The 5 Soft Skills You Need to Upgrade Your Career
More than three-quarters of employers value soft skills as highly as hard technical expertise, so why aren’t they of equal priority? This article demonstrates how to develop an enviable set of soft skills that will land you that new job or coveted promotion.
From the age of 16 or onwards, the majority of us will have engaged in some form of employment or another, and from the age of 18, the majority of us have been clocking up to 35 hours a week. With estimates showing that by retirement age we would have spent an average of 99,117 hours working, it makes sense that we should be working hard for a career that both excites and compels us.
It’s natural that as soon as we get on the career ladder, we want to start climbing up the rungs. Developing a strong and varied skill set is naturally the route most of us take to do so. Whilst learning technical expertise on the job plays an important role, often forgotten soft skills have been found to be equally as valued by the majority of employers. A recent survey by the CareerBuilder website found that 77% of employers actively seek out soft skills in potential candidates, and regard them as highly as hard technical skills.
Interpersonal skills, greater communication and time management are great utilitarian skills that are applicable to a multitude of job roles, and perhaps unsurprisingly, they are essential skills for project management. Project management, although a discipline in it’s own right, is a combination of core competencies that span across roles in all industries. Even at it’s most specific project management itself is a practice that can lend itself to any job, as we all effectively manage small ‘projects’ within our daily responsibilities.
How to Improve Your Career with 5 Key Project Management Skills
If we want to learn the key skills to project management success, we need to start by dissecting the processes project managers incorporate in their everyday practices. We’ve looked at popular project management methodologies like Agile or PRINCE2 and how they work, in order to develop these actionable methods to gain core soft skills and upgrade your career.
Develop Better Communication Skills
Communication is an essential part of every aspect of life, but especially when managing a project team. To be able to coordinate the project between disparate project groups, regularly update stakeholders and project sponsors, and ultimately, lead a unified team through to project success; a project manager needs to be an expert communicator, with the abilities to both listen and articulate.
Obviously, being able to effectively communicate isn’t a core skill solely relegated to project management. By emulating the communication procedures outlined within project management methodologies, primarily, to implement a structure wherein you systematically update relevant parties, and regularly create and disseminate clear and honest progress reports, you can prove yourself invaluable to management, and your team.
Develop Leadership Skills
Leadership strategies may differ across industries, projects and personalities, but every good project manager knows that to be a great leader you need to take note of a few universal truths. Whilst leadership effectively employs a number of qualities - including, the ability to communicate the project vision, resolve conflict, set goals and evaluate performance - one of the most important aspects is empathy, specifically the ability to listen to, involve and motivate a team.
Leadership is less about you as an individual and more about how you affect the people around you, and even if you aren’t necessarily in a leadership position, you can still present yourself with the relevant qualities, taking initiative in helping drive any task forward, catching the eyes of the people you want to impress.
Develop Strategic Planning Skills
Proper planning is at the core of great project management. Developing and monitoring plans is critical to making sure that we hit the right targets at the right times, and maintain our budget and timelines, ensuring each project comes in within the deadline and inside of its original specifications. A project without a project plan would quickly descend into chaos.
Employing the strategies utilised by project managers to ensure that their projects are planned in advance and to the extent limited foresight can allow, will grant you much more control over the state of your workflow, as well as a greater ability to assess how much you can prioritise, or dedicate appropriate time to, each task - essential for always turning in quality work.
Develop Time Management Skills
Much like proper planning, time management is one of those skills that is necessary to a great work process, it often becomes less of a priority. Within projects, there are often a multitude of tasks to be completed, each with different life spans, as well as an overarching deadline to compete with, so time is always of the essence.
Effective time management functions on the ability to prioritise and make tough critical thinking decisions. Following the strategies set out in certain project management methodologies - essentially, the formal set structures of processes and procedures used by project managers to successfully complete a project - can greatly improve the way you utilise time, enabling you to do better work, in shorter timeframes.
Become Results Driven
As a project manager, one of the multiple ways to continually measure your project's progression is how and when your team is meeting pre-set goals and objectives. Maintaining the pace and success of the project is all about driving your team and yourself towards quantifiable results; continually reviewing and assessing the performance in each task and measuring the success of each objective, to improve upon the overall performance for future iterations.
The ability to project performance forwards, analyse execution and assess potential vulnerabilities or strengths, is a valuable asset in any industry.
By incorporating these key project management skills into your existing role, you can vastly improve your performance, success rate and capabilities, transforming you into a highly valued employee, and a real job market competitor.
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David Baker has worked within the training industry for many years with Prince 2 Training. Working on courses such as PRINCE2, ITIL, PMP, Agile, Scrum, Lean Six Sigma. Prince 2 Training deliver world-class accredited training solutions to thousands of organisations...