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Project management—who you are or what you do?

Adeline Teoh ed.
June 15, 2015

When almost anything can be defined as a project and almost anyone can claim to manage one, what does being a project manager mean?

As a writer by trade, I often get asked whether I get annoyed when hobbyists also call themselves writers. I admit I used to, because how else could you distinguish between an occupation and a whimsical pursuit? But it then occurred to me that that distinction didn’t actually mean anything without further context.

If I were talking to students at a careers day, then the fact I get paid to write would be a pertinent one. But if I were speaking in terms of identity, whether or not writing was my occupation wouldn’t matter.

A better way to re-frame would be to ask: what am I passionate about? What activity do I live for? How do I see the world? There’s no reason why someone who enjoys writing, who lives to write, and who interprets the world through a writer’s eyes can’t call themselves a writer even if they’re not paid to do so. We need to remember that not everyone’s identity comes through an occupation.

The same thing happens in project management. The act of hosting a birthday party, undertaking home renovations and going on holiday are all projects that people undertake everyday. Their ability to manage those projects, and their inclination to call themselves project managers, should not diminish your ability to manage a project or make a living from project management—the difference is context. The onus is on the other party to find out what that claim really means.

Do I get annoyed when hobbyists call themselves writers? The short answer is ‘no’. But if I’m looking to hire a writer I’m sure as hell going to check their writing credentials.

How do you feel when hobbyists call themselves project managers?

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Adeline Teoh ed.
Adeline Teoh is the editor of ProjectManager.com.au. She has more than a decade of publishing experience in the fields of business and education, and has specialised in writing about project management since 2007.
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