From chaos to clarity, project management skills can transform the way you work
Project management skills aren't just essential for those pursuing a career in project management, but are also valuable for other individuals in a range of roles and industries.
Whether you're leading a team on a specific project, overseeing a process improvement initiative, or managing a complex event, having strong project management skills can help you to accomplish your objectives more efficiently and effectively.
In this article, we'll explore the essential Project Manager skills that anyone can develop and use to boost their knowhow, improve performance, and achieve success.
What are the skills of a Project Manager?
Project management skills are the traits and abilities required to see a project through from start to finish. The skill set can be broken down into three key areas, including:
Soft skills: Soft skills, or interpersonal skills or people skills, can be used across various fields and disciplines. They include communication, teamwork, and problem-solving, for example.
Hard skills: Hard skills, or technical skills, are job-specific skills gained by working in a specific industry. They are often practical abilities, like project planning and task management
Technical knowledge: Technical knowledge is closely related to hard skills, but it refers to the practical knowledge required to complete tasks, like processes, configurations, and workflows
A Project Manager is responsible for the planning, execution, and completion of a project. They handle the big-picture thinking involved in running a project and ensure that teams are equipped to work on the day-to-day requirements.
Why are project management skills important?
Project management is an established career path and there are many roles within the discipline, such as Project Manager, PMO Administrator, Portfolio Manager, and Programme Manager. However, many jobs today, particularly management positions, require the ability to plan and run projects and campaigns.
Regardless of whether your profession is in project management or simply requires a sprinkling of the skill set, project management skills are important for multiple reasons. A strong Project Manager possesses these desirable attributes:
- Time management: Project Managers need to plan and monitor project progress, to drive it towards a completion within the agreed deadlines. The ability to coordinate work to achieve deadlines is a critical skill in many roles, not just project management.
- Cost management: All projects come with budgetary constraints, so the ability to manage expenditure to deliver the project successfully is a critical project management skill. If you can master this, more senior roles are within your grasp as leadership and management roles usually require financial acumen.
- Quality management: Project Managers need to balance time and cost requirements without compromising on quality. An aptitude in this area shows that you can meet stakeholder expectations and deliver to a high standard.
In addition, Project Managers need other skills such as resource management, risk management, collaboration and organisation, which transfer easily into other roles - particularly leadership positions.
Soft skills for project management
Soft skills are required in every job role, as they help to build relationships, handle problems, and navigate the work environment and the people in it. The following soft skills are essential for Project Managers:
The ability to communicate is essential, as Project Managers need to be able to talk to stakeholders, team members, or clients in a way that ensures that everyone understands what's going on. It mitigates misunderstandings, too. To hone this skill, employ active listening, clarify expectations, and ask for feedback regularly.
Leadership is all about motivating the team and making tough decisions. A successful Project Manager needs to be a strong leader that can build a positive team culture and delegate tasks effectively. Taking on leadership roles and watching successful leaders in action is a great way to build on leadership traits.
Time management is a skill that's critical for project management success. Project Managers must be able to prioritise tasks, set realistic deadlines, and manage resources effectively and efficiently. Play around with time tracking and project management tools to get better at harnessing this skill.
Problem solving is about finding quick and effective solutions to problems that arise during a project. Top problem solvers work to develop their skill set by thinking critically and relying on input and feedback from others.
Things can change quickly during a project, so adaptability is important. Project Managers must be able to adjust plans appropriately to keep the project moving forward. A positive mindset, an open-minded attitude, and sound business acumen is critical for success.
The ability to work in a team is a non-negotiable soft skill for Project Managers. Often, it's the Project Manager's role to build strong relationships with team members and to create a positive team culture which forges trust, enabling them to delegate tasks effectively. Regularly working in groups and offering positive feedback is a way to enhance teamwork skills.
Hard skills for project management
In addition to soft skills, a Project Manager requires a suite of practical abilities related to project management. These are the most common hard skills for Project Managers:
Project Managers must be able to create a detailed project plan that outlines the tasks, timelines, and resources required to complete a project. Effective planning ensures that the project stays on track, in budget, and meets stakeholder expectations.
Every project needs to be scoped, which involves defining goals, deliverables, and requirements. Often, Project Managers work with stakeholders to understand their needs and expectations and translate them into clear project requirements. This ensures that the project fulfils its aims and is completed successfully.
Managing project budgets is another crucial skill. Project Managers need to be able to estimate costs accurately, keep track of expenses, and stay within budget constraints so that the project is financially viable and profitable.
The ability to write a solid project brief is another essential requirement for Project Managers. The brief outlines the objectives, requirements, and deliverables of a project that is then delivered to everyone on the project team to ensure they're on the same page.
