What is a Project Manager?

A project manager is a motivated and effective leader who is accountable for the success or failure of a project. Project managers are multitaskers, have great time management and organization skills, are fantastic communicators, and are trusted and reliable. They do not carry out all the work themselves, but have project teams that work under them and make sure all the objectives of the project are carried out. However, if there are things that veer off track or are mismanaged, the project manager is always ultimately accountable.

What does a Project Manager do?

A project manager is a motivated and effective leader who is accountable for the success or failure of a project.

A project manager works on specific projects that have schedules, timelines and budgets that need to be met. There are quite a few things that a project manager does throughout the project, such as:

Planning and Defining the Project:
- plan what work needs to be done by building a comprehensive work plan
- figure out who's going to do the work and when
- look at any risks that may be involved and try to avoid or manage them ahead of time

Executing and Managing:
- make sure that all work being done is to the right standard
- manage and keep the budget at the forefront throughout the project
- make sure that the project is running on time
- motivate team members involved in the project
- remove any obstacles that get in the way of productivity
- coordinate work done by different groups of people
- deal with any changes that come along and be willing to adapt if necessary
- manage all teams involved and maintain a constant level of commitment

Delivering and Closing:
- manage the project to the budget right through to completion
- manage and deliver expectations to stakeholders
- communicate project status to stakeholders and resolve unexpected difficulties
- show management that the project has kept to initial business goals
- make sure the project delivers all expected outcomes and whatever benefits were initially outlined

Finally, a good project manager is upbeat and optimistic. They are honest communicators, and are liked and trusted by upper management. Even when there are times of trouble, retaining the confidence of stakeholders by communicating credible strategies for recovery is crucial.

Are you suited to be a project manager?

Project managers have distinct personalities. They tend to be enterprising individuals, which means they’re adventurous, ambitious, assertive, extroverted, energetic, enthusiastic, confident, and optimistic. They are dominant, persuasive, and motivational. Some of them are also investigative, meaning they’re intellectual, introspective, and inquisitive.

Does this sound like you? Take our free career test to find out if project manager is one of your top career matches.

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What is the workplace of a Project Manager like?

Project managers can work in a variety of places, such as public sector organizations, engineering firms, software producers, manufacturers, commercial retailers, construction companies, interior design firms, and for architects.

Frequently Asked Questions

Steps to becoming a Project Manager

The path to becoming a project manager or ‘PM’ is rarely identical for any two people. A Bachelor’s Degree is common, but majors vary greatly. Some aspiring PMs begin their careers in non-project-management roles and then transition into the field. Some choose to earn a Master’s or graduate-level certificate, as well as industry certification; while others opt only for industry certification after gaining sufficient PM experience.

How long does it take to become a Project Manager?

Someone once said that it takes about four seconds to become a project manager. The comment, of course, was made in jest and refers to the length of time that it takes to utter this phrase: I’m assigning you the job of managing this project.

Despite the facetiousness of the comment, there is an element of truth to it, because there is no one single prescribed path to becoming a project manager. That said, for students aspiring to enter the project management field, there is a generally accepted entry point to the career: a four-year Bachelor’s Degree.

What are Project Managers like?

Based on our pool of users, project managers tend to be predominately enterprising people. These professionals are ultimately responsible for the success – or the failure – of a project. They estimate costs and develop budgets. They create and implement schedules to meet deadlines. They identify resources and structure teams. They manage and mitigate risk. In short, they execute, monitor, control, and close projects. Certainly, this is among the most enterprising work that there is.

It is also interesting to note that our findings show that in addition to their enterprising nature, project managers exhibit significant artistic and investigative sensibilities. All three of these dominant characteristics are critical to take on the invariably diverse and often shifting demands of managing projects in the business world.

Are Project Managers happy?

Project managers rank among the least happy careers. Overall they rank in the 40th percentile of careers for satisfaction scores. Please note that this number is derived from the data we have collected from our Sokanu members only.

Perhaps one factor that may drive this low happiness quotient in the field is the degree to which it is can be characterized by fluidity, by unpredictability, and even by chaos.

Should I become a Project Manager?

Because the field of project management is so wide-ranging, the characteristics and skills required to be successful as a project manager are equally eclectic:

• solid understanding of business cases and risk management processes • capacity to adapt to evolving circumstances, prioritize, and troubleshoot • proven project management and self-management skills • ability to monitor and control budgets • critical thinking ability • advanced communication and negotiation skills • capacity to handle stress and make decisions under pressure • strong interpersonal skills necessary to lead and inspire a team and delegate tasks • capacity to diplomatically resolve conflicts and disputes • ability to define situations, document data, update project plans, and draw conclusions • strong general business acumen • ability to interpret instructions regardless of their form • strong organizational and multitasking skills • creative mindset • analytical skills • accuracy and attention to detail • excellent time management skill: capacity to maintain schedules and meet deadlines • problem-solving skills • self-motivation, passion for the work, and willingness/desire to continually learn • accountability • ability to see and assess cross-organizational impacts and implications • awareness to know when it is time to pull in a subject matter expert • working knowledge of project management software

While the above competencies and personality traits form a solid foundation to be a project manager, the fact remains that every organization defines the role and the title differently. The good news for job seekers in the field is that project managers are needed in almost all industries; so if you are attracted to a specific business sector, the odds are that it presents opportunities in project management. Some projects will involve working on small teams and others will consist of very large, multidisciplinary ones. Similarly, the responsibilities of a project manager can range from budgeting and time management only to every possible operational task, or quite frankly, to anything under the sun.

Perhaps the greatest truth about the dynamic nature of project management and the wisest advice to follow in the role are found in the words of Winston Churchill: Those who plan do better than those who do not plan, even though they rarely stick to their plans.

Project Managers are also known as:
Project Coordinator