Struggling with confidence at work as a young project manager, new to the profession, is actually very common and confidence may not come naturally. However, being confident is a key attribute when delivering projects and working with various personalities. This is definitely an area I work on, and it’s had a hugely positive impact on the successful delivery of my projects.
Here are three things I would tell myself a year ago when I was first starting out in the profession as a project management apprenticeship:
You can make a mistake. In fact, you can make lots of mistakes.
Whilst making plenty of mistakes may knock your confidence, it is the only way you will really learn. Don’t be afraid to do what you think is right and take some risks - if it doesn’t work out, then you will know better for next time. This will slowly but surely build your confidence over time, as you start to understand what works well and what doesn’t for you and your project.
My colleagues at ITV are really great at understanding that I am still learning the ropes and are keen to help out whenever I need. They also give me great responsibility - which can be daunting - but it gives me the opportunity to show them what I am capable of. Having a support network around you is so important in boosting your confidence. Good mentors will actually encourage you to fail fast, learn from your mistakes and then put those learnings into practice.
Always say yes to new challenges
New challenges will always be scary, that’s a given. Though it is important to face your fears and take everything in your stride. When I first started my apprenticeship, I would never have imagined that I would be so confident in leading team meetings, asking key questions, getting involved in technical discussions, the list goes on. The more you say yes to new challenges, the more you learn and the easier it becomes.
Sometimes, throwing yourself into the deep end can see you excel in your role. I was terrified when I was put forward to help on a large project last year. Every step I took was a new experience for me - whether that be managing external stakeholders, leading important meetings or keeping track of deadlines for a number of teams. On reflection, I can see how these experiences have contributed to the confidence I have today, both in and outside of work.
Improve your knowledge
This is the most important one for me. The best way to feel confident about something is to learn more about it. One of the things I find most challenging is being brought into a project after it has already kicked off. The team has already been formed, conversations have already taken place, some of the work has already begun - and I haven’t got a clue what is going on.
Working within the technology department is quite a challenge in itself for somebody who isn’t a technical expert. I make an effort to get enough understanding of the systems and the terminology used to improve my confidence in a number of situations. For example, at ITV we have various materials available to staff members and I use this to search for documents which provides background to project work. If your work has a range of materials available to you, definitely take advantage of this. I also read up on traditional and agile project management practices via Google for the latest information which can be really useful when preparing for meetings, amongst other things.
It’s also important to keep a great support network around you who can answer questions, provide contextual documentation and walk you through what has already been discussed. So remember, building confidence means to go outside of your comfort zone and accept new challenges when you are faced with them. Do some research to get you up to speed with everybody else. And next time you make a mistake, don’t beat yourself up about it.
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