Effective project management requires a good balance of soft skills and hard skills. Our tips will give you the tools you need to impress your boss or, if you’re seeking a new job, the hiring manager. Below are 15 essential project manager skills to develop and hone as a professional.
8 Important Soft Skills for Project Managers
Soft skills are important for project managers. Regardless of whether you have the required technical skills, if you cannot communicate effectively or stay organized, you’ll struggle to keep up with the demands of work.
Here are eight examples of important project manager soft skills (to include in a resume or simply improve on your free time):
Project management has the word management in the title, so it should be unsurprising that leadership tops this particular list. Your leadership skills must be a point of focus, as you may need to guide people in person (e.g., a photographer) as well as virtually (e.g., a graphic designer).
As a leader, you must work with every member of your team and track their progress just as you would your own. If someone isn’t meeting your expectations, it’s your responsibility to provide feedback and address any obstacles preventing them from reaching their goal.
2. Critical Thinking
From budget shortages to lost new hires, obstacles are inevitable. As a project manager, you need to think on your feet to find solutions. You must be able to analyze a situation and make quick decisions that will drive a project forward.
Problem-solving and decision-making are two primary components of critical thinking, so if you’re job hunting, showcase these qualities throughout your project manager resume.
Think about when you’ve used available resources to find a solution in a high-pressure situation.
As a project manager, you will be expected to communicate with a diverse set of stakeholders. You must explain concepts thoroughly but concisely to keep everyone updated. You will report to a supervisor and clients, while also delegating work to other employees and contractors.
Your communication skills will improve when you interact with colleagues both junior and senior to yourself.
4. Time Management
Time is of the essence when you’re working on a deadline. Projects typically have several milestones leading up to a final due date, so you will need to track your team’s progress to ensure you finish on schedule.
You also have your own set of responsibilities, so you must be comfortable balancing multiple schedules throughout a project’s life cycle.
Your time management skills include your ability to plan and prioritize tasks around a clear timeframe.
While leadership is primarily about delegation and building a cohesive unit of employees, mentorship involves coaching that unit to improve their skills and reach their goals.
Consider mentoring an investment in your team; your projects will become more streamlined as your employees develop under your supervision.
You’d be hard pressed to find an office that doesn’t value organizational skills. In fact, it’s among the most vital project manager skills, since you’ll have to coordinate each member’s work and ensure that the project is in scope, on time, and within budget.
There are a lot of moving pieces throughout the life cycle of a project, and it is your primary responsibility to keep them moving in an organized fashion.
Organizing teams and projects includes fostering a productive office environment.
7. Risk Management
Each project has the potential for risks that can spring up at any given moment. In addition to thinking on your feet, you must show that you can plan proactively.
Even if you don’t know what kind of problems might crop up, you can still implement backup plans so that you and your team can press on regardless.
To reinforce your capacity to manage risk, set boundaries on the basis of careful assessment.
Project managers often act as the go-between for everyone involved in a project — from clients to writers and designers. You must have negotiation experience, as you will often need to mediate in tricky situations.
If a designer cannot meet a deadline, it’s your responsibility to tell the client. If the client requests something outside of the scope of the project, you must let them know it’s impossible or requires a budget increase.
You don’t need legal experience to excel at negotiation and improve your project coordinator skills. They can improve by communicating with colleagues when a lot is at stake.
7 Key Technical Project Management Skills
While soft skills are essential for any project manager, there are several relevant technical skills that will improve your ability to manage a project. In particular, you should be familiar with agile project management and how to implement it into your operations.
Agile project management encompasses multiple strategies for making your workflow as adaptable as possible. These methods break a project down into distinct tasks that can be followed through by different members of the team.
1. Cost Management
Every project has a specified budget that you’re responsible for managing. This requires careful analysis of expected costs and regular check-ins to ensure you’re on track to stay within budget.
As a project manager, you’ll also need to recognize when the scope is unrealistic within the given budget. In this case, you must analyze the project needs to determine how to save on costs — which could mean finding a new vendor with lower rates or cutting out a non-essential part of the process.
Being agile in your decision-making is crucial to function as an effective project manager.
2. Data Analysis
Analyzing data to increase productivity and improve your team’s work is one of the top skills for project managers. This can include database management, resource management, financial analysis, and any other applications of data of which you have experience.
Kanban is a popular method of agile project management, as it streamlines the process by tracking the status of tasks. If you’re unfamiliar with a Kanban board, take some time to understand the concept if you want to add it to your list of good project management skills.
Kanban breaks down a project’s tasks into three main categories. There are many ways to name these categories, but they basically classify tasks as “to do,” “doing,” and “done.”
4. Computer Skills
Knowing your way around a computer is a key project management skill, since you’ll need to communicate and collaborate efficiently via email, messenger apps, and more. Basic knowledge of email and the internet is expected, but you should be familiar with other computer skills too.
In particular, collaboration programs like Dropbox, Asana, and Slack are critical for effective project management. You may also need to demonstrate knowledge of programs, like WordPress and Adobe Creative Suite, in order to evaluate your team’s progress.
5. Performance Tracking
Efficiency is key in successful project management. Performance tracking can reveal gaps in the workflow that prevent optimal productivity.
You’ll need to work closely with your team to evaluate their work from both quality and quantity standpoints. Work should meet your quality standards, but must also adhere to the schedule you have laid out.
Recording your history of overseeing and assessing the work of others can be helpful to show to the hiring manager when you apply to a new job.
6. Scrum Management
After Kanban, scrum management is the commonest method of agile project management. Project managers typically fill the role of scrum master, who is responsible for removing obstacles in the team’s way. This allows for peak productivity and a greater rate of success.
As a process, scrum management shortens a large project into smaller “sprints,” which allows your team to remain focused on their tasks. Instead of looking ahead to one big deadline, a project is broken down into manageable portions that provide clients with regular deliverables.
7. Project Life Cycle Software
A project’s life cycle typically falls into four distinct stages: initiation, planning, execution, and resolution. Each company has its own terms for these stages and some break them down even further, so you will need to be familiar with the cycle used in your organization.
Understanding the life cycle is vital for creating flow within the project. Many software applications can digitize your custom project life cycle, so hiring managers will be on the lookout to see if you are versed in any of these programs. If you are, be sure to include them in your project management skills list and specify the platforms you’re most familiar with.
Project Management Skills: Key for Resumes & Career Growth
If you’re hunting for a new job, your resume will be the key to winning an interview. These project management skills will help you curate your applications to make the most impact.
If you can consistently present yourself as a skilled professional, you’re sure to impress hiring managers during your quest to find fulfilling work.