You might be wondering, as many have, “What does a Project Manager do?” If you’re asking a PM that, you might notice a moment of hesitation that crosses their face before answering, because that is a loaded question.
The answer can vary dramatically across industries, markets, demographics, organizations, career experience and skill sets. To give you an idea of the day-to-day duties, here are a few common responses I got from colleagues:
- Email (aka. Inbox Tetris)
- Explain how the internets work… (It’s funny cuz it’s sad)
- Follow-up with you to make sure you’re doing something
The specifics of a position will be different for every company, but most career PM’s have a similar personality type. Striving for excellence and feeling like you have to handle more than is expected of you because you want everyone to succeed. We want to be good leaders; shepherding our team, our clients, and our projects to the Promise Land of “on time and on budget.”
Let’s get real for a minute, because sometimes that Promise Land feels like a moving target, and after wandering the desert for what feels like 40 years, you start to think it doesn’t exist. The scope can change, team members leave, extra rounds of revisions are needed, and sometimes that can-do attitude of a Project Manager can make more work for ourselves because it’s easier to pick up the slack than pass it onto your teammates who are already swamped.
At times, the extra work can be stressful, but by wearing multiple hats you can truly round out your skills and learn about all the different aspects that go into your projects. In meetings you can weigh in and offer suggestions and solutions others might not have seen. When you update your resume you can list your experiences to showcase all that you’ve learned.
I’ve been fortunate, in that I’ve helped design some UI, collaborated on UX strategy, photo selection, content population, made HTML & CSS updates, conducted CMS training, QA’d for bugs, and tons of admin responsibilities.
Yes, there are some days where all I do is read and respond to emails, and on those days, I feel like a person inside of a fortune teller machine operating everything on the fly. The silver lining on these days is that I’m not bouncing back and forth between meetings and I can focus on communicating and updating everyone. And when I move a chunk of emails aside to their respective folders it does feel like a game of Tetris, and getting my inbox number down is extremely satisfying.
If you’re a Project Manager (or Producer) and this all sounds incredibly familiar, just remember you are not alone. If you’re looking to become a Project Manager, just keep in mind that it’s okay to roll up your sleeves and help out where it’s needed. When you begin shopping around for a new gig you’ll be ahead of the competition, and a lot of potential interviewers like knowing that you can handle more than one task and are willing to grow with the team.