Tips I Wish I Had Known When I Was First a Project Manager

Although I didn’t intend to become a project manager, I chose this profession.
Before I became a project manager, my team was managed by me. Slowly, I started to take control of the process and the administrative responsibilities. I wanted to learn more and take on more responsibilities because I was able to own certain aspects. Although I still do some strategy work, my main focus is on project management.
I had many misconceptions about what a project manager did when I was the one being managed. As I moved my responsibilities to full time project management, I quickly realized how wrong my assumptions were.
These are the four most important lessons I wish I knew when I started managing projects. Plus, a few tips to help you excel as a project manager.
My advice to new project managers
1. There are no two projects the same.
This was the first lesson that I learned. My team gave me templates when I started my first project. These templates included budgets, project trackers and budget charts. They also included scopes of work and a list of assumptions that could be used in the project scope documents. These documents were like prophecy for my first project.
Then came another project, and another, and another. My documentation was not the same as the templates I had been given when the fifth project began. Each piece of documentation was modified to meet the requirements of each project.
My approach to client service was the same. To help me understand the personalities I would be answering to, I used kickoffs and strategic planning meetings. I learned from my first impressions how to approach client communications so that there were no misunderstandings later. Every client is unique, so every approach to client communications is different. This makes each project unique.
It’s easy to see that no two projects are ever alike when you look at all of these components.
2. The answer doesn’t always have be right at your fingertips
I remember being a strategist and awestruck by each project manager I worked for. It seemed like they had all of the answers. I was a nervous wreck for months when it was my turn. I was always concerned about being asked a question by a client or team member. This attitude was a problem when I first started project management. However, once I realized that it was impossible to know the right answer to every question immediately, I felt more confident about my abilities.
Take a deep breath and ask a question that you don’t know the answers to. If you aren’t 100% certain, it’s okay to tell the person “Let’s double-check with you.”
It’s okay to flag an email, work with the right people to find the answer, then return to the email. It’s okay to let the message sink in, even if the sender doesn’t want to send read receipts with every email. Being conscientious is a virtue. It is better to seek help and get the right answer than to quickly fire back an incorrect one.
Slow down. Take a deep breath. Take a deep breath and think about the question. Being a great project manager does not mean that you know all the answers. As a project manager, it’s not how you find and give the answers that you are valuable.
3. This job is possible for anyone, but it’s not for everyone.
This was something a colleague said to me about one year after I started project managing. It’s something that has stuck with me. Most project managers I know did not choose to be project managers until they had gained some hands-on experience. After being in the field for a while, many decide to pursue formal education in the form or advanced degrees.
Theoretically, anyone could become a project manager. Many project managers are a