Project managers are in charge of one or a set of projects within a company. They plan resources, handle finances, and organize the business documents related to the project. They also work directly with higher management to ensure the project has a set direction for success, and that it meets this definition of success at the completion period.
Project managers have a people-facing role. You will be responsible for chasing people down and making sure they adhere to deadlines. Yet you also must work alongside the team, as opposed to against them, to get their energy spent on meeting each project milestone. Remember: your goal isn’t to achieve your goals alone. It is for the team to work toward a common goal.
Your daily tasks as a project manager are likely to include the following:
- Gathering requirements, deliverables, and timeframes from stakeholders
- Agreeing on priorities with clients
- Planning your resources
- Creating project plans
- Communicating key milestones
- Communicating your project plan internally and with the client
- Producing reports for management (e.g., performance metrics)
- Communicating frequently with sponsors and stakeholders
- Knowing your team’s strengths and weaknesses, together and individually
- Planning around your team’s skills to ensure end success
- Adhering to the critical path and having a plan to mitigate issues that invariably arise
What to expect when applying for a PM role
Project management is a simple yet complex role. It’s simple in the sense you don’t need a specialty, such as design skills or technical prowess. It’s complex in the sense you’ll juggle a host of tasks, most of which require common sense. Your best rule of thumb is to understand two things masterfully: the project management software you use to meet your deadlines, and your team’s unique skills. Your team is ultimately your most valuable asset.
"Identifying risks and asking for help will save you a lot of time and embarrassment." — Sam Malik, PM
Character traits of a great PM
Over the years, I’ve zeroed in on the traits that have made or broken the most successful project managers at our online pharmacy, Dr. Felix. Great PMs tend to share a few core qualities:
- They learn constantly. They never act like they know it all.
- They know their human resources like the backs of their hands: strengths and weaknesses.
- They get the most out of their teams by understanding them collectively and individually.
- They never blame the team for mishaps. As the driver, they take responsibility for knowing and resolving issues in real time.
Biggest project manager challenges
The project manager doesn’t always have an easy time. Challenges occur, and the PM needs to find the solution. While managing your projects and people and resolving issues, you’ll also be delivering regular progress reports to a senior PM or executive. By understanding issues and what it takes to resolve them, you will be able to keep your executives, and yourself, confident in your ability to keep the project working smoothly. The most common issues I face really come down to two things:
- Undefined goals
- Poor communication
Each of these can ruin client relations and cost your company a financial loss. Usually, strong and frequent communication with your executive sponsors and stakeholders can mitigate any true repercussions, before you get to deadline.
Project managers must understand financials, burn rates, and margins related to their projects and/or portfolios. Managing these efficiently directly impact how successful your project is. Entry-level PMs may not have large fiscal responsibilities. However, in smaller companies, more of this responsibility falls on all the PMs. Remember: The smaller the company, the more you will be expected to deliver. When you encounter challenges, go back to your key soft skill: communication. Clearly identifying risks and asking for help will save you a lot of time and embarrassment.
Is project management for you?
It’s hard to place the ideal candidate for this type of role. I’ve worked at every company from blue chips to startups. Usually, I look beyond academic history and skillsets to determine if someone would make a great project manager. These are a few of my tips:
- Check the CV to see if it is formatted with good presentation.
- You want the cover letter to be clear, concise, and succinct.
- Seek sharp answers to your questions. Fluffy answers are a concern.
- Ask for examples of successful projects.