Go for the gold! Or, you know, don't.
June 3, 2011 10:25 AM   Subscribe

I left my last job to move and to find something a step up from where I was. Now I found that step up, and I’m scared to take it.

Background: I was a software analyst in my last two jobs. I was good at it. I also like planning and coordinating things (both in work and in my personal life), and I liked my assignments where I was tasked with coordinating a project team. I've wanted to try out being a real Project Manager for over a year, but haven't had the chance.

My last analyst job was really mindless and I felt under-utilized. After being told by many people in my field that there are jobs out there, I left without a job lined up. I'm still happy with that decision - that let me move near to my girlfriend (several states away), take an extra class in my masters program, and finish a project management class (working towards a PMP), all in just a month of unemployment. And I've been busy looking for jobs the whole time.

Like I said, I want to try being a PM. But I haven't been successful moving to that role at my previous companies - they just wanted analysts, and that was that. The projects where I coordinated many people went well, but they weren't looking for a PM so there wasn't a chance for me to move to full PM within the companies. I'm tired of bouncing from analyst role to analyst role and hoping that somehow I'll get to be a PM. I just want to take a risk and make it happen.

Now I found a PM job posting in my new city, and I’m afraid to apply because I’m worried I’ll do a bad job and fail. Help! I’m afraid to apply for a full PM job because I'm afraid I'll be seen as inexperienced, get overwhelmed, and ultimately do a poor job - it would, after all, be my first true PM position and I'd have to do some on-the-job learning. I just want to make it happen - but as I said, I'm afraid flat-out apply. It's not like I have zero experience - I've been on a lot of projects start to finish. Even as an analyst I've managed budgets and timelines, status reports, stakeholder engagement, change control, etc. I just never had the title, and never was 100% identified as a PM. I want to take my relevant experience (plus my coursework) and jump straight into full PM, but now I've got cold feet about applying.

My girlfriend has expressed concerns about my job situation, which exacerbates the problem because I'm already worried AND now I'm afraid to disappoint her. I was previously pretty flexible: sure, quit my job to do other things! Sure, jump from one company to another! Sure, try something I might not succeed at, because I have options (and savings) to fall back on! But now I'm worried about disappointing her and about disappointing myself, which is really increasing the cold feet.

tl;dr: I've wanted to move into a Project Management role for a while. I just found one and have cold feet about applying because I've never been a full PM before and I'm afraid of failure (and on top of that afraid of disappointing my girlfriend). Are my fears rational and I should listen to them, or should I take a risk and try for PM jobs?

(clearly the answer I want to hear is "go for PM jobs." But one of Metafilter's strengths is telling the truth, not just giving the answer you want to hear)
posted by Tehhund to Work & Money (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It's a mighty leap, so break it into small steps. What's the first one? Just do that. Then see if you have the courage to do the second.

Once you start acting like applying is a foregone conclusion, it really will become one. Why not open up your resume and start picking at it while you're waiting for answers to pile up here?
posted by hermitosis at 10:31 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've said this several times- when I was looking for a job, I applied to everything, including positions that I felt were a stretch. The ones I thought were the biggest stretch were the ones who called me back. I don't really see what you have to lose by applying for the PM jobs.
posted by Zophi at 10:41 AM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

I tend to divide things into an intellectual mind and the emotional mind. The intellectual mind knows this is the right thing. It knows things are going to be OK and that it will work out. And if it doesn't work, you have experience and savings to fall back on. The emotional mind is afraid, and is coming up with all sorts of reasons why it won't and can't work.

You know this is going to be fine, and if it's not, you can always go back to what you were doing before. You have to disregard your nervousness, stop listening to your emotional mind, and forget about your fear and anxiety. The risk here isn't really that great. You've already moved. You're half way there.

Just say "Fuck it," and do it anyway.
posted by cnc at 10:48 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

You cannot turn down a job you have not applied for. You cannot fail at a job you have not been offered.

Are my fears rational and I should listen to them, or should I take a risk and try for PM jobs?

