Essential Skills You Need to Succeed In a New Career As a Project Manager

Emma Smith | Sun Apr 16 2023

Project management can be an extremely rewarding career for several reasons. As a project manager, you’ll take ownership of projects, collaborate on a small and big scale, and reap the financial benefits. On top of that, those who are successful in a project management role can expect to have great opportunities for career advancement in the long run.

With the right qualities, you may find that a new career in project management is exactly the kind of change you’ve been looking for. Take a look at the essential soft and hard skills that a project manager needs to succeed in any kind of corporation or organization.

Communication Is Key

To make an effective project manager, it’s crucial that you would have good communication skills. From communicating your ideas within a team to leading meetings with stakeholders, you will be expected to communicate effectively every day, whether you’re working from home or from the office.

As a project manager, you will spend, on average, around 90% of your working time communicating with others, according to the host of the Project Management for the Masses Podcast, Cesar Abeid. Poor communication skills were found to be the primary reason that 29% of projects failed, according to the PMI’s 2018 Pulse of the Profession report.

It’s important to brush up on your listening skills in order to ask the right questions. That way, you’ll be able to pick up on what isn’t getting enough attention and therefore be able to iron out any issues before they get too big. The ability to give constructive feedback is important as well, as it’s necessary for fostering growth. On top of that, it’s best to familiarize yourself with team management tools to better organize and centralize your communications.

Negotiation Skills Are Mandatory

If you don’t have strong negotiation skills, you’re going to want to focus on developing this area. As a project manager, you’ll need to be at the center of managing team conflicts, timelines, resources, budgets, and suppliers, so being able to negotiate at different levels will keep the project you’re working on steadily on track.

There are also different negotiation styles, and you may find that any number of them might be helpful for you, depending on the situation. To be a skillful negotiator, you’ll need to understand everyone’s “deal points” and be able to compare each side’s leverage.

From there, you’ll need to check in with your instincts to know when to push on something without damaging any workplace relationships. Negotiating can tread upon a fine line at times, so if you don’t feel as though you’re quite there yet, you might want to look into taking a course or researching with self-help books.

You’ll Need To Be a Strong Leader

Strong leadership skills are a must when it comes to being a project manager. Your team will look to you for guidance at times, and you’ll need to know how to motivate everyone and keep them progressing further with the project. That includes making everyone involved feel as though they are an important part of the project.

As a leader, you’ll be expected to delegate accordingly and provide constructive feedback to keep everyone working on their professional skills. It’ll be up to you to set goals, analyze performances, and remember to acknowledge both individual and team achievements.

Generally speaking, it’s thought that good leadership skills are best learned directly from good leaders, so perhaps picking up an autobiography from an inspirational figure is a good place to start. That being said, every leader develops their own leadership style, so give yourself the freedom to play around with different styles.

Brush Up On Your Technical Skills

Aside from the soft skills, you’ll need to have the hard skills, AKA technical expertise, to have a good understanding of where your project is and where it’s heading. After all, you won’t be able to communicate effectively to team members and stakeholders alike if you don’t understand the details.

Having adequate technical knowledge will also allow you to better understand what issues may arise and, therefore, how to avoid them early on. That means not only will you need to know the technical jargon, but you should also familiarize yourself with the technical software that others are using.

Aside from brushing up on your technical skills, whether that’s through a course or through online research, you may find that project management software will help keep everything organized. Programs such as Google Docs, Microsoft Project, and Jira may prove to be best for your project management needs.

Problem-Solving and Risk Management Will Come Into Play

A project manager needs to be adept at identifying potential risks before they end up impacting project goals. That means identifying weak spots and putting a plan in place to make up for them to minimize the chances of your project going south.

But when problems do occur, you’ll need to develop actionable items for getting the project back on track. Problem-solving skills are an essential part of the job, so things keep moving forward when things don’t go according to plan.

Becoming a good problem solver takes experience, motivation, planning, and critical thinking, all of which can be developed at work or with some form of training. If you feel as though you may be lacking in this particular skill set, it may be in your best interest to seek out a training program.

Regardless of your background, education, and experience, a project manager needs to have the aforementioned soft skills in order to succeed at the job. Whether a PM works for a massive corporation or an up-and-coming B2B, these essential skills are needed to see any project through. But all is not lost for those who may be lacking in a particular skill set, as there are ways to develop these qualities before landing a project management position.