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soft skills

How soft skills can help future proof your career

Transformative changes are happening in our society, climate, economics and technology; and they are set to have a revolutionary impact on the project professional’s job role. Project management is a critical business discipline, and that’s not about to change. However, the demands of the job role are set to change.

We are seeing rapid change in society, with urbanisation, smart cities and today’s children predicted to live beyond 100. Globally, we face the challenge of climate change, and we are in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution.

This era is reshaping not only how we live, but how we do business. We are continually having to re-skill in a world where a level of technological understanding is vital. But beyond hard skills development, what more can we do to future-proof our careers in the project profession?

The seismic shift to soft skills

Project management needs to go beyond the technical abilities demanded in the profession. In recent years, there has been the realisation that soft skills can support the competencies of traditional project management. But, as projects of the future are predicted to have more ambition than ever, and be on larger scales too, soft skills are set to take a leading role. Here’s how:

Flexibility and adaptability

It is said that with change comes opportunity. The ability to respond and adapt is set to be more important than ever in an ever-changing and uncertain climate. Possessing the ability to be flexible with agile practices and less rigidity in projects is essential.

The future of project management is going to see a focus on not just being adaptable and flexible, but how you adapt and react. You have the opportunity to up your game by continually questioning, probing if you will, in order to achieve creative and innovative solutions, and make continual improvements throughout a project.

Problem solving and critical thinking

There is an emergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies automating project management tasks such as scheduling. AI now even has the ability of using hard data for a level of risk management too. The limitation (at present) of AI tech for projects is problem solving and critical thinking. Essentially the ‘human aspects’ of projects. As tasks shift to being automated by technology, there is going to be more emphasis on the human role. How you step up to challenges as a project manager, and what solutions you offer to problems that arise, will be vital to project success and your career success.

Communication and leadership

The projectication of work in the future will mean greater involvement from all parties. Professionals from all areas of a business are spending time on projects. In his 2019 book, The Project Revolution, Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez, director of the programme management office at GlaxoSmithKline, predicts that senior business leaders will typically spend 60 per cent of their time on projects.

Growing engagement from business leaders and stakeholders throughout a project, not just at the start, means strength in leadership and communication is paramount. In their recent guide, Projecting the Future, APM discuss how businesses are transforming. They are reshaping their strategies, cultures and visions, and acquisitions and mergers are common too. Increasingly you will need to recognise the value of stakeholder relationships, and the power of projects to improve these relationships. Strengthen your negotiation and collaboration skills now as you may find yourself having to mediate, or even manage conflict in the near future in order to achieve the best outcomes.

Wrapping up

The era of technology, along with societal, economic and environmental changes, is revolutionising our careers, especially in project management. It was once a job role that centered on organisation skills, scheduling and planning, but has now evolved into much more than that. Leadership and communication, innovative problem solving and strength in adaptability are now very important soft skills for a project manager to adopt. Failure to brush up on such soft skills results in the risk of being left behind.