Job shadowing, information interviews, online sites and volunteer work are all great ways to learn something about the profession, but these avenues are unlikely to provide you with sufficient insights into the daily life of a project manager to determine if this is the right career path for you.
Given this, you may wish to review the following list to see if you exhibit any of these warning signs.
You are not comfortable with change and ambiguity
Project management is the medium by which strategic changes get realized, so one might reasonably assume that most project managers would be thriving on change.
Unfortunately, change resilience is a continuum and not a binary attribute.
I’ve witnessed project managers who are quite comfortable with the magnitude of the change that will be implemented become defensive and even aggressive when shifts from within or without their organization result in scope changes. A plan is just a model of reality based on a foundation of assumptions and when reality shifts, the plan needs to shift with it.
If you are someone who prefers to have all the information required before making a decision, the uncertainties that are part of the DNA of projects are apt to drive you crazy. Yes, you can try to engage more and more stakeholders and subject matter experts to fill in the gaps for you, but there is a tipping point after which further delays and costs of analysis will outweigh the impacts of a bad decision.
You prefer working with tools than with people
Hard skills are table stakes for project managers.
I realize that creating a perfectly optimized, fully resource-levelled project schedule might be a euphoric experience, but that should just be a means to a greater end.
Your ability to align multiple stakeholders with competing agendas or to cultivate a performing team made up of diverse personalities and egos all with little or no formal authority are orders of magnitude more critical to succeeding as a project manager than your expertise in wielding the multiple tools of the trade.
When working on a project, if you find yourself frequently saying it would be much easier if you were the only person involved with it, project management may not be your thing.
You avoid difficult conversations
I’m sure that all of us have wished for the following scenario: fully aligned stakeholders, a team of subject matter experts who all work well together, generous cost and schedule constraints, and a well understood and easy to deliver set of deliverables.
The reality of project management doesn’t quite fit this vision.
Many times over the life of any moderately complex project you will need to have a tough conversation with someone. Perhaps a deadline is in jeopardy, the project will cost more than expected, or a team member is not performing up to expectations.
Your ability to analyze the situation and situationally react to it may be the difference between a customer who is peeved for a few minutes but gets over it quickly or project failure.
Yes, we all want to be liked, but if you shy away from difficult project conversations, you will end up as a likable but ineffective project manager.
You have to be the smartest person in the room
Staff who are suddenly moved into a project management role face a common challenge. They might make excellent subject matter experts but make poor servant-leaders.
Unfortunately, for some SMEs no amount of training or coaching is sufficient for them to put aside their desire to be the center of attention.
There’s nothing wrong with this need, but it is the wrong ingredient for succeeding in project management.
A good project manager finds a way to effectively leverage all the skills on the team, positions the team front and foremost for recognition & reward while shielding them from criticism or negative feedback.
You can’t multitask
Over the life of a project, there are always multiple critical activities needing to be handled by the project manager. The demands and actions of stakeholders and their team members heavily influence a project managers’ days
You might have preferred to have finished publishing the minutes from your last meeting, you need to meet this very moment with two team members who are getting into a heated philosophical argument. Telling them, “Sorry I’m busy” sends the message that you don’t care about them or about the impacts this disagreement are having on the project.
If working on fifteen different activities, but not completing any of them leaves you feeling unfulfilled at the end of the day, stick with the role of an individual contributor.