If you want to make a career shift into project management, often starting as a project coordinator can be the perfect path. It allows you the opportunity to carry out many activities that a project manager would do and is the perfect position from which to take on more responsibility and grow into a PM role.
In my post “Project Manager Career Path,” I cover various routes to that Project Manager title. The first one I cover is that of the Project Coordinator. It’s how I got into project management, so I’m particularly familiar with it, though there’s no standard for exactly what a project coordinator must do. Rather, it depends more on the organization and project needs, and the structure of the team. There are usually opportunities to let your manager know that you’d like to take on more responsibility. Doing so allows you to get more experience and prepare to take on a project management role. I know of project coordinators who actually start managing projects while in that position, and can transition into a formal project manager job title.
Project Coordinator Typical Job Duties
The project coordinator usually assists with a variety of project related activities. They could do anything from developing project schedules and budgets to organizing / managing team activities such as meeting deliverables and preparing documentation. A project coordinator might facilitate all project meetings, make sure testing was done on schedule as planned or coordinate software rollout activities. There are many possibilities. It all depends on what the team needs and how they want to best use the project coordinator. A benefit of being in a project coordinator role usually is the opportunity to do different things and gain more experience, preparing you to move into a project manager position.
Project Coordinator Skills
Skill sets that are beneficial to a project manager are also valuable to a project coordinator:
- attention to detail
Getting a Project Coordinator Job
To find out more about how you might best position yourself to get a job as a project coordinator, I spoke with Michelle Long, a Technical Recruiter at Vaco Technology. She’s worked with many companies looking for project coordinators and has placed many people in project coordinator positions. She’s an expert at helping folks get into project coordinator roles. Here’s what she shared about getting that project coordinator job….
Q: What types of past skills and experience do you look for when filling a Project Coordinator position?
Michelle Long: Hiring managers want someone very organized.
Hiring managers also often specifically request Excel skills. However, not all of the project coordinator positions require Excel.
They also have requested PowerPoint skills before, but it’s easy to learn – anyone can learn it.
People who have experience with administrative work are also often a good fit.
Experience in managing people, as a team lead, and tracking deadlines is also good. For example, making sure that people who are scheduled to show up actually do show up. Experience with coordinating people, getting them together, and holding them accountable is beneficial.
Q: What strengths or abilities do hiring managers request?
Michelle: Being very organized – this is something that hiring managers look for.
They also want someone who takes the initiative to do things on their own. In fact, managers want self-starters who don’t just wait for their next task but rather are proactive in seeking out additional work once they’ve finished something.
Q: What guidance do you get from the companies looking for applicants to this role?
Michelle: The manager I spoke with today asked for someone who takes the initiative and is well-organized (there seems to be a common theme here). Paying attention to the details is important. They also want someone who can make sure things get done.
Q: What guidance or advice do you have for those looking to move into a Project Coordinator position?
Michelle: I tell a lot of people to go to their PMI local chapter meetings. Network and connect with those on LinkedIn for advice and guidance. They share information that’s helpful. There are many folks that are willing to help.
Q: One question I see come up a lot is whether or not to change the job title of past positions on your project coordinator resume. The idea of completely changing your previous title makes me uncomfortable. If a hiring manager checks references, it’s easy to learn that a candidate changed the job title has on a resume, which could result in a hiring manager losing trust in you. What guidance do you offer in this area when creating a project coordinator resume?
Michelle: If you’re sticking to an official title – don’t change the title. If you performed many activities that a project coordinator would perform or acted in the capacity of a project coordinator, you could add that to the title. For example, if you were an administrative assistant who also took ownership to coordinate projects or teams on occasion, you could list your title as “Administrative Assistant / Project Coordinator.” In some cases, we add it if you do have proven experience, and you actually did work that a project coordinator would do. But if you only booked travel for VPs, then don’t put it. Stay honest.
Q: What types of backgrounds do you see project coordinators come from?
Michelle: We have applicants for project coordinator positions from many different backgrounds:
- Business analysts. People in these roles are great candidates for a project coordinator role, as they’ve most likely done work that a project coordinator might do and are familiar with project work. One candidate, in particular, was experienced and smart and didn’t understand the right wording and framing for her project coordinator resume. With help in that area, she increased her salary and has since moved into a project management position.
- Administrative Assistants. People in these roles wear multiple hats and sometimes wind up coordinating software implementations and training. For this reason, they can be great candidates for a project coordinator role. One example is a candidate I worked with who wound up taking over setting up training classes and making sure that everyone got trained. She did it so well that she even worked on other projects after that. That led her to pursue a project coordinator position.
- Telecommunications companies. Those working with telecommunications companies have many opportunities to work with vendors to do pricing and coordinate the vendors to do installs. I’ve had quite a few candidates from this background who’ve moved into project coordinator positions.
- Finance / Accounting. People with a finance/accounting background are often a good fit because they have a lot of excel background. Having a lot of experience with spreadsheets and budgeting is a great background for many project coordinator positions.
Q: What concerns do you see from those looking to move into PC positions?
Michelle: If someone feels they’re not qualified for a position, VACO has online tests to assess their skill set. After taking a test, they might discover that they’re more qualified than they gave themselves credit for. On the other hand, if they don’t do as well on the test, they then know where to place their focus.
The Project Coordinator Resume
When preparing your project coordinator resume, highlight experience you have in the areas listed, such as coordinating teams, managing budgets, creating spreadsheets, and taking any leadership role (regardless of the size). Additionally, find ways to demonstrate that you took the initiative and were proactive.
Furthermore, in preparation for your move to a project coordinator role down the road, look for ways to get experience now in your current job. It’s a perfect time to start!
The project coordinator role is a fantastic target role for moving into a project management career. And you’ve likely got experience to help you make the move right now.
If you found this article helpful, you might also be interested in the following articles on moving to project management:
Project Manager Career Path – different job titles and experience that can lead to project management positions