What to expect: on your first work day as a project manager

I asked my fellow colleagues about their first day as a project manager. Brand new, I mean. That very first day. New role. New position. New organisation. Plenty of fun stories. Here is Simon’s story:

[pixabay, klimkin image]cactus-1059633_960_720

“On my first day as a project manager I brought a cactus to work. Small, round, spiky. It mirrored my sentiments that day. It was too small to notice on my desk, yet once you touch it, you’d not know what to expect. I had a meeting scheduled in an hour with the programme manager. I was in the dark as to what this title meant. My smiling young colleague, with whom I was to share the office, offered to give me a tour. The tour turned into a “learn- to- manage–the-coffee-machine” exercise on the office kitchenette. The coffee machine was not very collaborative. It probably sensed my cactus mood that day. Luckily for both of us, a lady arrived to the rescue of the poor machine. Ten minutes later I was in the office of the programme manager and I noticed the dark green coffee mug I just saw in the kitchenette. I realized in a sec that the earlier rescuer is my boss. “Do you manage all your projects the way you handle the coffee-making?”, she asked me. “I am jobless”, i thought to myself. “No, you are not” she said, as if reading my mind. “If you evaluate the situation and tell me your lessons learned”.  And he did.

Just in case you are curious about Simon’s lessons learned: Your first day at work does not need to be a blind date. Unless you like to be fully surprised. You were hired for the job, so, probably, your planning skills mattered in the decision. So use them to build self-confidence. Picture your first day. In as many details as you can. Re-reading the job description from the perspective of the job holder will help. Visualize yourself with rolled-up sleeves. Refresh your memory with faces from your interview. Your supervisor was very probably there.  It will prevent awkward moments as the one Simon faced.

Make an office tour with the objective of introducing yourself to colleagues, at an appropriate pace. The coffee machine can wait.Feel the office atmosphere.

A meeting with your superviser on your first day is an advantage. I can testify to that. And not all get it. So make full use of it.  It will give you answers to the four basic Ws:

What projects you are given to manage.

Who are your project team members.

When is the first milestone.

Where is your project in the programme and/or the organisation/company’s strategy.

Upon return to your desk:

a. make an inventory of docs on files.

b. start reading project documents. Make side notes.

c. schedule meetings with your team members. Let them know in advance your questions or the framework for discussion. It will give you and them a well prepared meeting.

Finally a golden advice I got from my first job: remember – you manage the projects. And not the other way around. Smile, be pro-active and enjoy your first day, dear new project manager!


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