What Does A Project Manager Do? Job & Responsibilities, Explained

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With fancy job titles and jargon in the workforce, it can be hard to know what a person actually doe in certain roles. Take a project manager, for example. Arguably the most important member of any team, it can still sometimes be unclear what the role does and why it matters. The truth is, without a project manager, teams often lack the direction and clear role division necessary for success.

We dive into the depths of what a project manager does, why their role is so vital for any team and why you might consider taking on the role yourself, below.

What does a project manager do, really?

A project manager is responsible for truly so many things. At a high-level, take these for example:

  • Leading initiatives
  • Completing projects on time
  • Keeping costs under budget
  • Ensuring the team is on-task

Above all, they also provide leadership and guidance to the entire team. The project manager must understand the dynamics of the team — every in and out — and be able to effectively delegate responsibility. It falls in their lap to make sure the team is progressing in the right direction and that any conflicts or disagreements are handled and resolved in a productive manner.

Must-have abilities of a project manager

1. Overseeing communication and planning

This entails making sure all relevant project stakeholders are kept informed of the project’s progress. The project manager should also be able to develop plans to ensure tasks are completed on time. This includes deciding what tasks should be prioritized and how to best utilize available resources. The project manager is also responsible for creating a timeline and making sure the team follows it.

3. Managing risk

This includes identifying potential risks and coming up with strategies to mitigate them. They should also be able to create contingency plans in case the project encounters unexpected obstacles. They need to be able to identify potential opportunities and come up with solutions to take advantage of them.

3. Having strong organizational skills 

They need to be able to manage multiple tasks at once and keep everything on track. They are also responsible for tracking team progress and making sure deadlines are met. They also need to be able to effectively communicate with other stakeholders and be well-versed in project management software.

Project managers are truly invaluable assets for any team. Without them, direction and organization might fall on the back burner. 

How to Become a Project Manager

There are many ways to kick-off your career as a project manager from getting formal education and training to managing real-life projects and developing important skills for this type of role. Here are 5 steps to help you becoming a PM:

1. Gain Experience as a Project Manager

If you’re a PM new-bee, start by gaining some relevant experience, for example, working on small projects within your company, volunteering at a local charity, or joining an executive role at a Toastmaster group. Pro-tip: At Toastmasters, they have roles such as president, vice president education, vice president membership, vice president public relations, sergeant at arms, treasurer and secretary, see which one aligns with you and your background and get to work! This will help you not only in your communication skills but also leverage your leadership, collaboration and project management abilities.

2. Get a Project Manager Certification 

Now that you have some experience, you may want to get certified as a project manager. The most popular certification is the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification from the Project Management Institute (PMI). To become certified, you will need to meet specific eligibility requirements and pass an exam. Pro tip: When looking for certifications, there are several factors to consider including cost, length and reputation of the institution hosting the training. Check out this list of the best (free and paid) online project management certifications.

3. Complete a Project Management Program

You might want to go on the formal route and complete a project management program at a college or university. This will allow you to learn more about the history, theory and practice of project management. It can also help you build a network of contacts in the industry.

4. Become an expert in a specific area

You might want to invest in a specific area of project management such as education, health care, construction. Try to get hands-on experience in the field by volunteering or interning with leaders in the field of interest. Attend industry events and join professional organizations to learn from and connect with other experts. Share your expertise by writing about project management topics. Eventually, you will build your profile and might be able to share your knowledge and experience by speaking at conferences or workshops.

5. Learn the Tools of the Trade

Project managers need to communicate effectively, avoid risks and mistakes in the delivery of a project and improve efficiency and productivity of their companies. How do most of them do that? By using a project management tool. You will find many project management platforms out there. Start simple and smart, by learning how to use a task management software platform like Hive. Knowing how to use these software that can help you become more organized and forward planning will make you much more capable as a leader. Plus, it will help you to become more familiar with the PM lingo.

Top 5 project management mistakes to avoid 

1. Not communicating effectively

We covered how communication is a key skill in project management, yet some professionals make the mistake of not sharing important information with their team. Make sure you are communicating at all times and keeping them updated on project changes, as well as being clear about expectations and deliverables.

This is particularly important if you’re working for an international organization and your projects involve multiple stakeholders based in different countries. With the normalization of remote work and the availability of global expansion services such as Remote, project managers may also have to accommodate for varying time zones and communication styles.

2. Not advocating for your team

As a project manager, you are the maestro coordinating everything so the show is successful. You will need to understand and know your team well, so you can fight for their needs, such as resources or realistic deadlines.

3. Micromanaging your team

By knowing your team well, you can be at ease when they share deadlines, resources, budget and any other estimate. It’s important that you trust your team to do their jobs. Don’t hover over your team and micromanage them, and give them the autonomy they need.

4. Making decisions that aren’t yours to make

As a project manager, recognizing decisions beyond your authority is key. While you have the capability to decide quickly, it’s crucial to recognize when it’s not your call. Send a reminder to the VP and await their decision, aligning with proper channels and organizational protocols.

5. Creating inadequate documentation 

Start a project documentation assuming you might need to transfer the project to another project manager during critical phases. Avoid the mistake of relying on memory and create comprehensive notes. By adopting this organized approach, you eliminate unnecessary complications.

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