If you’re one of the thousands of people who see project management as a fantastic career opportunity, then you could be wondering how to break in. The projects we read about in the media seem to be led by senior managers with years of experience, dealing with complex issues, diverse teams and budgets that rise into the billions.
But they didn’t start out with those projects.
They started out on smaller initiatives, learning the basics alongside a team and building their experience over time.
Just like you can.
If you don’t have project management experience to date, the project coordinator role is a great one to look at as your route into project management. In this article, we’ll look at the key things that a coordinator does and is responsible for, so you can make the decision about whether it is a role you feel is a good fit for your skills.
What Does A Project Coordinator Do?
As with many job titles in the project management industry, project coordinator means slightly different things in different companies.
Generally, the role involves working on a large project alongside a project manager, supporting the project, project manager, and the wider team and doing what is necessary to help everyone else succeed in their roles. The tasks might include document management, taking minutes, organizing meetings and travel schedules for the team, updating project logs, drafting (or writing) project reports, chasing up people to do their actions or provide status updates, configuring the project management software for the project and maintaining user permissions, and a whole lot more.
The role is very varied and is very dependent on the project and the team. There is normally the underlying belief that a project coordinator will not stay a project coordinator for his or her whole career so there is an element of upskilling and training people in this job so that they can take on more and more responsibility.
In fact, in some companies, Project Coordinator refers to someone who manages small, repetitive projects that have a defined schedule that could be reused and are low risk and low budget.
Over time, the idea is that that coordinator grows in experience and joins the team as a fully-fledged project manager, although of course there are other job options available to someone with a coordinator background.
So what skills do you need to be a great project coordinator? Let’s take a look.
Project Coordinator Key Skill #1: Building Relationships
If you aren’t a people person, step away from the application now! Project coordinators are the central point of contact for most of the administrative and repetitive tasks (plus a great deal else) on the project and can also be the gatekeeper to the project manager. To do that you have to be good at communicating and building relationships.
Whether that’s with your immediate project colleagues, a supplier or senior stakeholders, you need to be able to work with people at all levels. And they need to like you enough to respect what it is you are trying to do and support you in it.
Project Coordinator Key Skill #2: Organizing
Are you an organized person? Because your project manager will need you to be.
Project Coordinators are often responsible for organizing people and tasks: think how hard it can be to get five Directors in a room for a Project Status meeting. If the project involves a lot of prototypes and product demos, you can also be involved in the logistics of making sure the right equipment is in the right place at the right time.
You’ll need to be able to manage multiple tasks in parallel, remember what is happening when and create systems to ensure that nothing gets overlooked. Plus it helps to have a love of lists and checking off work as complete!
Project Coordinator Key Skill #3: Time Management
Project Coordinators typically have a lot of tasks on their plate at the same time, so being able to manage your time effectively and prioritize work is important to ensure everything gets done.
The same goes for the people on your team: you need to help them manage their time so that they complete their work in an effective way. This involves being acutely aware of the immovable deadlines on a project and the priorities required to help the team get there.
A project coordinator is responsible for much of the work that keeps the project moving forward and under control, and you shouldn’t feel awkward about chasing up others, enforcing deadlines or allocating tasks to team members. All of this is essential if the project is going to hit its milestones.
Project Coordinator Key Skill #4: Initiative
Project coordinators will be working as part of the team, but there is plenty of scope for using your initiative and taking the lead on tasks. Is that project document too unwieldy? Create a lighter version for this project. Do you think the team needs a checklist for something? Write it. Is it too hard to find files? Restructure the network drive folder system.
The coordinator role is very much about getting work done and also about doing what it takes to get the project over the line. You can’t rely on detailed instructions for every task from your busy project manager. Sometimes, your initiative is going to make the difference for everyone.
It really helps to be able to think creatively about what needs to be done and how to get there, taking the lead on tasks that others might not even have thought about yet. This also sets you apart from other people and shows how your awareness of the business environment is developing you into the perfect employee for a promotion!
The good news is that many of the skills required to excel at in project coordination aren’t project management specific. In other words, you may have acquired them elsewhere from your volunteering or college experience, or in a previous job.
Contact Triumph Strategic Consulting to let us show you how to capitalize on your experience to break into a new and exciting project coordination role.