It’s ok to be a first-time project manager.  Every project manager was a first-timer at one point.  You can’t get from point A to point Z without experience…without starting somewhere.  But you may not want to always broadcast your inexperienced.  I’ve come up with three things you should never ever say to the client if you’re a first-time project manager.

This is my first project

Seriously, this is like a surgeon saying, “I’ve never done this before.”  Do you want them cutting into you?  No way.  They may figure it out at some point or a senior manager in the organization may let it slip if they end up having a discussion concerning your management of the project.  But don’t state it for the client.  Don’t lie either – don’t tell them you’ve led other projects.  They key is to try to show confidence, ask questions when you need to, seek advice behind the scenes from other, more experienced project managers, and hopefully lean a little on your experienced project team members for guidance.  But never state, “This is my first project” unless they were to ask you…which it’s not likely that they ever would.  It would be like saying, “I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing and no confidence in myself to get the job done.”  Ouch.

I have no idea

As a first-time project manager, you’re bound to run into situations where you just don’t know an answer or have no idea what to do next or how to react.  It’s ok to say, “I’m not sure” or “Let me check and get back to you.”  Never say, “I have no idea” or “I have no clue.”  It makes you sound like the clueless project manager who can’t think or make any kind of decisions for themselves or the project.  And there are experienced project managers out there who are this way …clueless and not able to make decisions…asking for help on everything.  Sound professional if you have no idea.  Take a moment and compose yourself and your thoughts before responding and then tell the client that you’ll need to get back to them.  It’s ok to say that.  Just don’t make it sound like you’re completely hopeless.

Tell me how you want to do this

Remember, this is your project.  You’re in control – even if you don’t feel like it.  The customer and your team are looking to you for leadership, guidance, and decision-making.  The last thing you want to be doing is to always be asking the client for their decision on how you should react or move forward.  If you look too indecisive, then you’ll lose your customer.  Their satisfaction level will dip, their confidence level will drop like a rock and they’ll be on the phone with your supervisor or CEO the next morning.


There are a lot of ways we can show confidence to the customer as new project managers – I’ll probably cover those in another segment of this series on advice for new project managers.  And, likewise, there is probably a long list of phrases that first-time PMs should not utter out loud.  These are just three.  If our readers think of some, please share by commenting.  Thanks…looking forward to your feedback.