The past ten months have been very challenging as I’ve adjusted to a new job in a new industry. My new role as a project manager has really pushed me out of my comfort zone, and I’ve learned a lot about myself. Here are 4 of the biggest lessons I've learned as a project manager:
Lesson 1: Break large things into small, actionable steps.
With a big project, it can seem daunting. It can be easy to get swept away by all of the information and responsibilities. That’s why I recommend being breaking things into smaller, more manageable steps. Focus on one step and how each one contributes to the project.
Lesson 2: Sometimes unexpected situations just happen and I can’t always predict it.
This lesson has been one of the most difficult thus far. I am a perfectionist by nature with an eagerness to please and avoid chaos. As a project manager in the sign industry, unexpected situations aren't totally unexpected. When you're dealing with construction, unforeseen things can easily happen and set you back a bit. I've had to learn how to handle these unexpected situations in a quick, level-headed manner and make executive decisions about how to proceed with certain tasks to be able to stay on track. For me, that's incredibly difficult.
Before this job, I thought I was a good multi-tasker who could work under pressure—and I definitely was based on the experience I had. My current role as a project manager, however, requires a more advanced level of multitasking, prioritization, and quick-thinking. Learning how to adapt to these situations taught me how to be more flexible, efficient, and perform better under pressure. Of course, I still have moments where my anxiety gets the better of me (I'm human after all), but I really believe this job has helped me grow tremendously in this way. I can already see how much I've improved since last year and I'm really proud of myself.
Lesson 3: Test new processes to figure out what helps me perform most efficiently.
Experimenting new processes is crucial to finding a way to be efficient. Based on mindsets, personalities, and situations, everyone has different processes and procedures that helps them perform at their best. It can take a while to determine what processes work best for ourselves. Like I mentioned before, this is my first ever project management position and first time working in the sign industry. While I already knew certain procedures would help me stay organized, I was still learning how to do stay on track from scratch.
Things that may work in other situations or environments might not work in every situation. Shadowing my coworkers or asking for their recommendations proved to be incredibly helpful as I learned how to prioritize tasks and stay organized in my new job. My coworkers have been project managers with this company and in this industry longer than me, so I knew that they would have great advice. Of course, that doesn't mean every tip they gave would help me, but I still learned a lot from them and slowly incorporated different tips based on what was helping me succeed.
Lesson 4: Be more confident in myself and my abilities.
I am a perfectionist and a people pleaser to a fault. In recent months, I've realized (in my personal life) that I often do whatever I can to appease or impress other people to avoid conflict, disappointment, or any negative reaction. What I'm learning is I need to give myself more credit. I need to recognize my talents and strengths. Becoming more confident in myself and my abilities will help me more than the focusing on the downside. I often spend time critiquing myself—personally and professionally—instead of building myself up and recognizing what I do well.
As a first-time project manager, I've been challenged in new ways and put to the test in many ways. I won't sugarcoat it: it's been a difficult year. Over the past year, I've learned so much about myself—professionally and personally. I'm really grateful to be at a company that pushes me to grow while also supporting me every step of the way. Being welcomed by peers and leaders who mentor you is truly a wonderful feeling. I can’t wait to grow even more in the sign industry!