Most top companies want techies. But they’ll need good project managers, too.

Getty/Cecilie Arcurs

Change is inevitable. You can try to fight it, but you won’t win.

The smart thing to do is to monitor the latest trends and look for opportunities that fit your skill set. This will allow you to ride the wave of change to new career heights.

Case in point, LinkedIn released its 2017 list of the top 50 companies to work for. A slew of articles quickly followed, but one really caught my attention: this article talked about the skills hiring managers at these companies look for in job candidates.

Here is a graphic from the article that shows the most sought-after skills by industry:

Interestingly enough, most of the skills focus on technical areas such as web programming, software engineering, Java development, cloud computing, statistical analysis and data mining. The article goes on to state -

“While the ability to lead, collaborate and communicate are still critical to landing a job, it’s having experience in the latest technical skills that will get hiring managers at the top companies clamoring for your attention.”

Ouch.

If you didn’t know any better, you’d swear storm clouds were going to rain down on non-technical professionals’ careers. The message seemed clear. Non-techies need not apply.

Wow, this was interesting. This is great for students who have recently graduated and for those who have the technical skills. For individuals who have completed a degree 10 years ago, and looking for a new career or job will certainty lack these skills. The older and more experience worker is now challenge to gain these skills. What happen to companies providing training to workers to learn these skills? I would love to gain experience in information technology within the banking industry. Now I need to consider getting another degree?”

As I read through the comments section, I could practically hear people crying out from the page. One commenter contemplated going back to school for another degree -

Very interesting insight. Almost makes me feel like my marketing degree is useless due to all the need for engineers and technical writers.”

While another commenter went as far as to question their professional relevancy -

So, is there really no hope for non-techies?

While it would be foolish to deny the benefits of having hard skills, we should not bastardize our soft skills in the process. They are two peas in the same pod.

There is a ray of sunshine that breaks through the storm clouds. If you look closely, one of the skills is ‘softer’ than most of the others and is listed across five industries.

Do you see it?

I’m referring to project management. It’s the glue that binds many of the other technical skills and professions.

Almost every industry, and business, needs good project management. Without it, things would eventually careen out of control, especially as the organization grows.

Most of us don’t start our careers in project management though. We transition into it over time.

Project management is more than just a nice-to-have skill or even a profession. It is a way of thinking. Or, better yet, a structured approach to preventing and solving problems.

So, if you’re a non-techie (or techie) who desires to become a card-carrying member of the project management community listen close because the following advice is tailored for you.

Begin by taking an inventory of your skills and strengths, along with assignments you’ve excelled at in the past. Ask yourself -

“What previous experiences (work and volunteer) can I use to jump-start my project management career?”

For example, if you have an accounting background and you really enjoyed working on process improvement audits, you could carve out the project management aspects of these assignments. Adhering to the budgetary constraints of the project is a pillar of sound project management. You can highlight this experience when you apply for formal project management positions.

Don’t be overly concerned with mastering the hard skills and technical jargon at first. This will come with time.

Think about it like this. Have you ever flown on a plane?

If you’re like me, I imagine you prefer your pilot spend their time flying the plane rather than serving drinks or critiquing meal delivery. Similarly speaking, as a newly minted project manager, you should focus on keeping your project on track (aka flying the plane).

Avoid getting drawn into serving drinks on your proverbial plane. This is particularly true as you take on larger, more complex projects.

Staying relevant in an increasingly technical world requires agility. Start honing these three project management traits today:

If You Can’t Beat Them — Champion Their Cause

Everyone doesn’t think the same way. What can you do if your mind isn’t wired for 0’s and 1’s or bits and bytes?

Let me tell you a personal story.

Earlier in my career, I was tasked with managing the decommissioning of an existing system and the creation, as well as implementation, of a new Access database that would act as a subledger. In my excitement to get started, I asked my manager who would be assigned to help me develop the database.

She handed me an SQL for Dummies book and said have at it.

Houston, we have a problem.

Whoa…

I had absolutely no coding experience. When I say no experience, I mean none. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

Literally, the next six-months of my life were spent painstakingly teaching myself how to design and program the database, so it would act as a reliable subledger. I was overjoyed once I successfully implemented it, but I knew that was the beginning of the end of my short programming career.

You might have better technical chops than me. More power to you if you do.

As I stated earlier, if your mind isn’t wired for 0’s and 1’s, you’ll struggle through something that a tech brainiac could probably knock out while binge watching episodes of Silicon Valley. In summary, your strengths may lie elsewhere.

“Instead of trying to be the rock star, why don’t you help the rock stars perform better?”

All techies have something in common. They need good management. This includes project management.

Even the best athletes and entertainers need guidance. In fact, if it weren’t for the managers, coaches, and trainers in their lives, they wouldn’t reach their full potential.

Don’t Just Think Outside of the Box…Discard It All Together

“Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.” ~ Bruce Lee

As I talked about in a previous article, there is a flight to safety in the project management profession. If you’re a newbie in the field, this means you have to bring something to the table that the people who are heading for the hills don’t have.

You need a fresh perspective to solving existing and future problems. In fact, you should consider building your job marketing campaign on this very premise.

Organizations bring in outside parties all of the time. How else would companies such as Deloitte and PWC continue to thrive?

The difference between you and them is you’re a one-person problem-solving machine. You’re an outsider who can ask questions everyone else takes for granted. This could enable you to ferret out problems no one else even thought about.

You can ask -

“Why are we doing it this way instead of that way?”

Sometimes asking ‘dumb’ questions about how things are currently being done can actually lead to ‘smart’ ways of solving problems.

Bring Order to Chaos

As organizations grow, they eventually hit a wall. It’s usually at the point when the leader becomes the bottleneck.

This can happen in any size entity including private companies to departments inside government agencies and even entire divisions of large corporations. These organizations erode into disorganization and utter chaos.

The silver lining is these organizations need people like you and me. All you have to do is dawn your superhero cape and swoop in to save the day.

Ok, maybe that was a bit melodramatic, but you get my point.

Sounds great. So, how do you do this?

You have to gain an understanding of the big picture and make sure everyone is on the same page, especially key stakeholders. One way to do this is to have them individually and collectively visualize what success looks like. This may require you to tap into your interpersonal skills, so you can read between the lines and figure out what they really want.

Things aren’t always communicated in black and white. There are fine shades of gray you need to take into account. You’re going to have to put on your Columbo investigative hat and get comfortable asking more of those ‘dumb’ questions we talked about earlier.

If you’re planning with your team, you can take this a step further by asking them to detail how they will achieve their individual goals. The more complex the situation and longer the project duration, the more crucial this practice becomes.

Final Thoughts:

Are you someone who thinks logically, formulates plans, communicates well, and knows how to get people to work towards a common goal? If so, you might do well as well as a project manager.

You’ll hit some bumps in the road, but don’t worry; you’ll learn how to adjust to the flow. The key is to not overthink things.

Even if you’re more technically oriented, you don’t want to become too dependent on your hard skills. Be sure to take time to develop the soft skills needed to unlock your full potential.

You never know. One day, you might get tapped for a project management position.

About Oliver Yarbrough, PMP®

Oliver is a LinkedIn® Learning Author, speaker, trainer, and leading expert in project management, PMP® Exam Prep, and growth strategies to raise competitiveness. You can follow his musings at OliverYarbrough.com and on Twitter @OliverYarbrough.

You can get a 10-day free trial to the Lynda.com (a LinkedIn® company) learning platform. It will give you access to an entire library of courses including my course on Project Management: Government Projects.

Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com on May 25, 2017.