Usually we hear about projects that involve construction, technology development and engineering, but there’s so much more in the world of project management you might not know about.
I first tried my hand in the world of projects when I completed a short placement at York Mind, a local provider of mental health services, while I was at university. The project was an awareness campaign for World Mental Health Day and World Suicide Prevention Day, aimed at encouraging people to talk about mental health. I loved the creative side of the project – brainstorming ideas and creating the graphics and copy for the campaign. I also really enjoyed the sense of purpose it gave me – that this project would raise awareness and encourage someone to talk about their mental health and wellbeing. That’s when I knew I wanted to work on more projects that helped people.
After university, I was looking to work in the third sector when I found a role at the Open University (OU) Students Association that involves interesting and creative projects. As a Projects Officer in the Student Community team, I help deliver projects that aim to create a sense of belonging and strong community for OU students. OU study is usually distance learning, which can be isolating for many students. Before the pandemic the Students Association was able to host face-to-face events alongside online events and activities, but since 2020 all the events have moved online. OU study has also all moved online, but normally included day schools and other face-to-face events. This has been difficult for so many OU students, and although they are used to studying online, the past year has exacerbated these challenges. Our job is to help students, the stakeholders, feel a part of something bigger and well supported.
One of the ways we do this is with Freshers Fortnight. The biggest regular project I work on is Freshers Fortnight, which takes place twice a year (for two intakes of students in Sep/Oct and Jan/Feb). Freshers Fortnight is now entirely online and involves organising around 40 events, competitions, and communications in collaboration with student societies, clubs and groups, OU departments, student reps and more. This is a project that involves so many different groups of people, and I love the energy of Freshers Fortnight, and the feeling that this work is making a difference to students. Just hearing one student say they are glad they came to an event, they’ve learnt something new, or they didn’t realise distance learning could be so social, is incredibly rewarding.
I also enjoy working towards an end goal - when working on projects you plan towards the desired outcome, which keeps you motivated. Undertaking such a large project can be overwhelming to start with, but good planning is key, and once you gain experience in your first few projects your confidence grows. Completing the APM Project Management Qualification has also been invaluable in helping me to solidify my knowledge and learn new project management skills, which has made me a better project manager as a result.
Outside of Freshers Fortnight, I've also been able to work on smaller projects, such as online events for students and organising the OU’s University Challenge team. I love that the projects I work on are always interesting, dynamic and enable me to use my creative side to help people feel supported and included. If you also enjoy being creative and constantly learning and adapting, project management could be for you too.
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