The Accidental Project Manager

The path to a career in project management

The typical “what do you want to be when you grow up?” question doesn’t often end up with a kid saying “When I grow up, I want to be a project manager!” For most people, project management is something they found a passion for once they entered the workforce. How much of the typical path to project management do you recognize?

Discovering a Love for Process and Improvement

For those in project management, the beginning of their discovery often begins with their first professional role. They’re hired on to a company early in their career. They are not hired on as a project manager at this point. They may come on board for what they learned in school. They may come on board with a company in an entry-level position just to get their foot in the door and take on a role with a bit of task managment or may know somebody that works somewhere that was able to get them a job.

This is where it all begins. T start doing the task at hand. You do a good job and learn quickly. You become very proficient at what you do. You realize that you could go just a bit faster with your assignment if the person that is working along with you could do things just a bit differently. So, you make a recommendation that if this person does something just a bit differently that you feel as if productivity could be increased and both yours and their job would be easier.

So, they did things differently and things went smoother.

The next thing you know you’ve expanded your area of influence beyond just this one person that is working next to you to the entire team and then ultimately the entire department. You are beginning to knock on the door of project management as a career…

The department in which you work is running very smoothly. But, now you find that there are some things that are coming over to your department from other teams that leave a little to be desired.

You come up with some recommendations on how a simple handoff process with a nice little approval point in place could really make a difference in the amount of rework that is being done in the shop. Your manager likes the idea and you traipse off to your neighbor department and let them know what you have in mind. They love the idea (they’ve been just as frustrated as you’ve been) and implement your suggestion immediately.

And things were done differently and went smoother. Do you see a pattern developing?

Finally, after some time your reputation of being able to work with others, coordinate efforts, and get things done becomes well known across the company. A new client is signed up with a project that has never been done before in the history of the company. It’s a very lucrative contract but one that is going to need some pretty heavy-duty monitoring and control. It will require coordination of multiple people and team’s across various departments. It will need real-time communication with the client and resolution of issues.

Project management as a career has just opened its door to you!

Realizing Project Management Can be a Career and a Profession

You take on this project that has been assigned to you with great vigor and vim. You are all over every detail and make sure the team is fully engaged at all levels. You coordinate across departments and ensure that everyone knows exactly what they need to do to get the job done. It’s your sheer willpower and determination that is fueling the project management engine that is driving this project to completion.

But, you feel as if something is missing. You can’t quite put your finger on it. You think you’re doing things the right way. Everyone tells you that you’re doing a good job, but you’ve never really done anything like this before. You read some blog posts, skim through a couple of books, and talk to some other project managers to reinforce that you are doing the right thing.

Then, you stumble across PMI (Project Management Institute) or a similar association of project managers. “What!? There’s  a professional association for those who are engaged in project management as a career?” you ask yourself. You couldn’t believe it! You found that there is a monthly meeting that this association holds. You sign up because you can’t believe such a thing exists.

Then it hits you. When you walk into the conference room where the association meeting is being held and you see 150 people that are similar to you!  They are talking your language. They love organization, coordination, communication, analysis, and challenges as much as you do. They are dealing with the same struggles, issues, and problems you are experiencing. You just can’t believe it! It’s as if a light shone down from heaven on this group of people and warmly welcomed you to join them.

And you did.

Project management is now in your blood. It’s something that you’ve done for a number of years and despite even wanting to try other things, it always keeps pulling you back. It’s a natural fit for you and comes easily.

Finally, you find out that there is even a professional certification you can earn to become recognized as a professional project manager. What a thrill. You print out all the paperwork and requirements for what is needed and you start putting your plan together of how you will attack this challenge. Initially, the requirements seem daunting and prohibitive, but you find yourself a mentor from within the association that is kind, patient and understanding and walks you through the entire process of studying, filling out the applications and taking the test.

You take the test…and pass! You are now a professional project manager!  You go back to your company and walk in holding your head up a bit higher and walking with more confidence in your step. It’s amazing what those credentialed letters after your name accomplish. You are now in a position to separate yourself from non-credentialed project managers (makes the job search that much easier) and on over to earn over $10,000 more per year than your non-credentialed counterparts (makes life that much easier).

What’s this? There’s a career path to follow in project management? You better believe it. You find you can move on to program manager, portfolio manager, or any specialized field within project management that you particularly enjoy.

ProjectManager.com is exactly what we wanted to be when we grew up: rock-solid project management software that lets you share project plans, manage your teams online, see to-the-minute project status track and get more done in less time. Start your free trial to see how we turned out.. and why grownups around the world count on us.

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