If you are an individual contemplating a career in project management, do you ever wonder if project management is the right career choice for you? It is multifaceted and rewarding, but it is also a demanding job.
If you are trying to decide on career options and a project manager is a position that interests you, consider these eight facets of the job to decide if it is the right career choice for you.
Project management is fast-paced
The world of project management is a fast-paced environment often filled with conflicting deadlines and priorities that do not allow for much breathing space. It is continually moving at a speed that many people may have a very hard time keeping up with.
Oftentimes just when you think one obstacle has been averted, another may quickly arise. If you are not easily flustered or if you thrive in this type of environment, you have passed the first gateway in your decision about this career choice.
Project management comes with an abundance of uncertainty
Regardless of all the planning that goes into the execution of a project, uncertainty is always lurking in the background and waiting to jump in and foil those plans. Project managers must often think that they have become circus clowns as they constantly juggle resources, deadlines, deliverables, and priorities to ensure that their projects align with business strategy.
Project management involves constant pressure and stress
In this field, persistent pressure and stress are one of the only constants. Due to all of the juggling previously mentioned, there are plenty of opportunities to “feel the heat.” I have yet to hear of a project manager feeling rested or relaxed at the end of a day or getting a truly good night sleep, no matter how great he or she is at this type of job. In fact, many really great project managers get less sleep because they are constantly thinking of all the pieces at play and the associated risks and complications.
Project management means dealing with continual change
If you adapt well to continual change and a certain level of regular chaos in your professional life, you will likely transition well into the life of a project manager. There is no room for a comfortable-place mindset where things are routine or mundane; it is anything but. Everything—where you work, how you do things, whom you interact with, and when things are done—is in constant flux and flex. In fact, continual change is the sheer nature of what is required to keep within the scope of a project.
Project management means multiple deadlines
Prioritizing and managing multiple deadlines can be tricky and even frustrating at times but will be a regular occurrence in this field. To meet business goals, project deadlines may need to be constantly reevaluated and possibly altered. This can require a fair amount of balancing of human and financial resources, and it can also impact the quality of the product or services being delivered. This requires a project manager who is level-headed and calm under pressure.
Project management means dealing with internal and external conflict
One of the things that can make even the best project managers crazy is dealing with difficult people, and this includes internal and external conflict. Nobody really likes to deal with this at the best of times, but it is an essential skill to have in order to be a successful project manager. Without it, entire projects can be—and have been—sabotaged or even sidelined completely. Having the ability to work with parties to resolve conflict for the good of the business is a true skill, one that is highly valuable; being able to do this while putting your own biases and views aside is an art.
Project managers have demanding schedules
Project managers’ schedules often require them to regularly exceed a nine-to-five workday. Project managers often eat, sleep, and breathe project management from the initiation through to the closeout. Even projects that go according to plan (if there is such a thing) require project managers to practice speed sleeping, eating, and breathing throughout. Burnout is a serious issue for project teams and especially project managers.
Project management requires exceptional organizational skills
Exceptional organizational skills are a must-have. In order to handle fast-paced environments filled with multiple deadlines, continual change, constant stress, uncertainty, conflict, and demanding schedules, a project manager must be exceptional when it comes to organizational ability, just to keep everything moving ahead and on track.
Because of the high level of responsibility and risks associated with successful project planning and execution, this is a highly demanding career option that should not be taken on lightly. However, these challenges and demands can be highly rewarding growth opportunities.
If all of the things that the job entails do not frighten you, then you just might be cut out to be a great project manager.
Moira Alexander, PMP, I.S.P., ITCP/IP3P, is a recognized project management influencer, thought leader, a regular correspondent for PMI’s Projectified podcast, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of PMWorld 360 Magazine, Founder of Lead-Her-Ship Group, and author of “LEAD or LAG: Linking Strategic Project Management & Thought Leadership”. Moira has over 25 years of experience in business (IS&T) and project management for small to large businesses in the US and Canada and has been quoted in various publications including Forbes. She writes thought leadership content for top-tier publications and business blogs and oversees or writes sponsored content and software reviews on PMWorld 360 Magazine.