Don't be afraid to shout about what you do

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Daunting as the prospect might seem, often the only way to gain recognition for your professional achievements is to put your head above the parapet and tell everyone how great you really are.

We’ve all heard of the phrase, ‘You’ve got to be in it to win it’. And while there are a few awards around that are bestowed upon those whose successes are so significant they don’t even have to enter an awards programme – such as the recipients of APM’s own Sir Monty Finniston lifetime achievement award – the reality is that most of us are unlikely to ever get our accomplishments acknowledged unless we actually choose to put our heads above the parapet.

I know. Scary, isn’t it? The truth is, there is something daunting about putting your hand up and saying, “Hey, I did something great.” And there is something even more daunting about putting your hand up and saying “Hey, I did something great!” when you know that you are up against an impressive array of your peers, whom you both admire and emulate.

More daunting even than this can be the prospect of the judges sitting around a table, scrutinising your laborious entry carefully, shaking their heads, and then awarding the prize to someone else.

There’s no getting around it – not winning is not a nice feeling. But, as teachers at school often say, that is not a good enough reason for not taking part. If you don’t try, you will never know for sure if you could have won.

Key to success
Of course, you will be able to think up lots of reasons why you shouldn’t bother to enter an awards programme. It takes a lot of time to write up compelling cases for your entry, compile vital data, and get sign-off from key people around the business.

You will find yourself labouring over each line in the submission, debating the most important aspects of your entry with colleagues, and agonising over your grammar – is it more appropriate to use ‘which’ or ‘that’ in this instance? Have you emphasised all your points clearly enough? Will you get points deducted for going over the word limit? And, all the time, there will be a little nagging voice at the back of your head, saying: “I don’t know why I’m doing all this anyway. We’re never going to win.”

Well, one thing’s for sure. If you don’t enter, you won’t win. But if you do enter, then you have just as good a chance of winning as the next person, provided that you argue your case clearly enough. And this should be something that comes naturally to project managers; after all, in order to be successful in their work, they need to be able to argue a case. Yet, when it comes to beating their chests about their own achievements, they can suddenly turn very shy.

The fact that project professionals are a key element – if not the key element – in any project is obvious. But they often have a tendency to see their job as oiling the wheels or being the link in the chain, rather than the starring role.

They are the people who keep all the technical geniuses in line and get all the different functions within the project team talking to each other again after hostilities have broken out. Project professionals are the heroes, but at the same time, they are not the heroes in their own minds.

Grit and determination
Project managers should never play down their own talents and abilities.

Being able to co-ordinate the efforts of others and to harness the talent of various groups of people so that they come together for the greater good – irrespective of differences in opinion and perspective – is a tremendous talent in its own right. As is the ability to plan and to see out a project to the bitter end – no matter how fractious things get in the meantime.

There is a lot to be said for the qualities of grit and determination. Project professionals are the driving force behind some of humankind’s most impressive achievements and they should never forget this.

APM is deeply committed to promoting the accomplishments of project managers and the contributions they make to the businesses and communities where they work. It is for this reason that it holds its annual awards ceremony, which recognises projects, project management companies and individual project professionals, as well as academic achievements.

Over the years, APM has recognised the efforts of project professionals working for a wide range of organisations. There is no fixed specification for the type of person or project who wins an award. And APM is proud to recognise the efforts of young project professionals as well as projects that have a social or safety focus and those that are based overseas. The world is a diverse place and the world of project management is just as diverse.

If you are dedicated to a career in project management, then having an APM award under your belt is a tremendous achievement that will bode well for the future. There are few things more satisfying in life than beating off the competition to gain recognition from your professional peers. It will take you right back to being in your school’s football or netball team when they won the local league.

But to go back to the point I made at the start, you need to be in it to win it.

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Posted by Sally Percy on 30th Apr 2015

About the Author
Sally Percy is a business journalist and the editor of Project magazine, the official magazine of the Association for Project Management and the 'voice of project management'. Sally has written for a broad range of business and financial titles and has also made radio appearances.

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