project management career

How to Start a Project Management Career with Zero Experience

Are you thinking about taking a leap and jumping into a project management career? The Project Management Institute indicates that by 2027, there’ll be a need of filling more than 87.7 million PMP roles, which means businesses will be continuously opening the floor for so many project manager roles! The demand is there, and so are the opportunities, but there’s only one thing you need to make that happen and it is – knowing where to start.

Getting your first project management role can be difficult and challenging, especially if you have no prior experience in this field. Not only are you competing against others who have years of experience under their belt, often your first opportunity might be for a junior level position (or even entry level). This could deter you from taking the leap and making the decision to change careers.

But whether you’re starting from scratch or looking to make a move within your current industry after learning the basics of project management, it’s possible to get into project management without any prior experience. Let me show you how. From my experience, it has truly been a rewarding and lucrative path. One that I continue to invest in, and learn everything I can about the best project management practices.

How did my journey in project management start?

About eight years ago, I was trying to get into project management. I was in college, getting an education since that seemed like the logical thing to do. When the time came to apply for jobs, I noticed that pretty much every role required some level of experience. How could I apply for an entry-level job when I didn’t have the 2–3 years of experience the roles require?

There are plenty of project managers out there who have gotten started somehow. But how? I was frustrated and discouraged. It had been six months and I was turning down roles because I didn’t like them, they didn’t pay what I thought I was worthy of, or didn’t have a project management title that I felt I had worked to earn (oh my young & naive expectations).

During an interview, I was asked about my experience. Luckily for me, I had worked in a family business, as well as volunteered, so I knew how to leverage those skills and relate them to the role of an operations analyst. I talked about the skills and how they would help me work with the clients. Even though I didn’t have a “project manager” title in the past, I could still mention my skills. And suddenly, it appeared to me that I had more experience than I thought.

Desperate to make more and start my career, I accepted the role as an operations analyst, which didn’t have any of the things I thought I wanted in a role. However, what it did have was experience doing PM-like work and it was with a company I felt I could grow for my entire career. Being an operations coordinator meant helping small self-storage facilities set up their accounts (between 20-40 at a time) based on the needs of their business and provide training and support. Other duties included reporting and account retention and intended working with other cross-functional teams.

Read more: PMI Named Top Skills for Digital Project Managers

Taking initiative

While the work was challenging, I knew I wanted more hands-on experience running projects. I explained to my boss during my review that I really enjoyed what I was learning in class and was hoping that there was other work that allowed me to manage and lead. She found a few internal projects for me to work on with different team members. She also reached out to the company’s project management team and began having me sit in on their meetings and act as a liaison between the company’s PM team and our department. I was thrilled she was really trying to help me grow, but I did wish it had all happened sooner.

Eventually, I was in search of a new role outside the company. My desire for a more focused project management role was the leading factor. I also realized that the company was large, and moving up within the organization would take way too long for my liking. Plus, PM’ing wasn’t huge here. If that is the type of work I wanted to do, I had to move on.

Becoming a project manager

I found another company and received an offer as a Project Manager. The offer promised a bigger salary than before and had great benefits. In my new role, I was officially a “Project Manager.” Finally. My techniques in the interview process were just like before, and they worked again.

I spent the next few years working for this private company, but unlike before, I consistently got huge wake-up calls when it came to what it takes to live, breathe, and be a PM. As an implementation project manager, I helped clients replace their archaic & outdated paper systems (in most cases) with a cloud-based compliance system. This role meant working with many cross-functional teams on the client side and internally to deliver results.

Reliving these 4 years, where on earth do I begin?

Four years as a Project manager

I spent the first year or so getting familiar with my role, the company, and the software. As an implementation manager, the role was much more “involved” than a traditional project manager role. About a year in, I got a small raise. My boss started asking questions about my decision to start an MBA education and what type of projects I enjoyed (cookie cutter, small, straightforward projects vs. complex projects, requiring extensive critical thinking). I answered the former but ended up with the latter when realizing that I was good at problem solving and collaboration. Moreover, if I wanted to be a standout, I needed to take the road less traveled. The hard one.

I think that’s what she wanted to hear, and probably what she saw in me all along. I started getting more out-of-the-box projects, but nothing I felt was too crazy. When some game-changing projects were about to begin, it was time to speak up. I started insisting on complex projects. If you want examples of some complex projects I managed and worked through many of the challenges, check out my article and video series here.

But soon the stress began to get to me. I was working full-time and going to school at night, getting more training in business and project management. However, it didn’t go unnoticed. By now I had received a 20% raise and was feeling pretty good.

