Q: I want to start a new career in project man-
agement. What questions should I ask project
managers who already have a great career?
A: Finding out more about a career in project
management from those who have already carved
out their path is an excellent idea. It is known as
informational interviewing. If you have some great
people to speak to, make sure you get the best out
of that opportunity. Here are seven areas to consider and a selection of questions you can ask to
really understand what project managers do:
1. Start with job satisfaction and motivation. Ask
questions like, “What do you enjoy most and least
about your job?”, “How does the job differ from
your initial expectations?” and “What inspires you
to do your job?”
2. Ask about the details of the work with questions like, “What is a typical day for you?”, “How
do you know you are doing a good job?”, “What
skills do you use the most?” and “Give me an
example of the sort of activities your job involves.”
3. Ask them to detail their career progression (it
will become apparent that there isn’t necessarily a
typical project management career path). Ask how
they have been promoted and how they gained
experience. Ask about their ultimate career goals.
4. Find out about the work culture and environ-
ment, as well as the management aspects of the
job. Ask, “How much time do you spend work-
ing with your team, your customers and on your
own?”, “What type of person makes a good project
manager?” and “What are your experiences man-
aging projects in this particular environment?” The
answers can reveal details that you may—or may
not—like about this potential career.
5. Project management roles vary from organization to organization. Get a broader understanding by talking to practitioners in different sectors.
Specific questions could include, “Are there a lot
of opportunities within the sector?”, “What is staff
turnover like?”, “How do you see project manage-
6. Ask about job hunting. Some project managers can offer dual insights, because not only did
they find their current job, but they also hire team
members. Ask, “What background or experience is
useful and how do people typically get it?”, “How
did you get your job?”, “What would you look
for on someone’s CV or résumé?”, “What do you
look for when hiring someone?” and “What advice
would you give to someone in my position?”
7. Finally, realize this informational interview is
also a networking opportunity, a crucial skill for
anyone in this career. Don’t be afraid to ask ques-
tions like, “Would you let me know if there are
any opportunities that might be suitable for me?”,
“Can we stay connected on LinkedIn?”, “Would
you mind if I occasionally drop you a line?” and “Is
Make the most of the time you’re given to under-
stand the differing views that project managers
have. Hopefully the questions you pick will uncover
whether this is the right career choice for you.
Q: In my current job, I perform the role of
project manager but it’s not my official title.
How will this affect my chances of finding
another project management role?
A: Organizations have many different job titles for
people who work in and around projects, but titles
like service delivery manager, product manager,
projects engineer or coordinator can mask the
actual role someone performs.
If you are worried about prospective employ-
From the project manager just beginning on
a career path to a seasoned pro ready to take
the next step, networks make a difference.
BY LINDSAY SCOTT