Project Management

Not All PM Careers Are Created Equal

Mark Mullaly is president of Interthink Consulting Incorporated, an organizational development and change firm specializing in the creation of effective organizational project management solutions. Since 1990, it has worked with companies throughout North America to develop, enhance and implement effective project management tools, processes, structures and capabilities. Mark was most recently co-lead investigator of the Value of Project Management research project sponsored by PMI. You can read more of his writing at

If you’re like most project managers, you fell into this career.

Very few people that I know wanted to be a project manager when they grew up. We start out pursuing other careers and other opportunities, and then find ourselves accidentally stepping into the role. Often that starts as a means to a completely different end—we are trying to get something done in what we see as our actual job, and then we (or someone else) decide that we are good at organizing, coordinating and planning things. The consequence: another accidental project manager is born.

The real challenge is where we take that. Once we recognize that we are, in fact, a project manager, we need to sort out exactly what we would like the arc of our career to be. Spoiler alert: That can actually be a choice.

Sometimes, we don’t think it’s a choice, though. We fell into the role of project manager because someone tapped us on the shoulder and asked us to get something done for them. So we’ve already demonstrated the fact that we’re suggestable by nature and open to shiny new challenges. And there is every possibility that our career basically follows that path: opportunity gets delivered, new tap on the shoulder, new opportunity appears on our plate. Or two. Or three. Or as many projects as we or someone else thinks that we can handle before we explode.

As well, …

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- Johann Sebastian Bach