Project Practitioners > Run Away! (And Other Helpful Advice For A Career in Project Management)

Run Away! (And Other Helpful Advice For A Career in Project Management)

By Josh Nankivel
run away
Run Away! by Cirofono via Flickr

I am passionate about project management in general, and helping people new to the field more specifically.

But let's be honest. We're all nuts.

Not Everyone Should Be a Project Manager

There is a specific form of gluttony for punishment that comes with the territory (some consider it a clinical condition). The decision to head down the project manager career path should not be taken lightly. When I started out, there was a specific resonance I felt as I learned more about the role of a project manager. Everything I had really enjoyed about my previous positions seemed to be a part of this crazy thing called project management.

"You've got to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya punk?" – Dirty Harry (1971)

Hmmmm….actually I’m going to ask 2 questions instead. And maybe some sub-questions…what the heck. Being a contrarian is just part of my personality… though, it’s not a “desired skill” for project managers. Especially not when you are contradicting a quote you picked yourself like I just did. See what project manager employment does to you after awhile? Koo Koo…Koo Koo

Do You Fit In?

Those shiny, flashy careers in project management may seem inviting, but do you really have a passion for this kind of work? Does your personality lend itself to the type of work?

Do you like working with people? I don’t mean like social work, (although I might have something there) I mean being able to relay technical concepts to business people and get geeks excited about what upper management wants. You need to understand “Projects are about humans,” as the Project Shrink says. The importance of communication in project management has become a cliché, but nonetheless, it’s true. You need to do it effectively and fearlessly.

Are you passionate about this stuff? I really enjoy the process of creating something that never existed before. Even if it is not a tangible, physical product it is very rewarding for me to be able to think about what we did as a team. I love process improvement and change. That’s one reason why out of the various project management careers out there (project manager, business analyst, project controller, program manager, etc.) I chose to be a project manager.

Do You Like Challenge? (Glutton for Punishment Helps)

One of the great things about project management is that at least once a week someone starts running around the place wildly yelling “My hair is on fire! My hair is on fire! My hair is on fire!”

Seriously though, I can’t even smell burnt hair anymore.

Do you like thinking about a project from every possible angle? Because that is what you will need to do in order to be effective. The customer, the team, the sponsor, external stakeholders…they all have to be happy. You need to be able to change shoes every 10 minutes or so. The nature of projects is changing requirements and approaches as you go, so there will always be situations where you are the hostage negotiator that has to make everyone come out alive and feeling happy.

Do you thrive on change? The idea that a project plan is finalized and then very little changes from there is a fantasy… a theoretical construct that only lives in the pages of your project management textbook. This doesn’t mean you throw your hands up in the air and let chaos rule… but it does mean that effective change management needs to be a key strength. Uncertainty and change happen, and it is all in how you deal with it (and anticipate it) that makes the difference.

What other questions should someone ask themselves before jumping into the alligator pit?

Who Is Josh Nankivel? I am the founder of pmStudent.com, a site dedicated to helping new and aspiring project managers succeed.

Learn more about project manager careers right now with my free eBook and newsletter!


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