September 17, 2023

What Does it Feel Like to be a Project Manager (True Story)

You might have a wrong understanding of a Project Manager’s Role.

The title may command authority and leadership to you.

It is not that simple.

In this article, I want to shed some light on what does it feel like to be a project manager.

There are three distinct stages:

1. What Does it Feel Like to be a Junior Project Manager?

“You will be overwhelmed by the responsibility and the number of tasks you need to do.”

The first time you will feel like a PM is only when you will manage your own project.

So, if you work as an assistant to another manager – it doesn’t count. Sorry.

It is the most romantic period in the career.


You will be overwhelmed by the responsibility and the number of tasks you need to do.

However, it is a fulfilling sensation to get through the mess and get things done.

Also, it is never boring because you will be doing something new almost every day. It may last for a year or more for you in some cases.

You will lack systematic knowledge of project management. Therefore, you will do a lot of actual project work.

It will feel like you are doing your part. You will feel like you are in one boat with the project team. You are helping them.

Again, you will lack mature soft skills. So you will do it on the go following your instincts and talents.

This way will build solid friendship relationships with many people from your team.

Later, you will lack such kind of relationships as you progress as a project manager.

These are the positive aspects.

There are negative as well:

You will have little authority. People will put it directly into your face. Some will try to take advantage of you.

I don’t say that lots of people will do that. However, you need only one to spoil the pleasure of work.

Establishing authority is difficult without achievements. It is difficult without solid knowledge. It is difficult without confidence in what you do.

As a Junior Project Manager and as a leader will be in constant doubt.

Will it work?

Do I have what it takes to lead these people?

Can I be responsible for the careers and success of all my team members?

(If you don’t feel like that, be careful. Overconfidence leads to failed projects.)

All of these put your nerves and self-confidence on the edge.

It will feel like you have to fight back and prove your worth.

But remember, nothing speaks louder than your achievements. Don’t waste your breath on people who undermine your value.

And, yes!

You will work long hours.

But worse:

Because of you, others will have to overtime from time to time as well.

2. What Does it Mean to be a Mid-level Project Manager?

“With confidence comes a vision. A vision of how to manage projects and lead people.”

So, you will finish a project or two successfully.

The project you do will become more complex.

They will have an impact. Most likely, you will get more than one project to lead.

That is when you come to a new team, and you know what to do.

That is when you start a new project, and you know what pitfalls to avoid.

Good news!

You will build up confidence in the outcome.

It might not be perfect. However, you feel like your efforts increase the chances of success.

With confidence comes a vision.

A vision of how to manage projects and lead people.

Not everyone will like it.

Also, you will dislike some other managers because of it.

During this period, it feels like you are doing something meaningful. It will indulge your self-esteem.

The more projects you finish – the more people you will meet. Therefore, fewer relationships you will build.

Cognitive limitation hits on you.

Typically, you can remember and distinguish about 40-60 persons.

Beyond that, you start grouping people in batches.

“Don’t treat people as resources.”

It comes from this stage.

On another side, you will make more friends among Project Managers.

A lot of hard work here. You may burn out quickly.

You will have little time to develop further.

It is tempting to stay here forever. With each passing year, you will be better at doing similar projects. Less work you need to do in general.

If you are not intentional about your professional development, years will fly by.

Boom! You have ten years in the role of a mid-level Project Manager.

3. Senior Project Manager

“Less experienced managers will honor your achievements but will keep the distance.”

There are no specific criteria for when you become a Senior Level Project Manager.

It is a combination of your impact on a company, complexity of projects, and your success rates.

Certifications and “years of experience” do not have a direct influence.

There is a side effect of your “seniority.”

It’s getting lonely here.

You will become a productivity expert. You will have a solid knowledge base. Your achievements will speak for you.

You will get a status of ”Guru” or a ”Mentor.”

Less experienced managers and team members will honor your achievements but will keep the distance.

They will come for a bit of advice. However, they don’t want to have you as a friend.

It is too cold in your shadow. 😉

As for the peers, it is difficult.

The higher you get, the more conflicting your visions become. More competition for influence. More politics.

It will feel more like a profession.

Also, at some point, you will set out on a mission.

You will gain enough knowledge and experience. You will have all the tools and techniques to achieve something meaningful.

Some manager wants to improve the company. Others want to help people. Someone will want to achieve perfection and get even more knowledge and skills.

Don’t let the routine work impede your mission.

How does it feel like to be a Project Manager?

The feelings change with your development.

During all stages, your work is fulfilling. It helps you to increase your self-esteem.

On the other hand, there are negative aspects. They will keep you longer on one stage or another.

It is OK. Just be self-aware of your attitude towards other people.