A Project Manager’s Day in the Life: Balancing Hard and Soft Skills

If you’re thinking about a career in Project Management (or any other field), it’s important to understand not only what it takes to gain credibility in the field, but also what a typical job in that field looks like. Otherwise, you may find yourself months into a new job that required a significant time and financial investment only to decide that it is not for you.

So, what does a project manager do on a daily basis? Is it in charge of meetings? Are you reviewing the project plan, budget, schedule, and project status? Or how about managing the core team, the customer, and other key stakeholders?

To be honest, a project manager does all of these things on a daily basis. Project management is the collection of skills, tools, and knowledge required to facilitate and lead a project team in order to ensure that the project is effectively planned and executed in order to meet the deliverables.

Communication Is More Than Delegation

When I first started my engineering career many years ago, I assumed that a project manager only told people what work needed to be done and made reports for upper management. However, after working on project teams, leading project teams, and earning my PMP® certification, it is clear that a project manager must have a diverse set of skills and characteristics. When most people think of a project manager, they assume that he or she only needs technical skills to be successful in a project environment.

However, an effective project manager must be able to do much more than just manage the technical aspects of the project. They also require soft skills (also known as people skills).

When I was in training many years ago, I learned that a project manager should spend 90% of their time on the people side of the project equation and 10% on the technical side. I agree that this is a completely true statement after managing so many projects during my tenure.

Organizing a Workday

On an average day (based on my own and my peers’ experiences), a project manager spends a significant amount of time managing the expectations and needs of the customer, stakeholders, sponsor/champion, and core team. Each of these parties has different expectations, which are constantly changing as the project progresses. In some cases, a project manager must handle conflict among team members in order to effectively resolve the conflict; in others, he or she must spend time reporting out (aka making a presentation or reporting on the status of the project) to the customer or project sponsor.

Do you want to learn how to gain credibility in project management and balance hard and soft skills? To learn more, take a look at a typical day in the life of a Project Manager.

They must rely on communication in each of these situations. My communication style and approach vary depending on the stakeholder and the message that I am attempting to convey, but every project manager must communicate with a variety of parties on a daily basis. The message could be about risks, project status, or resource issues, but a project manager must communicate in some capacity in order to effectively manage the day-to-day work of a project. It could be formal communication, like reports or presentations, or informal communication, like phone calls or emails. If you look at a project management certification training syllabus, you will almost certainly notice that communication is a major focus—and now you know why.

Earning project management certification is beneficial in learning different communication styles and how to effectively manage stakeholders across a project environment. Communication is an essential component of the PMBOK® Guide and the skills that every project manager must possess, so its importance cannot be overstated.

Certification also aids in the teaching of critical technical skills required for a project manager to be effective in a project environment, such as the tools and methods for managing project cost, schedule, risk, and quality.

Certification is important because it allows a project manager to learn the necessary soft skills as well as critical technical skills, but one of the most important aspects that helps a project manager manage the day-to-day work of a project is experience. A project manager learns through experience that one size does not fit all when it comes to communication and leadership styles; a project manager must be able to adjust their style based on the changing needs and status of the project.

Both certification and experience are important pieces of the puzzle because they serve different functions. The PMP certification equips project managers with the tools, theories, and concepts they need to excel at both soft and technical skills. However, experience is required to gain the opportunity to apply the concepts and tools, thereby transforming theory into practice. Of course, for new students, this frequently brings up the chicken-and-egg scenario. How does one gain experience if they do not have a job? That is why courses such as SPOTO Learning’s Project Management certification training provide real-world projects that address issues such as scope, time and cost, and risk assessment.

So, if you’re someone who can communicate effectively, pivot at the drop of a hat, and roll with the punches, you might want to consider a career in project management! It’s a promising career with a bright future.

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