Project management skills companies are looking for?

by Moira Alexander
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By 2020, it is estimated there will seven hundred thousand more project management jobs in the United States, yet it may be surprising to know that over the past few years, many employers have had difficulties finding project managers (PM) with the right skills. As a project manager, do you have the project management skills employers will be looking for?

When you think of project managers, what skills come to mind?

Many people may be tempted to list attributes like good organizational skills, effective time management, or a host of technical project-management skills, but are these the attributes employers will be looking for? Not all project managers are created equally, and not all project management skills will be valued the same way.

By 2020, it is estimated there will be seven hundred thousand more project management jobs in the United States according to a “Talent Gap” report by the Project Management Institute (PMI). These jobs will primarily be within utilities, construction, information services, oil and gas, finance and insurance, manufacturing, and business services industries.

Do you have what employers are looking for?

A PMI and Anderson Economic Group white paper on Building High-Performing Project Talent shows that over the past few years, 83 percent of employers had minor-to-significant difficulties finding skilled project managers, which led to a decline in quality (31 percent), an inability to innovate effectively (29 percent), and the cancellation or delay of strategic initiatives (27 percent).

So what skills will employers value in the next generation of project managers?

PMI’s white paper highlights the top three next-generation PM skills based on their survey. These skills are technical project management, leadership, and strategic business management.

(Image: Project Management Institute – PMI’s “Building High-Performance Project Talent” Whitepaper, Project Management Institute, Inc., 2013. Copyright and all rights reserved. Material from this publication has been reproduced with the permission of PMI)

Technical project management skills

Among the top three desired skills, technical knowledge rates as a key component that employers require but say are hard to find. As these technical skills are primarily process-based, they are easier to teach than other attributes that some project managers possess.

Leadership abilities

Although technical skills are essential and it is difficult to effectively manage projects without them, there are some soft skills like exceptional leadership abilities that will rank much higher as a priority for employers. In fact, according to PMI, 66 percent of organizations rate leadership skills as the most valuable trait of a successful PM. What makes these skills hard to find is the fact that not all project managers are strong in this area. If you are a project manager with this sought-after ability, you may be in high demand.

Strategic and business management mindset

If you are lucky enough to have exceptional leadership skills and have a solid grasp of how project management can enable business strategy, you may be among a small percentage of project managers whom many employers will seek. Employers rate this as one of the top three next-generation PM skills in PMI’s report.


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