What is a Project Manager? Role, Duties & Career Guide

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Project Management is a highly sought after role, so what is a Project Manager? And how can you become one?

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Let’s imagine you work at a company that employs somewhere between 50-250 people. And within that number, the company has several departments. For argument’s sake, let’s say there’s IT, Accounting, Marketing, Sales, Customer Service & HR. 

 

Now let’s imagine a project slides its way across the desk, tumbling down from senior management executives into the lap of the Project Manager. It’s a big one too. A lot is riding on the project to deliver results that will put a cherry on the year so far and make Q4 one to be proud of. 

 

*cheers around the office*

 

This hefty task will require all of the departments to work together in harmony and deliver these tide-turning results. And who should the responsibility for leading these deliverable-delighted-delegates fall to? You guessed it. The project manager. 

 

In 2020, the Project Management Insitute published their report that among other insights, stated that “11.4% of investment is wasted due to poor project performance”. This essentially means that mismanaged projects are costing companies lots of money. Thus, project management has a glaring focus to increase fluidity and profitability. 

 

This makes it a sought-after role, whereby it’s predicted that through 2027, employers will need a whopping 88 million project-oriented positions filled. 

 

So, if these numbers are making your eyes water and ask yourself, what exactly is a project manager? Then you’re in the right place. 

What is a project manager? 

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A project manager is responsible for the planning, organising and execution of a project. Sounds straightforward enough but this role is of course slightly more complicated than that. A successful project is not only determined by the result, i.e. accomplishing what the project set out to do in the first place, but also by how efficiently it’s handled. 

 

A project manager will be expected to wear several hats, so to speak, as they manage time, company resources, budget constraints, track team progress, provide moral support and show leadership to push their team over the line. 

 

Regardless of industry, a project manager is the glue that holds teams together and answers to stakeholders. Whether that’s planning a construction project, developing a new piece of software, running a marketing campaign or organising a music festival – project managers are talented, skilful and driven people who thrive on results. 

 

Many people are in fact assuming the role of project managers already, albeit without the title. If you’re engaged in overseeing tasks and assignments to ensure they complete on time and on target, we've got news for you, you’re a project manager. If you’re in a role that has you communicating between teams and departments, providing a cohesive gel to them, then you too are a project manager! 

 

Applying yourself to learn the frameworks and techniques that harness these attributes will open up a professionally-recognised career in project management and if you're already assuming some of the responsibilities in your current role, you’re halfway there. 

What does a project manager do? 

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So it’s fair to say that you might already be assuming the role of a project manager in a broad sense but in more specific terms, what does a project manager do?

 

5 phases of project management make up what’s called the “project lifecycle”, these are:

  1. Initiation
  2. Planning
  3. Execution
  4. Monitoring (and controlling)
  5. Closing 

This 5-stage blueprint is the gold standard for project managers and is followed pretty much universally however the detailed steps in between each phase will change depending on which industry you’re in. But ultimately the objective is always the same; to deliver the project in the most effective and efficient way possible. 

 

Here we break it down in simple steps. 

Planning a project 

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This is the stage in which a project manager outlines the goals and how this ties into company and stakeholder expectations. The agreed-upon goals can then be filtered down into incremental tasks and stages for the team to follow. 

 

A crucial part of the planning process is how a project manager factors in all the elements they will need to get the job done; the project scope including a budget, resources and deadlines all have to be accounted for to ensure deliverables are met. 

Gathering and allocating resources 

Resources, otherwise known as time, money and personnel, are inherently limited within companies. As a project manager, you’ll have to discern the what, who and how for a project to reach its completion. 

 

Resource management tools can help make life a little easier but it will be up to you to determine how the budget will be allocated in terms of which tools will be required, the right team members with the appropriate skills and setting deadlines to follow. Project managers are especially adept at managing company resources effectively. 

Managing the project 

Project managers account for the unexpected. As part of your planning stage, you will have completed a risk assessment to see where things could potentially go wrong. This prevents flapping from the team as they look to their trusty leader donning a calm expression. You’ve got this. 

 

Managing a project means tracking the progress and checking in with team members to see if a course change is needed or whether resources need adjusting to accommodate an objective. This continual oversight and management keeps projects at the right speed, more productively and altogether more enjoyably for everyone involved! 

Leading the team 

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There’s more to being a project manager than crunching numbers, chasing deadlines and putting smiles on the faces of stakeholders (although these are all vital!). A great project manager also knows how to communicate and get the best out of their teams. 

 

In what might be considered less important, the soft skills of a project manager are equally conducive to success. Strong leadership traits will inspire and motivate teams, creating a happier, more productive and healthier workplace culture. Today, soft skills such as communication, conflict resolution, giving feedback, accountability, emotional intelligence and adaptability are valued in the same regard as their technical counterparts. 

