I read sometime ago in some management publication (whose name I can’t recall) that project management will never be considered a profession, but rather, an inherent and necessary skill set. The premise is that most professional and non-professional people in any industry will require project management skills to do their jobs, be it CEO or pharmacist, but there will be no singularly recognized project management profession.
I am not sure I buy into this argument, but if it is true, then it is good news and bad news for many of us. It’s good news in that the hard and soft skills we learn, develop and practice as project managers are ubiquitous to almost everything we do in life as a career or even personally. It’s bad news in that we project managers may never be recognized as true corporate professionals and, consequently, will likely remain outside the senior executive staff and corporate boardroom. Have you never heard of a Chief Programs Office sitting on any corporate boards? There are probably some CPOs, but they remain the exceptions. If you want to be considered a professional by the world, there are more recognized and lucrative career paths to pursue than project management.
The Project Management Institute is doing a good job of setting professional and educational standards for project management and trying to convince the world’s corporations that they need project managers and project management to compete and survive. My feeling is that they are still a long way from getting project management universally recognized as a profession.
As far as being a project manager, I think you do it because you enjoy it and not because you aspire to be considered a true professional. If you don’t enjoy doing project management, then go do something else, it will be much easier on you and the rest of the world. Regardless of future professional prospects, I am convinced, as a project manager, you must still think of yourself as a true professional and adhere to the highest professional standards because what really matters is how you perceive yourself and conduct your work.