Project management is a crucial role for organizations of all types. No matter the kind of work--whether it's a multinational company or a small proprietor owned business, every organization has projects that need to be managed efficiently. 'Project Manager’ is an impressive designation for these reasons.
As expected, there are some key skills across the board that you'll need to land a job in this field. So, in this article, we're going to cover project management skills—but first, let's talk about what Project Managers actually do.
Role of a Project Manager
The job of a Project Manager is to be responsible for a project from start to finish. This is called the project life cycle. The role is necessary because project managers are able to see the big picture, and designate tasks to meet the desired goals of the project. If you’re organized and a strong communicator, here are a few first steps you can take to carry over your natural talents into this highly rewarding field.
Skills You Need to Succeed As A Project Manager
You have a few options to start down the path of becoming a Project Manager. Some Project Managers need traditional degrees and expert knowledge of the field, while others may have a specialized diploma and general managerial qualifications. You can even land high-paying jobs after taking bootcamps or online courses. The bottom line is that there's no specific set of qualifications that are absolutely necessary for project management, although education from a reputable source comes in handy.
Even though there aren't strict requirements on where you learn project management skills, there are common skills you should be aware of to enter the field. Soft skills are what you would call people skills; these include communication, listening, and other interpersonal skills. These soft skills must complement any candidates' hard skills--which are their knowledge and occupational skills. The ideal Project Manager has a good mix of both hard and soft skills, with a sprinkle of humor to alleviate the stress of the role.
While a sense of humor is rather subjective, the other important qualities can be learned, observed, absorbed, and tried. Here's a list of seven skills required to succeed as a Project Manager.
- Leadership – A prized quality, leadership's something that some of us are born with, while others must learn. Because you have to initiate, monitor, and control the project, being a leader’s necessary. You're responsible for guiding and overseeing the work of each member of the team, and you'll have the authority to make crucial decisions regarding the project. Every Project Manager (natural leader or not) should have some solid leadership skills to complete projects well.
2. Communication and Negotiation – You'll have to communicate the goals, aims, and nitty-gritty of the project to the team members. You'll also communicate the requirements, specifications, and expectations of the client. A lack of clear communication not only hampers the workings of the project, but also leads to a waste of efforts and resources.
Negotiation is a subset of this important skill. The managers responsible for maintaining a smooth channel of communication between the different parties involved in the project. These are the team members, the client, and the rest of the organization. To safeguard and promote the interests of all these parties, as a Project Manager, you'll take charge of the negotiations.
Whether it's conflict between team members or the clients pushing you a bit too much, the Project Manager needs to resolve tricky situations with utmost care and caution. In the end, all the parties must feel satisfied with the result. So, as a Project Manager, you'll need to solve problems in the best way you can.
3. Active Listening – A good leader needs to be in constant communication with their team, and communication's only possible if there's successful listening. So, strong leadership and effective communication require active listening. Because you'll be at the helm of affairs, you'll need to have a clear idea of what's going on. Being a patient and attentive listener allows you to properly understand the needs of the various parties. In fact, an active listener can also read between the lines and get to the core of any issue. This skill’s essential to perform other important tasks like motivation, attention to detail, and team management.
4. Project Recovery – A project failing is a Project Manager's worst nightmare. Everyone hopes that they never have to face this situation, but it's almost inevitable, especially if you stay in the field for a long time. Despite potential failures, a successful Project Manager changes the darkness of a failing project into a golden opportunity.
Risk management, critical thinking, and problem-solving are skills required to be able to turn around a poorly performing project. You'll need to reassess the situation, control the damage, rectify the mistakes, and come up with fresh solutions. Simultaneously, it's important to motivate and lead the former underperforming team to success.
5. Scheduling – Out of all the relevant qualities to be a successful Project Manager, this one's the most crucial. A successful project runs like a well-oiled machine--smooth and easy. Scheduling's at the crux of a Project Manager's job. You'll be responsible for organizing and creating the project-life cycle, setting up realistic and achievable deadlines, timing each task, positioning them, and checking in at specific intervals.
Time management is key, and equally important are planning and quality management. So, scheduling requires some technical understanding of managerial techniques and processes; for example, gant and milestone charts, arrow diagrams, precedence diagrams, etc. The schedule's the blueprint of the ongoing project; it includes what tasks must be done, when they start and finish, the resources needed and how to use them, the standard for all tasks, how to assimilate the diverse parts of the project, and the final deadline.
6. Adaptability – This important life skill's also a crucial managerial ability. Once the Project Manager envisions a set schedule, it has to be implemented. However, not everything goes as planned. A good project manager prepares for the possible problems and draws up contingency plans--this is called risk management.
You'll have to be a quick thinker too. Adaptability requires you to be flexible, a critical thinker, adjustable, and open to change. What makes this a crucial skill's the fact that the lack of adaptability can become the fine line between success and failure. Additionally, adaptability’s also a skill that allows you to grow as a Project Manager. You should be ready to learn new technology and methodology, and quickly follow new trends within increasingly dynamic user demographics.
7. Budgeting – The driving force of your project, your organization, and even your job is money. Unfortunately for all projects, unlimited funds don't exist. So, you’re restricted to working on a controlled budget which, most of the time, is extremely tight. You need to be super cost efficient. This is a tricky task since you have to justifiably use the allocated amount, control the expenditure throughout the execution of the tasks, and account for all the contingencies.
On top of that, you need to make sure that your project cost doesn't spill out of the allocated budget. And, in rare circumstances, you should even strive to save some of the budgets for your organization. The joy of completing your project at a lower cost is amazing. However, if a project successfully reaches the desired goals but ends up spending a huge sum and taking up excessive time, it can no longer be called a success.
Become A Professional Project Manager
As we mentioned earlier, there are quite a few routes to go down in terms of project management education. It can be hard to determine which way to go, so we'll give you some guidance. It all depends on where you currently are in life. For example, if you're already working in an industry you love, and you want to switch over into project management within your current company, the first step is to talk to your higher ups about it. You’ll want to determine if it's a possibility in that company, and if so, which steps they'd want you to take.
If college isn't really your thing, and you want to go down a less expensive and faster path, then you'd be a better fit for a bootcamp. Our Technical Project Management Bootcamp at Thinkful 'is designed to get you hired within 6 months of completing the program. You also have access to a 1-on-1 mentor, which is super unique and helpful.
Whichever path you take, keep the skills in this article in mind. As long as you've got the right knowledge base and a willingness to persevere through the tough challenges that come with project management, you'll do great. We hope you've found this article helpful, and if you'd like more information about career paths you can also check out our YouTube.