For much of the past decade, the labor market was as tight as it’s ever been. That meant job-seekers had the power to pick and choose the jobs they wanted and that competition from other candidates was minimal. Now, the sudden disruption wrought by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has turned the situation on its head. All of the sudden, high unemployment has put job-seekers at an enormous disadvantage.
As a result, it’s more important than ever before that job-seekers take the time to build up the right kind of skills to make their resume stand out from the crowd. And it’s also the perfect time to do it. With online education options at an all-time high, you can learn virtually any skill without stepping foot inside a classroom.
The trouble is, the skills that are in the highest demand aren’t always obvious to most job-seekers. But the good news is that there is one all-important type of skill that’s both in-demand and broadly applicable to all career types: project management. And savvy job-seekers who acquire these skills can turn them into their secret career-building superpowers.
Here’s a guide on what project management skills are and an overview of three of the most widely-used project management methodologies in use today.
What Is Project Management, and What Skills Are Involved?
Put simply, project management is the process of applying specific knowledge, tools, and techniques to keep a team moving forward to accomplish a given goal. It’s something of a catch-all term that includes specific skills like:
- Timeline Development
- Budget Creation, Allocation, and Management
- Task Delegation
- Risk Management
With the right mix of such skills in their arsenal, a job-seeker can demonstrate to a prospective employer that they have what it takes to be an asset in a results-driven environment. In other words, it lets employers know that you can get things done and lead a team to do it.
It should be obvious why having project management skills can be such an asset when you’re job-hunting. They aren’t as common as you might imagine. So, when you apply for a role that’s already competitive—like that of an IT manager or a data scientist—you’ll have a distinct advantage over the competition. And if you’re aiming for a role in a booming field like community services, project management skills will help you climb the ladder into a management role in no time.
The Three Most-Used Project Management Methodologies
To get started adding project management skills to your toolkit, you first have to decide on which methodology to study. Today, there are a variety of them out there, and each has its strengths and weaknesses. Here are three of the most-used project methodologies today.
1. Waterfall Project Management
First developed in 1970 by Winston W. Royce as a way to streamline the software development process, the waterfall methodology divides a project into six distinct phases. They are:
Using the waterfall method, each phase must be completed before moving on to the next. It’s ideal for things like software development because it prevents the chaos that comes from making late additions or subtractions from a project’s goals. It’s simple, straightforward, and easy to apply to a variety of project types.
There are some disadvantages, though. One is that managing a project in this way relies heavily on knowing and understanding all requirements upfront. If it’s used on a project that requires flexibility, you might have to throw out your work and start from the beginning. For that reason, it’s best suited for short, simple projects or in situations where it’s possible to reach broad consensus on project specifics.
2. Agile Project Management
As the name suggests, the agile project management methodology is meant to be as flexible as possible. Developed in 2001 as an answer to the shortcomings of the waterfall method, which often failed when applied to complex projects. For that reason, it takes the opposite approach to project management. That is, instead of relying on a detailed up-front understanding of requirements, the agile methodology aims for a short, iterative approach.
For that reason, the agile methodology is ideal for projects that require maximum flexibility. It is a process that welcomes change and aims for fast turnaround followed by revisions to whatever work is being done. That means it carries far less risk of project failure since it’s possible to adjust course at any point in the project’s progression.
The downside is that using the agile methodology means maintaining a high-level of collaboration, communication, and teamwork at all times. That’s not always easy, particularly when a project requires input from a large group of stakeholders. Also, with no set plan, managing budgets and scheduling are a constant source of potential trouble. So, if you excel at communication and working with others, and your project requires plenty of changes on-the-fly, the agile methodology is a good fit.
3. Kanban Project Management
If the waterfall method and the agile method stand as two opposite ends of the project management spectrum, it’s fair to say that the Kanban method occupies the middle ground. Developed in the early 1940s by Toyota engineer Taiichi Ohno, it is one of the most popular and enduring project management methodologies in the world today. The main idea is brilliant in its simplicity. The method seeks to control the workflow of a project using simple visualization techniques.
In most cases, a workflow under the Kanban method is divided into three categories:
The idea is to control how much work ends up in the ‘doing’ category by setting limits on how many things a team member can take on at once. Afterward, the method calls for an evolutionary approach to fine-tune those limits for maximum work output with a minimal delay or failure rate.
The high degree of visibility involved in the Kanban methodology makes it well suited to managing any kind of work where predictable output is critical. That means things like maintenance or ongoing product updates are a perfect fit. The name of the game is stability, though, so Kanban doesn’t work well when applied to teams that have a revolving door of members.
The Bottom Line
So, the takeaway here is simple. If you’re looking for a new job, or even if you’re just looking for a way to accelerate your career, learning project management skills is a must. They’re among the most in-demand skills in the job market today, and they apply to every industry imaginable.
Plus, they’re not that common in the labor pool. Thus, they provide a huge advantage to anyone who possesses them. So, don’t wait to start your journey to acquire the tools of a project manager today. Both you—and the employers lucky enough to have you on their team—will be glad you did.