Delivering the project and reporting 

Getting a project from A to Z is rarely straightforward, even with the best planning and management along the way, there will be road bumps ahead. Delivering the project is a must, however, and it’s up to the project manager to coordinate all of the moving parts to get it done on time, within budget and that it achieves the goal. 

 

Once the said project has been successfully completed and delivered, then comes the reporting. What’s best advised here is what’s called a project post-mortem. Here, project managers create time with their team to assess the highs and lows of the project, what went well and what could have been done better or improved for next time. 

Project manager duties on paper 

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We’ve tackled the broader project lifecycle and its stages. But if you’re partial to a bullet point or two you’ll love what’s about to happen… Here we have the general duties of a project manager listed for your scanning pleasure!

  • Define the scope of a project with stakeholders
  • Planning a project charter that gives an overview of a project
  • Creating a project plan that goes into more detail
  • Conducting a risk assessment
  • Documenting project process
  • Monitoring and managing budget
  • Check-ins and status meetings with teams and individuals
  • Setting and managing project post-mortem meetings

 

Still unsure about a career as a project manager? Check out our blog for “7 reasons why project management is the career for you”.

How do you become a project manager? 

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As we mentioned earlier, some people will already be assuming the role of a project manager without the title, these are what’s known as “accidental project managers” and then you have the more “traditional” types, intentional project managers who are certified through training. 

 

Either way, you can realise your dreams of becoming a fully-fledged project manager. We’d argue that some level of training to learn the frameworks and methodologies will always be beneficial even if you’re an “accidental” project manager as it will strengthen and give more direction to what you know.  

 

Here are a few simple steps you can follow to become a project manager:

1. Measure your knowledge and find the gaps 


The Project Management Body of Knowledge Guide sets out 10 knowledge areas in project management. Think about these areas and where your skills lie, and where they could be improved. 

  1. Stakeholder management 
  2. Procurement management 
  3. Scope management 
  4. Integration management 
  5. Risk management 
  6. Cost management 
  7. Resource management 
  8. Communications management 
  9. Schedule management 
  10. Quality management 

2. Get more experience in and out of work 

If your strengths are in scheduling but perhaps you’re lacking in cost management, think about how you can improve this area. Volunteer to take on more responsibility for projects in and around the office to gather more experience. This might be sitting in on a meeting to see how superiors communicate with staff or asking a mentor to show you the ropes. There are often dozens of opportunities to develop these knowledge areas all around us if you pay attention to them. 

You can also build your project knowledge in your own time too with:

 

3. Take a course 

The fastest and most direct way to gain project management knowledge is to go the traditional route and take a course. There are several project management qualifications available and which one will depend on your industry and which is most relevant to it. A quick scan online will tell you which project management qualifications are commonly associated with your industry.   

 

Typically, you’ll find these certified project management qualifications: 

 

 

Some courses are tailored to people with lots of experience (PMP) and others are geared towards beginners (CAPM). Ultimately, you might want to just dip your toe in and see if project management is right for you before committing to a lengthy course which is exactly what we offer in our Project Management Certificate where we teach you the fundamental mindset, principles and approaches. 

 

Final thoughts 

If you’re the sort of person who enjoys juggling the responsibilities of a project manager amidst your everyday work but wants to hone those skills and take a step towards becoming a project manager then there’s a lot to like. Great salaries, a booming job market with glaring talent gaps and daily work that’s fresh, exciting and meaningful. Project managers lead fulfilling careers and this could be you too. 

 

Become Certified in Project Management for FREE*

Learn how to drive successful projects that create ecstatic clients, hyper-productive teams and super-satisfied stakeholders in under 12 weeks. 

 

Our Project Management Certificate will cover: 

 

  • The terms, methods and different frameworks 
  • The stages of a project lifecycle from initiation to closing  
  • Identifying stakeholders and creating a business strategy
  • Governing projects, preventing scope creep and budgets 
  • Managing teams, resources and developing a leadership style 
  • Post-project reviews, transitioning and facilitation

 

See the full course overview here.

 

Learning with Growth Tribe couldn’t be easier. All of our courses are designed to be flexible for the learner with self-paced content so you can manage your time and learning, to best suit your lifestyle. 

 

Join a community of over 25,000 certified alumni who share a passion for growing their skills and positively impacting their careers. 

 

*Are you eligible for STAP? 

The staff training assistance programme or STAP offers up to €1000 in funding to get fully certified for in-demand skills such as Digital Marketing, Business & Data Analytics, UX Design and Project Management. 

 

To be eligible all you need is: 

  1. To be a Dutch citizen with a BSN number
  2. Are aged between 18-67 
  3. Have earned Dutch income for at least 6 months

 

For more details on how to apply, click here