With rapid economic growth, there has been a huge demand for project management professionals. As per a report published by the Project Management Institute (PMI) in 2021 the global economy needs 25 million new project professionals by 2030. This means, every year 2.3 million project management professionals need to enter project management-oriented employment to meet the demands of the industry.
Further, the way projects were managed a decade ago has evolved considerably. Existing PM professionals need to keep up with the growth trends to keep pace with the industry demands. With numerous learning and upskilling opportunities presented in today’s virtual world, what skills should a wise project manager target for upskilling or citing on their CV?
Project Manager’s Top Skills
A Project manager’s skills can be broadly classified under 3Ps:
- Project management skills
- People skills
- Personality traits
Project management skills
Every project or project context brings with it a need for unique and varied skill sets. For instance, a large project would require thorough planning skills; a project involving a large stakeholder group would require excellent governance skills; a project in a highly uncertain environment may require risk management skills. A single project could be demanding enough to require all of the skills at a time, too. A skilled project manager must be able to handle all of the above in stride. Let’s look at the key project management-related skills.
Project management knowledge
A project manager must possess project management knowledge in terms of the processes, tools, and their interfaces with stakeholders. Large projects have many internal and external stakeholders, and processes are intertwined with stakeholders besides their workflow. For instance, managing project changes would involve the long-drawn change control procedure as well as integrating it for buy-in from the full set of stakeholders.
Project governance and control
Upon setting up the processes, the project cannot be left to function independently. Project managers must be skilled in establishing good governance procedures that will help the projects function successfully, align the team, and control the project to the set procedures.
Planning and scheduling
Planning includes both meta and micro-level planning, which makes planning a must-have skill in a Project manager’s CV. A Project manager is expected to be on top of the day-to-day planning like to-do lists, follow-ups, sending reports, and organizing artifacts, to name a few.
Project managers are also expected to be pro schedulers. Project managers in the past might have simply maintained calendars or Excel spreadsheets, but for scheduling large and complex projects this is insufficient. Hence, proficiency in using scheduling software is a must demonstrate skill in the CV. Some commonly used scheduling software include Microsoft Project and Primavera P6.
Cost and risk management
While a project manager is not expected to be a cost expert in most industries, one must possess a robust understanding of the nuances of cost management from the pre-contract through post–contract stages. Controlling the costs to time-phased cash flow is important as cost is one of the primary constraints on any project. Similarly, Project managers must possess the ability to foresee potential threats and opportunities on projects and use their wisdom to mitigate the threats or enhance the opportunities.
Domain and industry knowledge
Although most complex and large projects deploy technical/subject matter experts, broad domain knowledge in the industry of job function is a key point to include. Like any other professionals of today, a project manager also has to stay current with the industry trends and be adaptable to technological advancements. Project management has become steeped in digital practices over the last two years thanks to the pandemic. To demonstrate relevance, project managers must demonstrate hands-on experience in the use of project management software and tools, which vary by industry. Some examples include:
- Project management software like Wrike or JIRA
- VRBIM (Virtual Reality Building Information Modelling), which is used prominently in the architecture and engineering industries
- Digital monitoring tools like Matterport that create a digital twin of a remote project location.
Also read: Wrike vs. Asana: 2022 Review
While project management skills are easier to learn, unfortunately, there is no book or an online course that can groom the people skills in a Project manager overnight. People skills can be learned from forums offering these, but mostly from mentors, other leaders, and self reflection under various circumstances to integrate learning and keep growing.
Emotional intelligence (EI)
While the digital era is shaping how professionals interact, it is ironic that if a professional does not possess or grow certain skills, they may soon be easily replaced by a robot. One such skill for a Project manager is emotional intelligence. No doubt, processes and tools are catalysts for project performance, but it is people who perform the processes and use the tools.
Project managers, as they reach the mid-senior level and work towards leadership positions, must grow their emotional intelligence if they lack in this area. Some project managers may be innately blessed with EI, however, for the rest, EI can grow through training and conscious practice. A wise project manager with good EI generally does great with teamwork, collaboration, meaningful conversations, empathy towards colleagues, and in turn wins the trust of his team and stakeholders. All of these are subtle ingredients for project success.
Leadership and coaching
Managers must essentially evolve to be leaders. Leading includes these skills, which overlap with previous sections, but are worth calling out on their own:
- Setting the project vision and roadmap
- Building and aligning teams to transform the vision into a positive outcome
- Serving the team by constantly guiding and coaching them in the journey
While managers teach and train, as a manager transforms into a leader, they must possess the skills to coach which would mean helping or facilitating team members’ learning.
Some personality traits that would be sought after in a project manager are optimism to deal with challenging situations, adaptability to changing project environment, resiliency to rise up after stormy project situations, analytical problem solving and decision making, diplomacy in dealing with a plethora of stakeholders, prioritization of tasks, and adhering to ethics under any circumstance.
Demonstrate skills and document them on your CV
Knowing the top skills of a Project manager is not enough. One must be able to demonstrate the application of skills under numerous circumstances. A professional CV with demonstrated people skills and 360-degree testimonials speak for themselves.
As you set up your CV, remember that presenting information precisely is a must-have skill for a project manager. Show this with a well-organized document where skills are bulleted or tabulated and accomplishments are quantified. Because the CV introduces you to the hiring team, it should show a reflection of your work, both in style and substance.