What do you want to be when you grow up? Many children aspire to be doctors, teachers, or astronauts. Growing up, I had a friend who wanted to be a dinosaur. I’m sure he was crushed to find out that, genetically, his arms were just too long to ever excel as a powerhouse T-Rex.
Just as you may not encounter many kids with aspirations to be accountants (shout-out to all of my accountant friends), I’m not sure anyone grows up wanting to be a project manager. While both are very necessary, reputable professions, neither have the appeal that floating in space or curing cancer does. Let’s be honest, even I want to try that space food!
So it goes without saying I didn’t always want to be a project manager. In fact, it was a career that I just kind of fell into out of college. There was an opening, the director of that department thought I possessed the characteristics to be a great project manager, and voila, I was leading kick-off calls and creating schedules in no time.
I’ve now been a project manager for more than 5 years, and I’ve realized that while project management might not always be the most exciting profession, the skills I utilize and perfect on a daily basis are the same skills I use to live a better, more stress-free and fulfilling personal life. More simply stated, project management skills are good life skills. Below are the top 3 PM skills that are useful in my daily life.
Project management is all about keeping important tasks on track. Time is money; so if schedules aren’t monitored closely, budgets will be affected.
This goes hand in hand with our personal lives. We are all busy bees. Whether you’re a parent, spouse, or young professional with an insane, energetic, 80-pound puppy child (like me), there is never enough time in the day. Being able to effectively manage your time affords you ample opportunities to do the things you actually want to do.
I suggest to-do lists and planners to help you maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Project managers communicate every day. We lead kick-off meetings and status calls. We interact with multiple vendors and stakeholders. The success of a project is dependent on communication, and if you’re not an effective communicator, you’ll fail miserably as a project manager.
In your personal life, communication is fundamental to any relationship you have. While technology is making it easier to communicate quickly, it is, in turn, making it easier to avoid valuable, face-to-face conversations.
I suggest putting down your phone, and attending local networking events. Strike up conversations with complete strangers. You never know who you might meet!
A project manager’s ultimate goal is client satisfaction. You know that song, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by The Stones. That’s what your client will be singing to your supervisor if you exceed their budget. As such, project managers must closely monitor timelines and resources to ensure they don’t blow the budget.
As a young professional, I know how difficult budgeting and saving money can be. College didn’t properly prepare me for how expensive the real world is. I mean, I wasn’t aware that $1 beers only exist in Athens, Ohio (OU-OH YEAH!). Managing budgets every day as a project manager has helped me pay off credit cards and save for vacations in my personal life.
I suggest creating a manageable and realistic budget using Excel. The system has great, pre-made templates that will keep even the most extravagant spender on track.
So maybe project management isn’t as exciting as other professions. I will never develop the cure for cancer, and I’ll likely never step foot on the moon. But, I’m a master planner (I planned my spring trip to Florida last spring); I can talk to almost anyone (I’ve met some of the most interesting people on airplanes); and all of my Christmas gifts are purchased with just enough of my budget left to buy the shoes I’ve been eying. So, ask me what I want to be when I grow up now … I have it all planned out.