People often reach out to me on social media and ask:
- What it's like being in project management?
- What do you enjoy the most about managing projects?
- How can I get into project management without experience?
- How can I take my career to the next level?
Some have even asked me how I knew project management was the right career. The truth is, I went through many completely distinct careers before landing in project management. But one commonality, the one thing that connected every role, was the need to manage projects.
With so many project manager job vacancies on the horizon and an annual median project manager salary hovering around $95,000, it seems like a rewarding career in project management is a no-brainer, right?
Not so fast. Before you jump in with both feet, it’s essential to know if you’re cut out for this mission-critical role. It can be a great career but it's not for everyone.
Is Project Management Right For You?
Know what you know—and what you don’t–about yourself.
With any thoughtful decision-making, introspection is key. Take a look at the personality traits of a good project manager. See which resonate with you.
✅ Efficient: I can thrive in a fast-paced project management office (PMO) with tight deadlines.
✅ Calm: I’m seldom flustered, even by constant change and uncertainty.
✅ Confident: I’m comfortable dealing with ambiguity.
✅ Analytical: I’m great at problem-solving.
✅ Responsive: I’m excellent at ensuring ongoing communication with all stakeholders.
✅ Thorough: Providing clear documentation is important to me.
✅ Inclusive: I work well with people at all levels across my entire organization.
✅ Motivational: I find positive ways to inspire and influence others to meet goals.
✅Strategic: I can often see the bigger picture in initiatives.
✅Proactive: I can easily execute complex, detailed plans with minimal guidance.
✅Organized: Being well-organized and having time management skills are my superpowers.
✅People-centric: All day long, I’d rather work and interact with people.
If you answered ‘yes’ to all or most of these, great! Now, let’s take a quick peek into what a project manager does.
What Does a Project Manager Do?
Professionals like me are responsible for an entire project life cycle, leading project teams dedicated to achieving the project goals and delivering on the project’s scope. (For a deeper look, check out our post on what a project manager does each day.)
A good project manager knows that part of their responsibility is ensuring they have adequately researched, compiled, and analyzed information before making decisions. This should also apply when selecting the right career path.
Who Should Not Be A Project Manager?
Project management isn’t for everyone. There's a fair amount of stress and uncertainty in the role. Are you:
- Intimidated or stressed when circumstances change or there’s uncertainty
- Unable to function well in a state of obscurity or stress
- Stuck when problems crop up
- Annoyed by constant communication and documentation
- Someone who has a preference toward spending time with your pets over people
- Stressed when trying to motivate and establish trust with others
- Overwhelmed when trying to think at a high level
- Out of your element and extremely anxious about executing plans
- Unable to remain organized
- Prone to want to focus only on your own work in a quiet space
Successful project managers eat, sleep, breathe, and excel in these situations. What makes them well-suited for their project manager role and their key responsibilities and duties? It’s not just their project management skills like agile methodologies or their project management certifications.
5 Qualities & Personality Traits Of Project Managers
Effective project managers possess vital project-based technical skills in additional to the soft skills needed to work with project teams.
Note: If you find yourself in need of additional training, The DPM School offers comprehensive training in the mechanics of project management, as well as interpersonal communication techniques and other topics related to building a successful project management career.
1. They can envision outcomes
Successfully executing a business strategy or a project requires an open mind. Visionary project leaders can see a project holistically and recognize all of the moving pieces. They understand the strong and integral connection between people, processes, and enabling project management software.
They know how to motivate and use their strengths in positive and meaningful ways to influence others for the benefit of the project and its desired outcomes.
Visionary project leaders are:
- Emotionally intelligent
2. They accelerate collaboration
The most exceptional project managers are highly collaborative—always looking for new ways to discover and accelerate project management processes to improve working with others. They recognize that working with people across and outside their organization is the only way to achieve stellar results.
Collaborative project managers involve subject matter experts and other stakeholders who possess valuable knowledge essential to move a project forward and in the right direction. Seldom do these collaboration accelerators feel the need to wear every hat; and understand they simply can’t be an island. Instead, they:
- Leverage relevant feedback from others and any supporting data
- Remain transparent to build trust
- Delegate responsibilities wherever possible
- Remain open to input
- Utilize technology to improve collaboration
3. They Act As Passionate Servant Leaders
Servant leaders put the needs of others ahead of their own. They don’t need to be front-and-center or the focus of attention. In project management, servant leaders put stakeholders and team members first—and utilize project management and leadership strengths to support the broader goals.
It's about leading in a manner that serves to strengthen and grow teams and organizations while still remaining decisive and ensuring team members are accountable and vested. Servant leaders continually practice the following:
- Actively listening to understand
- Practicing empathy
- Trusting rather than micromanaging
- Coaching versus dictating
- Building bridges
- Ensuring team members contribute equally
4. They Expound Communication
When projects are successful, it’s largely due to people—or human resources—which means project managers have exceptional communication skills.
From the start to the end of a project, project managers become communication expounders, enabling and connecting just about everything. Without expanding and improving communication, project plans, execution, and monitoring, completion or progress of any sort simply fall flat.
But it’s not just about communication being important. Skilled project managers know that developing a communication plan is crucial in determining:
- What to communicate and when
- The forms of communication to be used for specific messaging
- Who is responsible for sharing different types of communication
5. They Advocate For Driving Results
Another important trait great project managers possess is being results-driven. Performance metrics and meeting the scope of a project is essential. This requires being self-driven to ensure project goals and deliverables are achieved within scope.
Project managers put aside their biases and focus on end results. Achieving this rests on gathering relevant and fact-based information, developing a plan, executing, monitoring results, and measuring success using SMART metrics. It’s also about making adjustments and documenting everything meticulously.
If these qualities and traits sound like you ...
Next Stop: Project Management
If you have these highly valued project manager qualities and personality traits, an exciting and rewarding project management career path awaits. If not, all isn’t lost. Some of the project management skills and capabilities you need can be gained through online courses or formal training, such as through the DPM School.
Subscribe to The Digital Project Manager newsletter to learn more about how to build your project management career.