Over the course of building that successful career though, you will definitely find yourself in situations where you need to display skills beyond your core area of expertise.
I’m talking skills like leadership, communication, time and resource management. Beyond your core set of skills, these are the value-adding skills that can make the difference between an average career and an outstanding one.
Because let's face it… your “expert” skills are most likely not unique to you.
In our world today, you just have to accept that lots of people have the exact same skills as you, and can offer employers the same value as you with regards to your core expertise.
While those core skills will get you through the door, it’s the extra value you can offer employers that will give you a seat at the table, and take you to the pinnacle of your career.
Because really, who needs an outstanding programmer with poor time management skills, who is almost always late to deliver on projects? Or an expert analyst with poor communication skills, who has difficulty communicating their work?
Project management is one of very few professions for which the value-adding skills mentioned previously – leadership, communication, resource management, etc. – are actually the core skills, as opposed to value-adding skills.
But then again, most of what we do in our professional and even personal lives can be viewed as projects, from moving to a new home to preparing for staff/client meeting, to delivering a report, to getting yourself into shape and staying fit, planning a family vacation, etc.
Most things we do in our professional and personal lives have a before and after state, a starting date and end date of which getting from before to desired after state requires certain planning, and efficient execution of the plan. And typically, the vast majority of us have access to limited resources, to deliver these “projects”.
Viewed from this perspective, it’s easier to see how project management skills could add value to your life, both professional and personal.
While this is not an exhaustive list, these are some of the most powerful project management skills that can stand you out in any profession.
Project managers are also often referred to as project leaders. As Susanne Madsen, founder of the Project Leadership Institute puts it, “authentic leadership is one of the most important attributes for people who run projects”.
Project managers are typically responsible for setting the team’s vision and ensuring everyone is on board and motivated to bring the project through each phase.
You’ll be hard pressed to find any list of project management skills which does not include communication near the top. This includes written and verbal communication.
This is because Project managers typically need to ensure that team members and stakeholders (everyone involved in a project) are informed about the project plan, timeline, and budget and updated on the project’s latest happenings.
This is another core area in which a project manager is expected to weigh in. It doesn’t look good for a project manager that an event occurs somewhere along the life of your project which could easily have been prevented or handled better with prior risk planning. And worse, if it leads to a major derailment of the project. Ouch!!
To be sure, these are not exactly the same thing. Time management refers to the effective allocation of time to specific tasks, and tactics for ensuring that timelines are adhered to.
Organizationrefers more broadly to the ability to plan and keep track of all the moving pieces – tasks and their dependencies, resources, etc. – to ensure that they don’t present a challenge to the project.
The most successful project managers will have built on these skills over time to become “successful”.
The entire premise of project management as a profession is based on being able to manage resources (people, money, etc.) effectively to deliver a project on time.
Managing people is a lot harder than it appears, but successful project managers have to master this skill.
Successful project managers learn and imbibe the ability to effectively manage resources to achieve their goals.
It goes without saying that even the most well-designed plans can run into problems at any time.
Take the Covid-19 crisis for instance. There’s no amount of planning that could have catered to the myriad of challenges businesses – and projects – have been faced with in the last 1+ year.
The key here is to be adaptable and not thrown off balance whenever some unforeseen event occurs.
The list goes on but we’ll limit ourselves to these for the purpose of brevity.
It may interest you to know that senior management folks who seem to be so great at leadership and rallying the troops usually also have their own core expertise.
They got to that position by imbibing these traits and value-adding skills.
Because literally… these soft skills stand you out above the average professional.
Project leaders are all about maximizing productivity and minimizing inefficiencies, to deliver results.
Committing yourself to improving on these skills can drastically improve your own productivity and efficiency.
Better yet, your improved productivity benefits not just your immediate team but also any current and future employers.
The ultimate result? Your employability goes up.
Communication is a key pillar of effective collaboration. Your profession most likely requires you to work will within a team.
Again, it's not just the benefits to you directly, but the value-add that being a good team player and collaborator can bring to your organization.
No matter which profession you find yourself (whether employed, freelance or a consultant), you give your career wings when you are able to demonstrate a strong ability to work closely with others to achieve specified objectives.
Committing yourself to a program of improvement in these aforementioned areas can give the indirect benefit of helping you build your integrity in the workplace.
Project managers have to deal with a lot of stakeholders, at various times within a project lifetime. What this means is that stakeholders must be able to trust you and your judgement.
For the project manager, this means ensuring that your word is trustworthy and ensuring that you maintain a high level of integrity.
As a professional, it helps to be able to have others (former employers, managers etc.) speak and recommend you based on your integrity.
It goes without saying that the whole process of improving your self on these skills has the natural effect of helping you develop a strong work ethic, and a good sense of knowing how to balance work and life.
Whether you intend on pursuing a career in project management or not, the short and long term benefits to your career and personal life can far outweigh the investment you make in acquiring project management education.
The benefits are not only yours, but it also has the ability to benefit the people you lead. You are better organized, giving your teammates a clearer path to success.
We all dream of having an outstanding career and project management skills can help you make that dream a reality.
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