ARE YOU a field person who has aspirations to work your way up through the ranks to become a project manager? Are you a recent college graduate in a field somewhat applicable to management who aspires to run projects? Did you grow up working in a small, family-owned mechanical contracting business and now desire to go to work for a larger company with the goal of becoming a PM?
If so, let me offer a quick, three-step assessment process of your capability to reach your goal.
First, determine your aptitude to acquire and use the necessary core skill sets that a project manager needs.
Are you bad in math, as in so bad you can’t quickly calculate percentages and do basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division in your head in a matter of seconds and be more or less certain the answers will be accurate? Yeah, I know there are such things as cheap electronic calculators that do that for you, but as a PM you’ll be faced, on a daily basis, with making instant decisions involving real dollars and you need math skills for that.
Are you a good “salesman”? Can you “sell” your point of view to others?
Being a project manager means being a “people-person,” whether that means you like your peers deep-fried in a light peanut oil or that you like them as colleagues in a noble profession and they like you the same way.
Do you pay attention to details? Quick, within $5 more or less, how much was your last month’s electric bill? Don’t pay your electric bill? Quick, within $3, how much did you pay for your last pair of pants?
If you don’t have a head for details, you can’t cut it as a project manager. If you can’t remember the topic of this column without looking at the top of the page to refresh your memory, you probably shouldn’t try to become a project manager.
Do you disagree with the statement that one needs good math and people skills to be an effective project manager? Then e-mail me a response outlining how that is possible, and it might be published in this space on a future date, even if I disagree with you.
Second is determining your mindset as it relates to your potential as a PM.
Do you already keep meticulous personal records? If I asked you to describe precisely where your last three years’ personal tax returns are, could you tell me? Do you balance your check book every month, or do you assume that if you still have blank checks left that you still have money in your account?
As a PM you’ll not only be expected but required to keep nearly perfect records of everything that involves money for every job you manage.
Are you competitive by nature? If not, then you probably would be chewed up and spit out by general contractors and other trades’ project managers on the first job you’d manage. If you don’t enjoy the rough-and-tumble of the job, then you’d just be a feeder fish for the sharks you’ll inevitably encounter out there.
Is your skin thick? If you can’t shed the horse crap thrown at your back, then your career burn-out half-life would only be months, not years.
Third is your potential as a PM.
How is potential different from aptitude and mindset? To plan and finish a journey, one must have the core aptitude skills to successfully plan, provision and commission it, knowing that no journey, however well planned, is ever perfectly smooth along the way. You must have the mindset of perseverance and the potential of sheer stubbornness not to quit when the journey gets rough in spots, as it always does.
Potential is aptitude and mindset unused and unrecognized. Aptitude is your genetic potential and your mindset unrealized. Mindset is having the dogged determination to use whatever amount of aptitude you have and the take-no-prisoners potential that God gave you and making your own luck by jumping on the right opportunity when it presents itself.
Good luck, my friend, good luck!
H. Kent Craig is a second-generation mechanical contractor with unlimited earned Master’s licenses in plumbing, heating, air conditioning and boilers. He may reached via e-mail at [email protected], or by phone at 919/851-3985.