Becoming a Senior Project Manager

Going into year two I received more insane projects, and it felt amazing to knock them out of the park, though they often came at a cost of my time. There were days I was at work by 7 am, only to leave at 11 pm, and return bright and early the following morning. Also, days where I encountered something new and stressed about unfamiliar territory and keeping everything afloat. I really had to lean on my boss (who is a great mentor and friend to me) to help me navigate the waters and really refine my skills. I like to think she is a big reason behind why I am often told that I am good at what I do.

Another year, I was promoted to Senior Project Manager.

I decided to start studying for my PMP because my earning potential would soon outgrow the company. It was about that time I really turned on my self-study. It was also about that time when my new supervisor of the year left and I officially became a co-team lead. It was rough for a bit because I was responsible for the staff, my own workload and getting the PMP.

Life started to take a major turn just before my four-year anniversary with the company. I wanted to be in business for myself, and so I started working on my own company with my boyfriend. I made the decision to freelance full-time and leave my role. It turned out to be the best decision. The PMP certification came in handy and I was being offered roles where my hourly rate was doubled.

In as little as 6 years, my hourly rate had doubled twice.

And that is what I want for everyone reading this. I’m 27 years old and making more than people 10+ my age with twice the experience that I have. It is possible. Here’s how:

Transferable skills

Assess your current skills and showcase them. If you want to become a project coordinator or project manager, it is important to display skills that a project manager has. Even if you’ve never had a “project manager” title.

If you can show how your current skills translate to skills a project manager needs, you suddenly have more experience than you thought. Be sure it’s on your resume, too.

Good examples of transferable skills are organization, leading teams, communication, planning meetings, etc. Check out this transferrable skills worksheet here to get you started!

Please note that I am not suggesting just listing these on a resume, but being able to speak to how you have experience in these areas from previous roles.

Ask to be on new projects

Often times, even if you are not currently a project manager, companies have project management roles or ongoing projects where you can join as a resource. This is a great way to experience and get foot in the door.

When I worked at U-Haul as an Operations Analyst, I managed a number of small storage facility account setups. They were projects, but in comparison to what PMI considers a project, nothing majorly complex (e.g. no project documents, limited stakeholders, typically no harsh timelines or budgets). It gave me exposure.

Meanwhile, I talked to my manager. I expressed that I was getting training (next point) but wanted more experience in project management. She gave me some projects to lead within our department and invited me to the U-Haul project meetings that expanded organization-wide so I could see how things were done and act as a liaison and take back any key information our team needed. Boom! Experience and exposure.

Get training

If you are looking to make a career out of project management, get training. It can be a degree, certificate, or a few intros to project management classes. New skills open up new opportunities. Plus, certifications through Project Management Institute (PMI) require 23-35 hours of educational contact in project management depending on the certification. Head to this post, where I describe my life after getting PMP certification!

Additionally, if you’d like an introduction into project management to learn from me, I do have an affordable, self-paced course called “Realistic Guide for Managing Your First Project,” which helps professionals Understand Project Management in the real world. Check it out here.

Get a mentor

I remember seeing this advice when I was getting started. For me, it came naturally in the workplace when I found someone who believed in me and what I was capable of. This happened to my business partner too.

A mentor doesn’t have to be limited to your workplace. You really just need someone that wants to see you succeed, and can help you get there. Don’t hesitate to check out forums like reddit>mentors and network with those you admire online to start building a relationship. Reach out to me! I offer a 20 min complimentary 1:1 session to get us started.

Now that I have shared my path, it’s my hope that your journey into project management can be a lot smoother of a ride than mine was. Good luck!

You may check project management as well as other jobs on

Illustration: Copyright © Oksana Drachkovska


Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

Shakti Bhardwajreply
November 8, 2019 at 9:28 AM

Great article written in crisp & captive way!
I too am all about project management, I have almost 5 years experience including one gained through family business. I made a huge leap of faith by quitting in present job first before even entering into next. But this has now grown into a 6months search for job already! Even after certifications added things are not working out. I think the whole system of applying online for jobs is broken in India! I need you to PL let me contact you and discuss about it more. Or may be, Be my Mentor.

December 29, 2019 at 5:54 PM
– In reply to: Shakti Bhardwaj

Would love to connect and see how I can help!

November 24, 2020 at 9:52 PM
– In reply to: Echo

I am a teacher and I am looking into project management. Would love to connect and chat.

November 9, 2019 at 2:52 AM

Echo if you can be my mentor as well

December 29, 2019 at 5:54 PM
– In reply to: Anonymous

Would love to connect!

January 26, 2020 at 8:57 AM

Looking for guidance and a mentor in this career path,would be nice to have you, thx

Echo Woolfreply
January 31, 2020 at 12:22 AM
– In reply to: Som

I’d love to chat! Let’s connect!

