The career road to project management

Whilst not all roles and skills naturally transfer a lot do. Many project managers didn't actually start as project managers. But naturally, if you are inclined to organise, can negotiate and deliver, you may have the base skills needed to survive in this highly demanding and rewarding role.

The road to a project manager is not a straight one. There are many twists and turns and my experience is those that have had a variety of roles previous, hold the greatest dexterity, the greatest skills needed to navigate a series of challenges from the social-political, to the negotiation and execution of work in harsh conditions.

The project manager is not always the most popular person in the room, can often be blamed or misunderstood and represents the team are general monthly reviews and updates. The project manager is a target for positive and negative behaviours, depending on the type of company climate and culture you have and ultimately is not for the light-hearted.

When I think of resilience, I often think of two roles. 1) the military, where you're bred, trained and made and 2) project managers. Relace grenades and rifle power, with office politics and difficult contractors. Replace the sound of machine guns overhead, with the sound of the corporatocracy, reviews and meetings aimed squarely at you!

Now, it's not all that bad. But it requires the ability to see the big picture and manage the micro. Managing the micro can be done but not overdone and more often than not project managers can overstep. Leadership is an important facet of this role and it takes a lot of practice to get the balance of respect, followers, completions and harmony across so many different individuals and teams, working with different agendas and priorities.

If like me you enjoy the challenge and feed of the chaos. Then good! Project Management is for you. But remember. A good leader takes it on the chin. He or She prepares and is prepared. A good project manager says "no" more than they say yes. After all, it is the Project Manager who ensures the scope, budget, quality and time are all per plan as much as possible. The project manager must hold the line, at the risk of their reputation, position and safety of all who are involved.

Such a wonderfully rewarding role. Despite what I say, the role is filled with tangible feelings of completion as well as intangible feelings, like meaning and contribution. The feeling of completing a huge skyscraper or delivering the first plane off the new runway. The first time the engine starts and the first car to cross that bridge. It's truly wonderful to see your hard work be used and benefit others. That's the reward. Because deep down, Project Managers do not get paid enough to do what they do. Although the remuneration is good, if you didn't love it, you wouldn't stay. If you didn't see the big picture, you would eventually burn out. And that's why Project Management is challenging and rewarding. It's a unique preference, for the right people, there is no better job in the world.

What's funny is most I know didn't start out in Project Management. They were electricians or in finance. Quantity Surveyors or engineers. All of these skills transfer in one way or another to the PM skill set. There are many ways to become qualified and to get work experience. I suggest if you're interested, look for a small firm, where you can as much hands-on experience as possible. From contract management and invoicing, to site walks and quality inspections. See a project through from start to finish. Then you will truly know what it means to project manage.

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