Do you love what you do or do you do what you do to pay for what you love?
For many years, I was in the second group. I honestly never feel passionate about selling toothpaste, or dog food, or pharmaceuticals. It was a job. It made my lifestyle comfortable so I could spend time playing after the work day and paying for my lifestyle. I didn't hate what I did and I was good at it, but I just wasn't passionate about it.
Now, I love writing! I can do it from anywhere! I meet the most amazing people! I learn new things every day; and I often find my fingers dancing over the keyboard long after the sun has set and am saddened when I have to close my computer for the night.
So what about you? Is your goal to get through the day? Or, do you blaze out of your house every morning pinching yourself that you get to do this for a living? If you find that most of these characteristics describe you, then congratulations! You have found your career calling as a project manager!
The devil may be in the details, but you are perfectly comfortable inviting him to the party. You enjoy laying the groundwork for your project by understanding each and every nuance. You don't mind securing the buy-in from key players. You have no problem ensuring that everyone on your team knows their roles and understands a clearly-defined project scope. You also enjoy creating ways to measure success and track your projects. You love setting goals and then seeing each one accomplished. You follow budget targets with gusto and ensure that each industry regulation is accurately accomplished. The more charts and graphs you have, the happier you feel. You build your project with actionable data from the ground up, and enjoy checking off every box on your to-do list, knowing each successful element you accomplish is taking you that much closer to a rewarding project outcome.
However, you also know when to delegate and coordinate those details to others on your team. After all, you are the conductor of this orchestra. You can't spend all of your time laser focused on the sheet music for just the flute solo.
One of the most important pieces of any project is to keep the communication lines open. If you are someone who naturally keeps everyone in the loop, can create a communication plan and stick with it, and easily alleviates fears and frustrations, you are in the perfect line of work. People who communicate clearly, with an open, honest voice will enjoy continued success in the project management field. If status reports are second nature to you, and you give everyone all the information needed to make decisions, you will find no one is surprised or that any efforts are wasted going in the wrong direction.
We all know nothing goes exactly according to plan. Even if you do everything right, it's not very often that a project comes in completely on time and within budget. If you can visualize and foresee complications while having plans in place to address them, you will cover your team if the stars don't align. This may involve creating extra documentation for stakeholders to plan for unforeseen events. However, you also don't want to drown people in unnecessary paperwork. If you can create just enough buffer to protect without going overboard, you've found the sweet spot of project management preparedness.
As the leader of a project, it is your job to put together a dynamite team to accomplish your project goals. You have the skill set to analyze each person's abilities and place them in the best role for success. Then, you need to create an environment where trust is central to sharing. If you are constantly evaluating how you communicate so you don't step on any toes, instead of just easily exchanging information, you probably don't have a lot of trust among your teammates. However, if you can talk to your co-workers like friends, without fear of saying the wrong thing, you have created a healthy work family to thrive in.
People who love what they do, also love to show others what they love. If you enjoy helping your colleagues succeed, and are invested in their advancement, you probably see what you do as your calling. As the leader of your project, it is your job to inspire your team to navigate the turbulent waters that sometimes occur in any project. If you naturally invigorate people to do better, and can bring positivity to any interaction, you are in the right field.
Every project has a life cycle of four main phases: initiation, planning, execution, and closure. You can easily see each phase as it comes to completion, and then enjoy evaluating how everything was accomplished after each step. Like a good doctor, you check in on your project every step of the way, reading the vitals to ensure you are able to deliver a healthy, agreed-upon result to your customer. You can also read signs of possible problems and take measures to prevent a probable crash later down the pipeline.
Risk in inevitable and unavoidable in any endeavor. It's your job to be able to secure the parachute to your project before launching it from the plane. Experience with past projects can guide you. However, more importantly, having open communication with all parties will help you see approaching risks and manage them before they become a real issue. After all, a risk is only a potential problem. With your swift intervention, it never needs to become anything more.
While no one discounts the appeal of a free spirit, it is difficult to manage that type of output when translated over a large group of different people with different personalities. You can naturally create processes that appeal to everyone and follow them so everything runs seamlessly. If you are more comfortable in an environment where everyone attempts to operate inside defined perimeters, you are in the perfect place as a project manager.
If the buck stops with you, you better know about every penny in the bank. Each project has multiple moving pieces. If you enjoy keeping track of everything and can easily create management systems to not miss a thing, you are in the right field.
Do any of these traits describe you? If you relate to more than half of them, congratulations! You realize life is too short to not do what you love, and have found a way for people to pay you for your passion as the ideal project manager!