Conducting a risk assessment is a vital component of a Project Manager's skill set. By identifying and assessing potential risks, they can develop a contingency plan to mitigate those risks and minimise the impact on the project.
A project roadmap details a top-level view of the project, including major milestones and key deliverables. Project Managers will find this skill is particularly helpful for running large projects which have a lot of dependencies or stakeholders.
Creating and managing project schedules is another core part of a Project Manager's remit. This involves allocating resources effectively, tracking progress, and adjusting timelines as needed to ensure the project stays on track.
Managing the tasks that fit within the schedule are also within a Project Manager's wheelhouse. They need to assign tasks to team members, track progress, and ensure that tasks are completed on time so that the project runs to schedule.
Communicating progress to project stakeholders is a fundamental part of project management. Project Managers must create clear, concise reports that detail relevant information, to ensure that stakeholders stay informed and make the right decisions.
Technical knowledge required by Project Managers
Technical knowledge is all about the specific tools, software, and theory behind the craft. Much of the technical knowledge required by Project Managers can be transferred to other industries and roles, especially as you progress up the ladder to management and the C-suite. Here are a few examples:
Project management software
Project management software is very common in the workplace and many people use it to manage their personal workloads, not just projects. To be an effective Project Manager, try out different project management tools, like Monday, Asana, and Trello to manage your project, keep track of progress, and collaborate with team members.
Gantt charts offer a visual representation of a project schedule and are one of the most popular project visualisation methods that all Project Managers need to know about. They show when each task and event occurs, how long each activity is scheduled to last, and where they may overlap.
Kanban boards are another common tool for visualising projects and tasks, particularly when using Agile methodology. Project Managers should have experience of working with Kanban boards to manage tasks, workflows, and resources, and to track progress.
Agile is an iterative approach to project management. It involves working in sprints (i.e. several iterations of work towards the completion of a project), conducting frequent reviews, and adapting to change. The aim is to have a flexible approach to working and to empower others to give and receive continuous feedback to support continual improvement.
Change management is the process of managing changes to project scope, requirements, or schedule. Project Managers should have experience of managing change requests, assessing their impact on the project, and making adjustments to ensure that the project stays on track.
How to develop project management skills
Developing Project Manager key skills requires a commitment to continuous learning and professional development. The level of competency you wish to reach will dictate your learning programme, but typically, project management skills are best cultivated through a combination of training and hands-on experience.
Here are a few ways that you can build your project management skills:
Take a course
Taking a course is a structured way to develop your project management skills. You can invest in a certified course like PRINCE2, which will result in a qualification, but it can be costly. Alternatively, you can go to cheaper platforms, like LinkedIn Learning, to help you to build a solid foundation of knowledge and to understand best practices in project management.
Attend a workshop or webinar
Online or in-person workshops and webinars are another great way to develop your project management skills. They provide the opportunity to learn from experts in the field and converse with other professionals looking to enhance their suite of project management skills.
Read books, articles, and resources
There are a number of books, articles, and other resources available to help you build on your project management skills. If you're looking to boost your project management skills as part of your current role, rather than pursuing a project management position, this is a cost-effective method of learning. Online project management tools often have blogs brimming with free guides that offer actionable tips for improving your knowledge.
Get hands on with project management tools
Using project management tools is a great way to develop your project planning, task management, and collaboration skills, particularly if you're a kinaesthetic learner. They offer a safe test environment to practise and play with the fundamentals of mapping out a project.
Get real life experience
Practising project management skills on real projects can help you to develop your practical abilities. If it's not typically part of your day-to-day role, be proactive and ask to shadow someone who's involved with running a project so that you can see the fundamentals in action first-hand. Your contact might also be happy to be a mentor or coach, who can provide guidance and support as you grow your skill set.
How to list project management skills on your CV
Whether you're looking to become a professional Project Manager or simply want to show prospective employers that you possess the ability to run projects and campaigns, we have some top tips for effectively listing project management skills on your CV:
Create a key skills section
Insert a key skills section at the top of your CV, underneath your profile. List between nine and 12 of the project management skills and capabilities that you possess that are sought after by your target employer. They can span soft skills, hard skills, and technical knowledge.
Use specific examples
When listing your employment history, use specific examples of how you've used project management skills and the successes that were the result of your actions. Always zoom in on your achievements, rather than listing your duties, to show employers the value that you can bring to the table. Boost your examples by quantifying each achievement with facts and statistics, making them more tangible.
Scour the job description for specific keywords and phrases, then mirror the language throughout your CV. Common keywords for project management roles include:
You should now have a good understanding of the skills required for project management. Project management skills are important in the workplace, regardless of your profession, and are extremely desirable. To make sure that you've showcased your suite of skills effectively on your CV, submit it for a free review.