What skills do you need to remain relevant in the coming year?

As we approach the summer period in the northern hemisphere, it’s a time to reflect on the past 6 months and also look at what changes we can make for the remainder of the year to make it a success. At a recent conference I attended I was talking to some Project Managers at lunch and this question was discussed:

“What skills will I need in the coming year to remain relevant and be ‘searchable’ for prospective employers?”

This started quite a discussion and there was a real mix around soft and hard skills, the role of AI, which skills were more important than others? So, I decided based on this to summarise some of the answers and get your feedback to what was important for you? and more importantly: what can you work on in the coming months?

Communication Skills

This was the top skill that everyone agreed on. Being able to talk to your team and your stakeholders is one thing that everyone agreed on. Being understood but also being able to understand what your team/stakeholders need is critical for a successful project.

Within Communication skills was also: Negotiation skills, Conflict Management/resolution as well as looking at Leadership skills. All of these were considered of critical importance for not only being a successful Project Manager but also for leading successful projects in the next year.

When I asked about Negotiation/Conflict Management skills; it appears that with the growth and spread of virtual working that this is coming up as more of a weakness for Project Managers and they are struggling to know to deal with this in a virtual environment. I’ll pick this up in another blog.

Learning how to speak the same language as well as handling Conflict is of critical importance to a Project Manager

Problem Solving Skills

Under this item there was a real split between ability to resolve problems within a project as they arise but also handling and managing issues/problems that arise as a result of technology. One very clear quote during this session was: “You can communicate as well as you want…but if you can’t resolve the issues around technology, you will fail anyway”

As we continued the discussion on problem solving; I asked the group what they did to improve their Problem Solving skills and the following ideas were given:

  • Hypothetical analysis of issues from their and others projects
  • Playing Games like: Sudoko, Crossword puzzles
  • Coaching to learn from their peers

Change Management

Being an effective Change Leader is extremely important and the current indicators of all projects shows that they are becoming more complex, more time critical and there is a real need to keep on top of Change Management and everything that encompasses it (effective communication with teams/stakeholders, strategic implementation etc).

Change Management to me is not just managing change as it happens within your project but leading your team on a journey through the project where change is accepted, understood and not feared.

Understanding/comprehension of new methodologies:

One of the people sitting at the lunch table said the following: “My biggest fear in the coming year is that I only know traditional waterfall methologies. My company isnt in a position where agile projects are possible and the term “hybrid” for me is a type of car! I’m really worried about being left behind”.

This started a really interesting discussion about what you can do if you company doesn’t support other methodologies or what to do if you’re wanting to learn more. The following came up as suggestions:

  • Personal led trainings: Go on courses by yourself or read books/articles that might give you the knowledge you need. You can always sell this to your company that you’re looking for ways to improve the current working processes and see where efficiencies could be made.
  • Webinars: Projectmanagement.com is just one great source of different, high quality webinars where you can find out more information about a specific methodology. If you want to learn more about agile, then the agilealliance would also be a great source of information.

Learning about new methodologies isn’t just about being versatile enough for recruiters. It can be a great tool to critically look at your current ways of working and seeing where you could improve.

Being an Influencer

This one isn’t about Instagram! It’s about being known within your company/ peers as someone that has the knowledge, expertise and skill to be able to guide others and know what they are talking about!

Within my company, I have several ‘influencers’ that I look up to and will go to if I need advice. Similarly, people also approach me for the same advice! Within my wider network, I like to do my research online: Look on LinkedIn for great articles, search on Twitter for some great collections of knowledge and also search online for great blogs on topics that interest me. All of these ways, give me people that inspire me but also give me a lot of knowledge for how I can improve myself as a Project Manager and leader.

Public Relations

“Let’s say: Public Relations rather than selling yourself…because it sounds better!” -> Rene.

When this topic came up, there was a big discussion about whether this should come under: Change Management or Communications as using your skills of selling the project/ yourself/team is all part of either strategy that you choose to work on. What became clear is that Public Relations in projects and especially in sensitive projects, is absolutely critical for success.

During a recent retrospective; it became clear just how important it was to ‘sell’ the outcome and status of the project to the stakeholders to be able to convince them that we were on the right path and this was a natural stage that the project needed to go through.


My list of improvements for the next six months are going to be: Improving my knowledge of other methodologies as well as working on my Communication/conflict management skills. What are yours?

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