Sheila Renereply
February 12, 2020 at 5:26 AM

I would like to hear more. I’ve been working in the Construction Industry for several years as a Project Coordinator, Project Admin, and Purchading Rolls. Being a PM is my ultimate desire. I have to take the PM courses. This inspired me with my 60 year old self

Echo Woolfreply
March 28, 2020 at 5:23 PM
– In reply to: Sheila Rene

I’d love to connect and chat more about your questions! PM is often a 2nd or 3rd career; it is never to late!

February 20, 2020 at 1:16 AM

This article was music to my ears. I’m looking for a mentor or really a few meetings in where I can ask a few outstanding questions I have. Would you be interested in helping me.

Echo Woolfreply
March 28, 2020 at 5:21 PM
– In reply to: Dorsha

Hi Dorsha – Let’s connect! I’d be happy to discuss further.

March 9, 2020 at 9:32 AM

Nice Article. I have been enjoying the website, it is wonderful and amazing topics. As well as the topic selection is great. I have been a projects manager for almost 5 years. Currently I am planning to write to the exam and widen my knowledge more by reading and looking for tools and whatever will make me a master in Project Management. Thank you guys for the wonderful website.

Echo Woolfreply
March 28, 2020 at 5:24 PM
– In reply to: Abdullah

Thank you Abdullah!

Eric Wilsonreply
March 19, 2020 at 5:35 AM

Really informative post about project management career with zero experience. You have wonderful views which are evident from your writings. Keep posting such kind of blogs as they are really informative, wish you good luck for your future blogs. Check out site for lots of resources that you might find helpful. Thanks for sharing the information.

Echo Woolfreply
March 28, 2020 at 5:22 PM
– In reply to: Eric Wilson

Glad you found it informative! Thanks Eric.

Vd’Dee Mayekireply
January 11, 2021 at 4:18 PM
– In reply to: Eric Wilson

I am in the field of Agriculture, at an advisory level but recently completed a short course on project management. I
am not sure where to start, need mentoring. please help

April 9, 2020 at 6:32 PM

I would like to ask some questions regarding the field. I wish to be a project manager but I need to know how exactly I need to prepare and what kind of courses would help me push my dreams.

April 23, 2020 at 11:16 AM

Amidst the difficult times of COVID-19 pandemic, I am changing career direction for 3rd time committed and with much enthusiasm PM, your advice comments give me the confidence to develop with verve learningonline. A great read; this is definitely my destiny. Project management, power & prosperity

May 19, 2020 at 6:25 AM

Thanks for your inspiring article. I really enjoyed reading. I aspire to be a Project Manager but over the years I’ve worked in the area of Procurement and Logistics in Construction and Facilities Management. I however want to specialize in Project management in Engineering and construction, what advice can you give me?

August 15, 2020 at 4:48 AM

Great article Echo. I have a graduate Certificate in Project Management and recently got my CAPM, but struggle to land my first opportunity in project management. Would love to discuss with you to get some advice. Thank you!

October 14, 2020 at 2:31 PM

What a great article! I am 31 years old with 15+ years of professional experience, and have 2 1/2 semesters left to complete my BAS. I am currently looking for jobs that would give me experience as a PM. I have applied for so many jobs, only to be turned down. I feel stuck where I am and am becoming discouraged. Reading your article gave me hope that there will be something out there for me! I’m going to start focusing on my skill rather than experience only. Thank you.

January 6, 2021 at 8:05 PM

Hi Echo,
Very interesting story for me as I am planning to shift my career at this time. I just passed my PMP EXAM on Dec. 2020. Now I am looking for a PM job. Although determined on my plan, but am a bit worried coz I will have to start again. Would like to connect with you to get some pieces of advice. Thank you

May 5, 2021 at 10:22 PM

Thanks Echo for this great article. This comes first in my search.. how to start a project manager career. I am looking for change in career. I have recently passed PMP exam and now looking for more insights. Would love to connect with you to get some awesome advice. Thank you.

May 5, 2021 at 10:28 PM

Thank you so much Echo. This article came first in my search. I am looking for career change and need some insights to prepare for the this new field. I have just passed my PMP exam. Looking forward to get in touch with you for some more insights. Thanks !

September 12, 2021 at 2:01 PM

This is a great article that one should read for project management career. I’m Abhinaya, thinking to take my career towards project management, so need some insights from you. Would like to connect with you to get an advice on how to take a entry level in this field!

January 22, 2022 at 4:41 PM

I just my pm I have experienced in customer service. Need mentor and help. O experience in pm. Thanks for sharing the article. It very helpful.

Leave a reply