How to stand out as a project management candidate post-degree

For many students, when the time comes to apply to university, they already have an idea of the direction they see their career path taking in the future. For those that don’t, it can be a simple decision of choosing a subject that they really love, with the hope that a good degree will help them to find the right career by the time that they are ready to graduate. 

While it is certainly true that having a degree can help you along the path to your chosen career, a degree, even a good one in a desired subject, no longer holds quite the same weight with many employers as it once did. With so many graduates looking for jobs, employers have their pick of the potential candidates. Therefore, they are looking for more than just the candidate who is great on paper. They want candidates who have great soft skills that will make them a good team players, and they want those candidates who have something a little more to offer. Furthermore, they can afford to be picky with so many possible candidates to choose from. 

If you are a graduate who is considering a career in project management then you will need to make sure that you stand out. Fortunately there are a number of ways in which you can do this. 

Why might I consider a career in project management?

Whilst project management is not for everyone there are a number of reasons that you may want to consider a career in the field. As a role, project managers are becoming increasingly sought after. In fact, it is believed that over the course of the next 10 years at least there will be an even greater need. A recent report by PMI believes that by 2027 there is likely to be a need for those individuals to fill project management-orientated roles of as many as 88 million individuals. 

This means that finding a job as a project manager carries great prospects for your future career. It is also worth remembering that when a job is in high command it is also highly likely that it will attract higher salaries. 

If you take a look at “what is project management?” then you will see that it is the processes that apply to the organisation of a project, its plan, objectives, milestones, and deliverables. It is also the managing of team members, budgets, timelines and the delivery of a successful project. More importantly, these skills that a project manager needs, and the project management skills that they will have are all highly portable, so they can be utilised to manage projects within any industry. 

Project management qualifications

It goes without saying that if you want to stand out from the crowd of other post-degree candidates applying for roles in the field of project management then you will need to offer a little more. A good way of doing this would be to continue your studying by enrolling on a suitable qualification course, APM, PMP and PRINCE2 courses are a great place to start when looking to get on-paper qualifications that would help you along your chosen career path. Whilst many employers will be happy to put the right candidate through the appropriate qualifications, if you have already started along the path then this will certainly show any potential employer that you are more than willing to continue your learning

Brush up your soft skills 

Soft skills are vital for the majority of roles in most industries. However, when it comes to project management, they are vital. It can certainly be worth looking at where your strengths and weaknesses lie in this area and trying to improve those that you feel may fall a little short of what an employer might be looking for. 

Soft skills include:

  •       Communication skills – these include not only the ability to talk to others, but also to listen and written communication
  •       Teamwork
  •       Leadership
  •       Time management 
  •       Problem solving

All of these play a vital part in the work that is undertaken by a project manager and are something that a potential employer will certainly be looking for. Some of these are skills that come more naturally to many individuals than to others however with a little work they can certainly be things that you can improve.

On-the-job experience

Getting a role within the field of project management will help to get you the much-needed on-the-job experience that can really help you to climb the career ladder within the field. Of course, getting that experience does rely on you being able to get a job in the first place which is when soft skills and other qualifications could really help you. 

The knowledge and skills that you will pick up once you are in a role will help you to further your qualifications. This may well make it easier to find a project manager role that will work with the skill set that you have. 

Keep up to date with latest industry news

With many roles, and fields, it is a good idea to keep an eye on the latest industry news. This will help you to improve your knowledge and learn about new methodologies. This is also something that could help you to stand out from other candidates at interviews as it will show potential employers that you are interested in project management rather than just looking for a job that you think you could do. 


In a field where there will be stiff competition for the roles that are available an employer can afford to be pickier when it comes to selecting the right candidate. Therefore, it is important to show just how interested you are in the role, the company and how committed you would be to the continual learning process that is the world of project management. 

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