Project Manager is More Than a Job Title
In many ways, good project managers are ringleaders: They must be great communicators, thorough, problem solvers, organized, motivated, good with numbers and budgets, and prepared, yet flexible enough to adapt when the unexpected occurs or plans change.
No single job description encompasses the many roles of a project manager, and in today’s rapidly evolving workplace, you might be better off focusing on having in-demand skills rather than landing a Project Manager job title. Project management roles exist across various industries, and not all of these positions have the same title. Yet, they do require many of the same skills, regardless of industry. And with 1.57 million new project-related positions expected annually from 2012 to 2020* having the right skills can be an effective way to find your next opportunity.
As you build experience and gain skills through education and work, don’t forget to work on obtaining these five skills:
- Problem solving
Problem solving isn’t exclusive to project management, many professionals can benefit from this skill. However, project managers spend their days relying on other people (clients, designers, salespeople, copywriters, IT, and any number of other workers to stay on budget, give feedback in a timely manner, and deliver everything successfully and on time. Somewhere along the way, you can hit a snag that throws the plan off course.
Project managers are responsible for knowing how to tackle a problem. Does the problem require a meeting or simply some behind-the-scenes number crunching? If you’re overseeing a project, you need to know when to involve the right people so you’re not crying wolf or making the company look bad. You want to be able to give proportionate attention to the problem without panicking.
When working with a number of individuals to complete a project with a lot of moving parts there is a higher potential for things to go awry. You must be able to adapt to changing circumstances and pivot without sacrificing the rest of the project. Solving a problem might require reassessing your current plan or responding to feedback from a client that changes the entire chain of events moving forward. Whatever happens, be ready to adapt and keep moving.
Leading a group of individuals requires the ability to communicate effectively with members at various levels of an organization, to ensure everyone is on the same page and understands the project’s scope. It’s also important to know your audience and tailor your message accordingly. Whether that audience is the team you’re overseeing, the boss you report to, or the client who owns the project, you need to keep them in the loop about relevant information.
For example, if you realize there’s an error that could delay the delivery of the project, you need to find out as much as you can from the involved parties and emphasize the seriousness of the issue, then alert your manager that you’re dealing with it and that you will keep her informed as things change. However, unless the error is going become a full-blown problem, the client doesn’t need to know. As a good communicator, you understand the right words, tone and timeline to address everyone involved.
- Time management
Projects are often time sensitive, and running behind schedule can be very costly. Since on-time delivery is part of a project manager’s duties, you don’t want to be late and cost anyone money or stress. As previously mentioned, unanticipated issues may arise that are outside your control, but many more issues are within your control, and in many cases time management is the only way to avoid them. Having a realistic understanding of how long each phase of the project should last, as well as the ability to keep your team on task, are critical skills for a project manager.
- Detail oriented
A project manager is expected to juggle a number of priorities simultaneously. You can have a great timeline set out and the best communication skills, but if you have no attention to detail, you’re bound to hand over a project that fails to meet expectations and quality standards. When you’re in the discovery phase, learning about the details of the project, a good project manager asks questions, pays attention to what the client is and isn’t saying, and constantly ensures the project is meeting those standards along the way.
These skills can benefit any professional; however, for a project manager, they are fundamental. Of course, this list isn’t exhaustive. What additional skills do you anticipate using as a project manager? Share your feedback in the comments below.
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