5 Project Management Skills to Advance Your Career
GRADUATE STUDIES | 4 MIN READ
Project management is a Swiss Army knife kind of career. To be successful, you need certain project management skills and you need them at the ready—everything from technical, business and management competencies to soft skills, such as creating and maintaining strong relationships.
Project managers need the knowledge, the experience and even the personality traits to do not one job, but several—and simultaneously. With the help of their team, they mold an idea from its inception and through its planning, scheduling, execution and completion.
As the point person, the project manager gets to celebrate every success, but also must answer for—and take lessons from—any failures. So, how to increase those successes and learn from the failures? We’ve boiled it down to five essential project management skills every manager needs:
It’s first for a reason. Among the countless attributes that make a good project manager, the list starts and ends with strong leadership.
But leadership can be a vague term. What are the qualities of a good leader?
- A provider of direction, vision and sound judgment
- Someone who motivates, mediates and mentors others—but without micromanaging
- The voice of calm amid the pressure, who takes responsibility for missteps but shares every achievement
It can be another overused term, but a project is destined to stall without clear, consistent communication between stakeholders, contractors, team members and customers. Scheduling and negotiating are tough tasks made easier through clear communication.
Successful project managers ensure all information is accurate, clarify for understanding and follow up when needed. Using communication methods ranging from emails, file sharing and conference calls to in-person meetings and presentations, project managers have to determine the most effective approach, keeping everyone in the loop without burdening people with excessive details.
3. Task Management
The big picture is crucial, but it’s the details that can make or break a project. Effective project managers create a schedule, then break it down into a manageable timeline of tasks. They create a budget and then oversee resources and purchases to keep costs under control.
The project itself may be months or years long, but a results-oriented project manager will have clearly stated goals and objectives to be met along the way to bring the project in on time and within budget.
Of all the variables within a project, people are the most unpredictable. Conflicts will inevitably arise, especially during negotiating. Resolving disputes and easing tension so that all players feel they have been heard helps maintain a positive, productive atmosphere.
High-quality project managers are negotiators and collaborators. They understand the strengths and weaknesses of their team and delegate accordingly. They know when to say no but are never afraid to say yes. Soft skills are especially at play here: maintaining trust, keeping an open mind and old-fashioned listening.
5. Critical Thinking
As a counterpoint to those more subjective qualities, project managers also have to analyze and evaluate situations to make unbiased, impartial decisions. They entertain other points of view to examine problems in new ways. They foresee roadblocks and brainstorm solutions.
Project managers are dynamic individuals who can evolve with the times and experiment with new tools and technologies. They think in opportunities instead of barriers. And they are decisive, weighing the best choice based on the stated priorities and goals.
Master of Project Management
Elmhurst College can help you develop these essential project management skills with its master of project management program. The part-time, flexible format allows for both online and on-campus learning. Lectures are recorded so you can fit your studies into your schedule and not the other way around, and the 10-course program can be completed in as little as two years.
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