There is no security on this earth, there is only opportunity. –Douglas MacArthur

Here’s the difference between a good project manager and a great project manager: good ones do what their employer needs. Great ones anticipate what their employer needs. Your employability, job security, and earning power can all improve when you take charge of your own learning and skill development.

Here are some ways to gain and keep your professional edge.

We’re always surprised by the number of project managers who don’t have a deep understanding of their employer’s business processes or problems the company is trying to solve. Great project managers enjoy getting out of their office and spending quality time with clients and workers; talking to people is one way of learning what they’re trying to accomplish and what’s standing in their way. Ask what’s keeping them up at night. They’ll tell you what problems, big and small, they deal with every day. If you listen carefully, you’ll start to understand what skills you can acquire to provide solutions.

Your company’s problems and challenges usually represent what’s happening throughout the industry at large. Make it your business to understand trends in the industry. Ask what industry publications and newsletters the leadership team subscribes to and start reading them yourself. When you find an article on an interesting trend, send it up to the leadership team with ideas on how that might impact your company. Their feedback will provide valuable insight.

Once you understand what the company’s priorities are, you can think about the skills or certifications you’ll need to solve them. Whether it’s getting better with emotional intelligence, gaining software or technical skills, or specific certifications, you can develop a plan for your own professional development. Planning ahead means you’ll have what you need when you need it, rather than scrambling to learn what you need in the middle of a project.

Here’s another way to differentiate yourself within your company or your industry: find a niche. Specialization makes you more valuable in the market, and it’s one way to get noticed as a junior project manager who doesn’t have the experience to compete with more seasoned professionals.

Mastering soft skills is another way to stand out. The Project Management Institute’s Talent Triangle framework is a great place to start. PMI® research says technical skills, while important, are not enough in today’s increasingly complex and competitive global marketplace. The PMI Talent Triangle® consists of technical, strategic and business management, and leadership skills. This framework helps project managers build critical professional relationship skills for effective interactions with project sponsors, customers, and clients.

A Chinese proverb says, “Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere.” Becoming a triple threat increases your value both inside your company and in the future if you decide to transition to a new opportunity or independent consulting.

Writing for CIO online, Moira Alexander says, “Project managers who can offer higher-level strategic leadership skills, not just technical management skills, provide significant advantages for organizations of all sizes.”

Great project managers are proactive and prepared. Showing your employer that you care about your professional development is a way to show your commitment to both your company and your craft.

Prodevia Learning

About Prodevia Learning:

Since 2003, Prodevia Learning has provided effective PMI PDU online courses that are PMI-approved for PDU credit at a fraction of the cost of instructor-led online training and project management conferences. The on-demand, self-paced online courses are based on titles from best-selling authors and recognized industry experts. There is unlimited instructor support and there are never deadlines for course completion. These unique PDU online courses are designed to help experienced and competent project managers grow into exceptional project managers respected by their peers.