So, you have decided to become a project manager. You have enrolled a Master programme to gain the necessary knowledge about the profession and the skills necessary. Some of you perhaps have known about Project Management for a long time, but reality is that most of you are new to it. Too often, it’s not until you are actually working on projects that you know such a job exists, but when you realise it does, you want to steer your professional career towards it and become a “professional” project manager rather than continuing to be an “accidental” one.
You think that you know what you are letting yourself in, but realit y is that you, Project-Managers-want-to-be, must be loosing your mind!
1. No one understands what I do
- “What do you for living?”
- “I’m a project manager”
- “Ah, ok, it sounds interesting”
And they steer away wondering what do I really do all day. Sounds familiar? I have been faced with this situation in many occasions; general people but also colleagues at work: technicians wonder why on earth I decided to trespass to the other side and business managers don’t understand how the project manager fits within the company strategic structure and can only relate to the operational side.
2. I am an “in-betweener”
Business managers (strategy, finance, marketing, etc) often see project managers as part of the company’s operational front. Engineers and other technical experts relate project managers as an extension of the managing department.
Project managers are often described as “the ones that tell others what to do”; “unnecessary middle man”, “the boss assistant” and “just a postman that communicates orders” are other definitions I have heard.
I can perhaps accept that’s part of what we do. But it’s far more about relationships and communication, more about making things easy for others to do their job and less of telling how to do it; a lot of planning and much more about monitoring the plan. And loads of forecasting and problem-solving. And communication…have I already said that?
3. It’s a 24/7 job
The world is shrinking and our way of doing business follows suit. We work in projects with colleagues on the other side of the world using real-time technology, online tools and other communication gadgets. Because of Internet even small companies can operate internationally, so project managers in organisations of any size face the challenges of managing international projects.
And that means far more than just thinking about time differences between London and Sidney. Project managers, team members and clients must establish how to conduct real-time team meetings? Who is going to get up in the middle of the night for a call? You will find it difficult to recruit volunteers. And when you do, you must ensure that they do not get criticised for going home at 3pm on a Friday.
Project managers with international responsibilities not only have to educate team members in how to work well together, but also have to manage upwards and ensure that senior stakeholders understand the constraints of this type of projects.
BUT, do not despair.
I can assure you that Project Management is a wonderful profession. Simply because it is not just a job; it is life! Everyone manages projects everyday; we pretty much plan everything, from a party or a holiday to our professional career and personal life path. And it never gets boring; each project is particular, unique and different.
Therefore, stay put and enjoy!