set the standard for a work ethic that you can aspire to.

Get Familiar With Your Role

This means making a real effort to remember the name, face, and role of your team members. No-one will expect you to remember it all the first time, but if you can’t recall their name by the fifth attempt, it’s not going to look good. Being familiar with your position is also about understanding your environment – small aspects such as where your manager sits, your nearest meeting room or popular cafes around the block. It’s important to feel as though you belong, and being comfortable with your surroundings can fast-track this.

Beyond the where and who, it is crucial to become as familiar as possible with your projects. The role of a project manager is to coordinate deadlines, communicate with stakeholders and drive productivity in the team. If a coworker raises a question, you should be confident enough to answer. This demonstrates leadership and creates a relationship based on trust and mutual respect within the team.

Learn To Learn

This is perhaps the most fundamental lesson to take with you from your first day of work till the last. As a professional you will still continue to learn new ideas, new approaches to problem-solving and new skills. Many graduates mistakenly believe their days of learning and research are over the minute they leave the classroom, but the workforce brings with it a life of adult learning and education.

As a graduate, you offer a unique opportunity to your employer. Being fresh out of school and filled with innovation, an open mind and ‘I can change the world’ attitude gives you a distinct edge against other experienced applicants who may be set in their ways. There is no better time than now to break into the industry and, with the right tools, become a pioneering project management professional.


Looking for that first-time project manager job?  Check out the new job board on .  Lots of jobs for those not-so-new project managers, too!

Comments (2)