At 35 I was a TV reporter. At 36 I had a baby. At 37 I embarked on a brand new career in project management with a project management apprenticeship, all whilst juggling a new family and an often-deployed spouse.
After doing a degree and a masters I was lucky enough to travel the world, first as a radio presenter and then as a TV reporter. A fun job where I got to cover exciting stories but unfortunately not a job that really worked around a baby – think early starts, late nights and very long days. I knew I needed to look for a job that would use my transferable skills such as working well under pressure, the ability to stick to a deadline and stakeholder engagement. I needed a change – but I wondered if it was too late for me to do something else
So what better than the world of project management? I spotted an advert for a project delivery support role at the Ministry of Defence (MOD) with great perks like flexible working and a brilliant pension – and it paid well.
And well, I can tell you it was a grand total of two months before I had the project management bug and knew this was where I wanted my career to be. I loved the excitement (I mean, the ‘civil service’ doesn’t usually drum up excitement but these guys put satellites in to space. It doesn’t get much more exciting than that). I loved the feel-good factor of supporting our armed forces, and it pays well. Childcare costs are notoriously high so a career which had such brilliant earning potential definitely got my attention.
I feel very lucky to work in the MOD as they really encourage personal development too. I almost couldn’t believe that I could study for a project management apprenticeship alongside my day job, with no cost to me. I also gained experience as part of my apprenticeship’s 20 per cent on the job learning and I will finish with the APM Project Management Qualification under my belt, which was on every job advert for project managers.
October marks my 12 month anniversary at the MOD, and as I’ve learnt more about project management I’ve found the opportunities are endless. As for me, I’ve decided that diversifying in to business change is the direction I would like to go with my career; it really embraces the communication and stakeholder skills I already have and allows me to build on them with further experience.
This process has taught me that it is never too late to find a new passion, never too late to embark on an apprenticeship, and never too late to start all over again.
My top tips for a career change into project management after starting a family (or whenever you want really):
- Find a job where you can work flexibly (clue: project management is a great one). Need to take your little one to nursery? No problem. Health visitor appointment? Easy. Little one been sent home because of the flu (again)? Just do it.
- When starting a career at a later stage in your life, you may find your peers are better qualified and more experienced. But don’t feel overwhelmed – they can be your guide. And there are so many employers who are passionate about training you and giving you experience to help you catch up.
- On that note – get qualified. Completing project management qualifications will help you stand out, and get you to grips with handling projects.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. Be engaged and enthusiastic. Ask lots of questions too, it’s better than guessing, and you’ll learn faster too.
- Look for a project management apprenticeship. I can’t sell this enough, but it is amazing to be able to learn and work at the same time – there are lots of opportunities out there.
- Never underestimate the value of networking. With everyone you meet, think ‘how can I help them?’ not ‘how can they help me?’. The latter will follow when you show them your passion to collaborate and build on relationships.
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