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3 Tips For Project Managers To Overcome Self Doubt At Work

How do you know if you’re ready to do project management at the next level of the game?

That’s a complicated question for anyone in any career path, but for us DPMs, I think it’s especially complicated.

Sure, you’ve probably delivered a boatload of projects in your current role. All of them helped hone your skills and instinct. All of them taught you about a new process or technology. All of them were full of problems that you had to work with a team to solve.

And yet none of them were perfect. This is the start of what I call the confidence conundrum that manifests as self-doubt at work.

Combating Self-Doubt In Your Career

You see, a project is made up of millions of micro-decisions from the team, from you, from your executive sponsors.

Broadly speaking, your job is to make sure enough of these decisions steer the ship away from risk and towards success.

But there are always better decisions you could have made. There’s always that integration that went a bit awry. There’s always a step in the analysis process that wasn’t exactly “by the book”. There’s always something in the product that you’re a little less than proud of.

So when it comes to looking towards the next stage in your career, it’s natural for some self-doubt and negative thoughts to creep in as you reflect on your past projects.

What if your new team finds out your past projects weren’t perfect? What if your next employer’s process is less forgiving of mistakes? What if different technologies or types of projects take you too far outside of your depth and overwhelm you?

Yes, these are all valid concerns, but I’d hazard that they’re also the things that can boost your confidence when looked at through the right lens.

Here are my 3 top tips for managing self-doubt when planning your career goals or your leap to the next level of the game:

1. Don’t take your ability to problem-solve for granted

If your project got to its conclusion, then it’s likely that you solved more problems than you ignored. The thing about problem-solving is that it’s messy, so it often feels imperfect. But on the other hand, it’s something that doesn’t come naturally to everyone. When you’re reflecting on your projects, think about what would have happened without your determination to solve stuff.

2. Remember that your mistakes make you valuable

I actually never hired a PM who told me their projects all went hunky-dory. I was always looking for talent that had been through tough situations and were humble enough to disclose that. It’s because mistakes are learnings that no textbook can teach you. Mistakes are gold.

3. Be open to giving yourself a refresher

When you’ve been working with one organization for some time, it’s hard to know whether what you’re doing is right in another organization. The best way to regain that self confidence is to do a bit of a refresher: take a course, read a book, or talk to other project managers. It will give you affirmation in the things you’re doing right, while identifying any areas you may need to revisit.

What’s Next?

A great way to cover all three is through our Mastering Digital Project Management training course. It’s designed not only for folks who are new to project management or new to digital, but also for experienced DPMs looking to take the next step in their career.

Make sure to check out our list of underrated project management skills as well, to learn how you might put a little more pep in your step.

By Galen Low

I am a digital project management nerd, a cultivator of highly collaborative teams, and an impulsive sharer of knowledge. For the past decade, I've been shaping and delivering human-centered digital transformation initiatives in government, healthcare, transit, and retail. I'm also the co-founder of The Digital Project Manager and host of The DPM Podcast.

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