Working as a project manager, it’s likely you work under the leadership of a project management office (PMO). If you’re considering moving from project manager to a PMO practitioner, this guide on how to make the change has useful advice.

It may not be part of the standard career path for a project manager, but if you find yourself interested and engaged with the work your PMO does then it can be a logical step. Having a solid background in how projects work can be beneficial to overseeing them as a PMO leader.

To help you lay the foundations for a lateral shift into a PMO role, we’re going to look at:

  • The skills you already have to take into a PMO role
  • How a move into a PMO leadership role can boost your career
  • Practical actions you can take to improve your chances of getting a PMO job

What are the transferrable skills from a project manager to a PMO?

As a project manager, you will already have a strong skill set that you will need for a role in a PMO. There are soft skills, such as leadership and communication skills, that you will already work with when planning and executing each project you work on.

Other elements of your role as a project manager that will help in a PMO role include:

  • Working with a PMO every day, meaning you understand how the office interacts with projects and what the office monitors and manages
  • Implementing the project framework that the PMO is there to support, so you are knowledgeable about the documentation, processes, and timelines projects use
  • Working towards or already having project management certifications, such as the PMP or SAFe, which can be expanded on into the PfMP certification, for example

Why should I move from a project manager role to a PMO job?

There are a range of career benefits to moving from project management to work in a PMO, whether you want to move back into project-specific work or see a path towards operational management in the long term.

Working as a PMO practitioner, you will develop your management and coordination skills in areas like risk management, change management, and people and other resource management.

You’ll have the chance to develop your business and commercial acumen. A PMO works to align projects with the strategic goals of the business so you’ll become more aware of how to affect the bottom line.

Linked to that, a PMO role will give you a broader overview of the business. Rather than working on purely software or only logistics projects, you will get the complete picture of all the different projects managed through the PMO – this could help you pivot to a different business area, too.

Since a PMO works across a range of business areas, you’ll also have the chance to build a broader set of relationships. This can help you advance your career through the business and work closer with senior management.  

What actions can I take to get promoted from a project manager to a PMO role?

Whilst still in your project manager role, you can aim for a PMO job by taking actions above and beyond your role expectations. Every project area and PMO is different, of course, so take these as inspiration to find achievements to add to your CV.

  • Suggest improvements to processes to the PMO – you’re working with the documentation and processes every day so if your see duplication or there’s something missing, offering the feedback plus a solution can give you a quick win.
  • Offer different data visualisation or communication options which you think project workers will be more receptive to. Getting across data like KPIs and project changes to projects is a key element of PMO work, so finding improvements from the project perspective can be valuable.
  • Shadow the PMO leader for a day a month or for a short period between projects. This will give you a chance to really understand the job, offer your input, demonstrate your willingness to learn, and start to network within the PMO.

The take-home

It can be a great career move to go from project manager to PMO practitioner, but how to get promoted can be a challenge when you have your projects to lead. You’ll already have skills in management and leadership, and a shift into a PMO will have a range of career benefits.

These actionable steps can help you build your prominence as a person who understands the wider project needs and will help bring you to the attention of senior leaders to boost your chances of promotion.