Your fears are irrational. Apply for the jobs. If you can get hired for a job, you can do the job. The world is full of people who are unqualified and incapable of performing the high-paying jobs they somehow landed. You're more qualified and smarter than most of them, I promise. Get the job, work hard, and you'll learn as you go, just like everyone else in the world does.

Don't live your life being motivated by fear into not even applying for the life you want.
posted by The World Famous at 10:49 AM on June 3, 2011 [5 favorites]

You left your last job because it was boring and not stretching your abilities. Any job that stretches your abilities also increases the opportunity to fail. That's just how the real world works. Either you want to push your limits, or you want to punch a clock every day. There is no shame in either. But if you are going to push yourself, you will fail occasionally. There is no way around it.
posted by COD at 10:57 AM on June 3, 2011 [4 favorites]

Your fears are irrational. Normal, but irrational. But honestly, what's the worst that could happen if you fail? As long as your failure mode isn't "freak out and steal/kill things", you'll lose your job. Then you'll get another one.

What would be the reason you shouldn't apply? I can't even...what would you tell a friend who asked for your advice here? "No, just stay unemployed, that's the only way to be sure you don't fail at a job."

Honestly, most of the project managers I've ever had failed INTO Project Manager jobs* because they couldn't do fuck-all and for whatever reason couldn't get fired either. Someone who's actually taken a class has to be better than that.

Also, it's just an application. It's not a tattoo, it's just an expression of interest.

*Except once I had a PM who was former CIA. Her projects got managed, because nobody was going to be trying to bullshit her about why they didn't meet a deadline. Also, if we ended up in a car chase coming back from a meeting, we were in good hands. You just can't get that kind of training in project manager cert courses.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:13 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you're clear and honest about your abilities in the interview, and the company hires you, then there is nothing to worry about. You'll both know what page you're on when you start, and they'll be willing to help you get to where you need to be, because they're interested and invested.
posted by czytm at 11:15 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Doesn't matter if your fears are rational. Apply for the job. Go through the interview process. Do your best to sell yourself well, fairly and honestly.

If they then offer you the position it is because they think you can do it. At that point you can make a decision whether to accept. I'm betting you'll have a whole different perspective on it by then.

If you don't get an interview, or get that far but no offer, you will have gained valuable experience for next time, and you'll feel more ready and prepared then.
posted by meinvt at 12:25 PM on June 3, 2011

If you start exploring PMP (project management professional) certification you will find that you do not need the title of project manager in order to be recognized for having done project management even by the Project Management Institute. When you are going through the documentation of 3500 hr of project management work, you do that by -function-. The thing you should do is discuss those functions with your prior co-workers or management people and ensure they remember you for having done it.

Therefore? Well, if you understand the rudiments of project management and you have solved a couple problems while doing it, then you have a certain amount of run-time in the role. That's what counts. Go ahead and apply for PM jobs.
posted by jet_silver at 12:40 PM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Look there's an art to PM jobs and there's a science to it. The art is being good at communicating with people, understanding what their motivations are, digging requirements out of people's brains. The science is understanding project management principles and tools, being able to evaluate risk, document processes, etc. Some people have a natural bent for those types of tasks, but most people who manage projects have to learn how to do them. Most people who manage projects do not have much formal project management training and someone coming in who has experience managing projects will be welcome regardless of past titles.

If I were you I wouldn't start applying for jobs that say that PMP certification is preferred because those organization are looking for people who are more entrenched in established PM protocols, but otherwise you should just take the leap and apply for jobs that sound interesting to you. And if you like it, you can take classes and work towards certification if that's your bag.

In the end though, you have nothing to lose by applying. Organizations that want someone with more advanced skills won't hire you, but you'll have the experience of interviewing and fine-tuning the kind of position you'd be right for even if they pass.
posted by Kimberly at 12:46 PM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

You don't have to take the job if they offer it to you, so what do you have to lose by applying?
posted by leahwrenn at 4:10 PM on June 3, 2011

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