Four Essential Skills to Future-Proof Your Career

Employers today aren’t interested in one-dimensional employees. They’re looking for people with multiple skills who can deliver extra value in everything they do. In this post, Sierra Hampton-Simmons explains how to future-proof your career by building your skill set to become a triple or quadruple threat.

Written by Sierra Hampton-Simmons • 17 November 2022


Here’s a brain teaser: Try to visualize your skill set. Is it I-shaped or T-shaped?

I-shaped managers have deep expertise in just one domain. T-shaped managers have deep expertise in a single domain too, but they also have experience in related or adjacent domains.

Why does it matter? Quite simply, the future favors T-shaped managers. We’re entering a period of even greater economic and socio-political uncertainty where having multiple skills offers extra security in what is likely to be a much more challenging job market.

We also live in a world of growing skill gaps. McKinsey reports that 87 percent of companies say they currently have skill gaps or expect to have them within a few years. And employers are increasingly assessing candidates based on their skills. According to LinkedIn, there’s been a 21% increase in job postings focused on skills and responsibilities versus qualifications.

And then there are the financial incentives. In virtually all countries polled in PMI’s recent Salary Survey, salaries for project professionals tend to increase as responsibilities grow and as the size of projects increase. The ability to take on more responsibility and manage larger-scale projects is directly related to skill sets.

Given the importance of mastering multiple skills, what skill sets should you cultivate to better future-proof your career?

There are a host of options, of course, ranging from developing skills in functional areas like marketing or finance to acquiring expertise in sensitive fields such as cybersecurity or supply chain. But here are four core skill sets that I think are going to grow in importance in the future and that should be part of any project professional’s toolkit.

Project Management

Let’s begin with the vertical dimension. Whether your skill set is I- or T-shaped, it’s imperative that you have deep expertise in all aspects of project management. After all, PMI’s 2021 Talent Gap report found that the global economy will need 25 million new project professionals by 2030.

The best way to demonstrate proficiency in project management and ensure your place in The Project Economy is by investing in the Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification. The PMP® proves you have proficiency in all major project management methodologies – predictive, agile or a combination of both approaches depending on the situation (often called hybrid) – and it says to the world that you are qualified to spearhead tangible change and drive business results.

Indeed, CIO magazine recently ranked the PMP among the top project management certifications in North America, describing it as “the gold standard” in the industry. And respondents in our salary survey who hold the PMP® certification report higher median salaries than those without a PMP® certification – 16 percent higher on average across the 40 countries surveyed.

Transformation Management

The digital transformation market is expected to reach $1.247 trillion by 2026 – up from $521 billion in 2021 – a compound annual growth rate of nearly 20 percent, according to a report from Research & Markets.

What’s behind this fast-paced growth? As I wrote in a recent blog post, enterprise transformations are no longer one-time events. We’re entering an era where companies are engaged in “multiple, concurrent, technology-powered reinvention initiatives designed to support constant innovation.”

To help project professionals excel in this new environment, PMI has developed the Organizational Transformation® series, micro-credentials that empower you to take a supporting or even leading role in transformation efforts by familiarizing you with the best practices associated with managing and supporting change. This series combines short but effective training with rigorous assessments and offers a badge to help you promote your new skill sets acquired.

With Organizational Transformation, project leaders can simultaneously make themselves more marketable for roles at companies that are planning a transformation or position themselves as agents of change within their existing organization to help support transformation goals that are already in place.

Problem Solving

As the world grows more complex, so too are the projects we manage and the problems we need to solve. Enter PMI Wicked Problem Solving® – a modern operating system for creative collaboration and breaking down and solving problems that resist traditional problem-solving techniques.

Wicked Problem Solving combines design thinking principles with project management techniques to help you increase collaboration, uncover previously unseen opportunities, and encourage teamwide participation and engagement to maximize impact. The key is through visualizing the problem you need to solve, whether through physically writing your ideas down or organizing them via an online whiteboard service like Miro.

By adding Wicked Problem Solving to your professional skill set, you’ll be equipped to facilitate your team to solve tomorrow’s problems before they materialize – or to identify and solve problems you didn’t know you were facing.

Citizen Development

The final skill I recommend cultivating comes out of the citizen development movement – the effort to democratize technology using low-code and no-code platforms. These platforms allow non-technical employees, i.e., those with little or no coding experience, to build and customize apps that solve real business problems without having to rely on overburdened IT departments.

The PMI Citizen Developer suite helps businesses deploy these platforms at scale while mitigating cybersecurity risks by providing IT-approved guidelines and guardrails for their use. That’s increasingly important because Microsoft estimates that 450 million apps will be built between 2020 and 2025 using low-code and no-code platforms.

It’s critical, therefore, that project professionals get behind this movement – both to operate effectively within organizations using low-code and no-code tools and to safely scale those tools themselves, when appropriate. Technology is the future, and project leaders must be able to leverage and customize technology to work smarter and more efficiently.

Focusing on the future – keeping your eye on the skills that are future-oriented and likely to grow in importance – is the best way to future-proof your career. And by taking that next step to get certified, you can leverage your certification or badge to your advantage as you move onward in your career. Not only will these certifications and badges help you promote your newly acquired skill sets and demonstrate your ability to perform and deliver in the workplace, but they will also help set you apart from the competition in a challenging job market.

So, if you’ve already dotted the “i” of your skill set, now is the time to cross the “t” by adding one or more of these capabilities to your toolbelt. 

Sierra Hampton-Simmons headshot

Sierra Hampton-Simmons
Vice President, Products & Certifications | PMI

Sierra Hampton-Simmons joined PMI in the fall of 2013 to manage PMI’s Certification programs and currently serves as the VP, Products. She has over two decades of experience as an expert in digital product development and management with a track record for transforming and developing lucrative brands to include relevant performance-based testing and training. At PMI, Sierra is responsible for the entire portfolio of products including certifications, online learning, and standards and publications. She led innovations that included the evolving the PMP, PMI Study Hall, and the addition of the new Construction Professional in Built Environment Projects (PMI-CP) certification program.

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