You’ve been working hard for the last couple of years at your Project Coordinator’s role but you’re thinking it’s time to move on up and take on more responsibility.

Where to start? What ducks should you line up to make sure you are not only ready for the next chapter but recognised as such?

Want to learn more? Check out our guide, Project Management Career Path


What’s the difference between a project coordinator and a project manager?

As a project coordinator it’s likely that you have many of the basic technical skills you need to make the step up to project manager, such as

  • keeping the project plan up to date;
  • scheduling and managing meetings;
  • collecting and reporting of data on prescribed metrics;
  • budget tracking; and
  • supporting your team members.

To this point your project coordinator job description focuses on making sure daily tasks are executed, everybody is on track and that the project manager is aware of any issues or challenges that are appearing. You take direction from your project manager and generally wait on their sign off or nod to move forward.

To move up to Project Manager is to take on not only the responsibility of getting the day to day work completed but also to

  • plan, organise and allocate tasks and activities;
  • analyse and make recommendations around variants from the plan;
  • manage stakeholder engagement; and
  • ensure effective team communication.

The key difference between the Project Coordinator and Project Manager is responsibility and leadership, all supported by highly competent technical skills and a focus on detail and getting the job done. Welcome to management!

A little self-assessment

In order to prepare for the step up, it’s critical that you know where your strengths and weaknesses lay. You may have already completed some formal education or training – but even so, it’s important that your resume is reflective of experience in all the areas that matter.

The first is your technical skills – keeping the project plan up to date, scheduling, managing meetings, reporting and so on need to be rock solid. Also communication, organisation, time management, data-entry, attention to detail and a focus on getting things done are key attributes for the Project Coordinator that lay the groundwork for the project manager.

Take an audit of your experience in these technical areas. With regard to your organisation or area of interest:

  • What are you good at?
  • What areas do you still have to conquer?

Identify the gaps and make a plan to fill them either via more training or getting some on the job experience.

Also make sure you are well versed in the project management methodologies that are relevant right now. New opportunities might appear using methods you are yet to use in your current role. So it’s important to at least have a good working knowledge of the most popular practices currently in play if not some level of certification.

Today, you need more than these hard or technical skills. More human skills such as the ability to communicate, influence, and lead are now just as critical. As a project manager it will be your responsibility to motivate the team, keep them on track while making it a positive experience for everyone. You will also need to be able to communicate and engage with project stakeholders – some of whom may be quite senior to you. Focusing on building these soft skills early in your career will definitely set you apart from your peers.

Certify it!

To further set yourself apart from your peers consider undertaking a formal certification program. The AIPM’s RegPM certification, for example, endorses you as a Project Management professional. With the help of a qualified assessor, the program evaluates your project management capabilities to assess their alignment with business needs and standards across many different industries.

The Certified Practising Project Practitioner (CPPP) is for those with a moderate level of knowledge about professional practices and knowledge and is a great place to start as you will be quickly able to identify where you need to improve and how to do it.

Don’t try this on your own

Sometimes, early on in your career, the way forward, isn’t always so clear. Finding yourself a mentor is a great way to benefit from someone else’s experience and maybe even help you avoid a misstep or two. The key is to find someone whose experience you can relate to but who will also challenge you to think differently and extend yourself.

The AIPM’s Mentoring Program is one of our most popular member benefits. It’s designed for those looking for personal and professional development in the project management profession by working alongside someone with a wealth of experience. It’s a great way to reflect upon your professional challenges and achievements and map the way forward.

If you are looking to take the step up from project coordinator to project manager take a little time to assess where you are in terms of both your soft and hard skills and, with the help of a mentor, map your way forward. As any good project manager will tell you – it all starts with the goal and the plan.