Project managers need to be constantly adding new skills to their toolboxes. Because the marketplace for products and services changes and advances quickly, customers will expect new options all the time. Companies must follow suit and provide what the market wants, which means they’ll need to innovate and develop competition-beating commodities.
Interested in becoming a project manager? Already are a project manager looking to add technical skills and sharpen your project planning abilities? In this guide, we’ll explore the ins and outs of the role, including the ten qualifications you’ll need as a project manager in 2022.
What does a project manager do?
This is one of the rare job titles that’s a fair description of the job itself. Being a project manager literally means managing projects — to see them from conception to completion with hands-on work and team leadership.
It’s a little like being an orchestra conductor. The plan for a new product or service in development is like sheet music, and it’s your job to ensure that what comes out, in the end, is pleasing to your paying customers.
What are the top qualifications required to become a project manager?
While it’s not necessary to complete any specific schooling or hold certifications to become a project manager, these things can make it easier to find success in the role.
Some companies will have prerequisites for experience and training. With that being said, project manager qualifications don’t just come from textbooks. Companies are looking for proven skillsets and abilities, such as leadership skills, creative thinking, and delivering under pressure.
Remember that certifications and training do demonstrate that a project manager or prospective project manager took time, effort, and money to learn best practices and refine their skills.
While companies want people with the right temperament, certifications can suggest that candidates will be well suited for the job.
While one can earn degrees and display documents demonstrating completion of a course, these skills are the foundation of what courses teach and what companies expect.
If you want a career in project management, you’ll need:
Project management (and self-management) skills
It may seem obvious that project managers would have to have project management skills, but self-management is just as important.
If someone describes themselves as “a doer,” that may mean they’re not comfortable with directing team members to perform necessary tasks. Being able to step in or out of the project in a hands-on way and demonstrate self-care by working reasonable hours and maintaining health shows that an individual won’t get burned out.
Strong leadership skills
Getting the best out of a team of people is an entire skill set in and of itself. Being a leader is a delicate balancing act. Some managers err toward being a tyrant on one end and an enabler on the other.
A great project manager needs to be able to get the best out of their team and make each team member feel like they have value and can contribute in a meaningful way with their talents.
Ability to monitor and control budgets
In a perfect world, every project would have unlimited resources and unlimited time. Businesses, however, expect that projects won’t bankrupt them — they need strict controls on spending.
Being able to stay within a budget demonstrates that a project manager can be responsible with the resources at hand, not overspending on parts or labor that are unnecessary or wasteful.
Regardless of whether a project manager uses agile or waterfall style management, they need to be able to make course corrections and recognize when something isn’t working.
Critical thinking skills demonstrate that a project manager is so familiar with the processes and parts of a project that they can use that knowledge to see areas of improvement and adapt accordingly.
Good communication and negotiation skills
No project manager works in a vacuum — they will have to work with a team of people and reach out to vendors and clients. Being able to share ideas and make abstract concepts more concrete and easy to understand is invaluable.
Solid negotiation skills also display an even temperament and quick thinking that will aid in employee relationships and help to get the best prices from vendors for the project.
Ability to make decisions under pressure
Because unexpected events happen, deadlines will approach, and problems will arise, the stress on a project manager can be immense. If an individual can quickly determine the best way to head off or react to these problems, they’ll have an excellent chance at project success.
The project may go smoothly, but project managers need to be prepared for things to get a little hectic along the way.
Strong business acumen
Project managers aren’t just getting directions from corporate headquarters — they need to have a strong grasp on standard business practices. The project they’re working on should be filling a hole in the marketplace, so if they’re not savvy about the business landscape or don’t know how the product should be advertised, they’ll end up with an inferior product or service that will cost the company money.
Ability to interpret instructions, regardless of their form
This goes along with the critical thinking skills mentioned earlier in the list of project manager qualifications. Because project managers are sometimes creating a product or service that doesn’t exist yet, they’ll be working with many disparate parts.
Whether you are listening to customer feedback, corporate directives, or trying to get parts from different manufacturers to work with each other, you must be good at deciphering instructions or asking questions, especially when directions aren’t clear.
Strong organizational and multitasking skills
Projects have many moving parts to keep track of. Due to the nature of deadlines, many parts of a project will have to be worked on at the same time by multiple teams. Ensuring nothing slips through the cracks is the responsibility of the project manager.
Creativity breeds compelling products and services. The project manager may not have come up with the idea for the project, but they need to make sure it will grab consumers’ attention.
Creativity also helps with problem-solving, since the creative mind may see solutions that others would not think of.
While it’s important to have facts and figures on hand, it’s far more important to understand what they mean and how they impact a specific project.
Project managers need to be able to get to the heart of the reason that the product or service should exist, understand the ramifications of customer data, and have the knowledge of where to find that data.
Accuracy and attention to detail
Project managers have to consider every detail of a product or service because one missing piece can render the entire project a waste. They should pay attention to the details to ensure a seamless experience for the customer.
Excellent time management skills
Just as project managers must stay within budget constraints, they must also adhere to deadlines. The life cycle of a project should have a defined end. Project managers must meet milestones in the project planning and development phases so that the end product can debut in a reasonable timeline.
A great project manager keeps learning. Bolstering your project manager qualifications means getting the education to address weaknesses and improve skills. This gives you an advantage over other candidates or competitors.
There are many types of training out there. These opportunities include:
Formal and informal training
Project management courses and certifications abound, but there are also opportunities to be mentored by good project managers to get hands-on experience.
These opportunities can be formally attained or by simply asking an existing project manager to “show you the ropes” of the process. Informal training can also come from self-guided research and examination.
Sometimes, the best education is to do the work! Entry-level positions such as Junior Project Manager exist specifically to ease people into the position of being a project manager. With hands-on experience, you’ll get the benefit of being involved in a project without being fully responsible for it yet.
Certifications or degrees
Many businesses that are looking to hire someone want to see candidates who have relevant project management experience and training. They may want to see certifications such as Project Management Institute’s (PMI) Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) or Project Management Professional (PMP); Global Association for Quality Management’s (GAQM) Certified Project Director (CPD); or the Asana Project Management Certificate.
With these courses, you’ll learn project management skills and get trained in using project management software, monitoring and controlling teams, project planning, and more.
Asana Project Management Certificate
With the Asana Project Management Certification on Pathstream, you’ll enjoy personalized support with advisors to identify skills you already have and work through a curriculum to strengthen new skills. You’ll also benefit from a career advisor and a connection to job opportunities upon completion of the course.
How long does it take to become a project manager?
There are multiple ways that a person could be hired as a project manager. Sometimes, the process is as quick as onboarding, but in most cases, it comes after years of experience, training, and certifications.
No matter which way you go, achieving a project manager position means having proper project manager qualifications, whether they come from education or the school of hard knocks.
Becoming a project manager
If you’re interested in getting that corner office as a project manager, it will take training and self-improvement. A career as a project manager is a demanding one, but the rewards can be significant. The average project manager salary in the U.S. is over $79,000 per year, and you can also enjoy the satisfaction of leading a team to create something new.
A project manager role may not be easy or quick to achieve, but for those who have a passion for it, it’s well worth the effort.
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