If you’ve wondered what the journey to becoming a project manager really entails, the benefits of mentoring or the importance of research in the profession, then this is for you. On 9 February 2022 we welcomed students, early career professionals and academics to a day full of engaging sessions, expert panel discussions, networking opportunities and the much-anticipated Education and Research Awards at the virtual Festival of Education and Research 2022. As we reflect on the eventful day, here are some of the key takeaways:
Become more employable by understanding the skills you need and showing them off
Identifying skills and knowing best practice when becoming a project professional is essential as it directly affects your employability and success. Dr Emma A C Johnson, principal project manager at the Science and Technology Facilities Council, discussed the importance of communication, focus and resilience. Resilience is accepting that you cannot change every situation and that you engage with your team accordingly. As a project professional, you need to accept that things will go wrong. For example, suppliers may not deliver on time; you must understand you don’t have the ability to control every area. What matters is the skills you have to focus on what is under your control, communicate with your team and manage any challenges.
Josh Chana, project manager at Faithful+Gould, and Kilian Underhill, talent acquisition partner at Gleeds, shared how you can make yourself more employable. Show employers the skills you’ve developed from across the board by demonstrating critical thinking, perseverance, leadership and problem solving with examples of problems you’ve encountered. And don’t forget the importance of optimising your LinkedIn profile with key skills and a biography, using it for better chances of employment.
The importance of educating project management students
Our expert panel of senior lecturers, Dr Bronte van der Hoorn from the University of Southern Queensland, Dr Muhammad Mazhar and Dr John Israilidis from Nottingham Business School explained what is currently being done to aid the education of students so they can understand project management in a practical way. A number of project management tools and software are taught to students and subject areas such as agile approaches to projects have been embedded in the curriculum at some universities. Dr van der Hoorn explained that she introduces her postgraduate students to research that relates to the problems they face in the workplace and how they can manage it. Dr Israilidis, shared that softer skills are being taught through experiential learning and guest speakers are common so that students are able to understand real life projects. Dr Mazhar added that there has been more emphasis on work experience to improve employability and prepare students for their roles.
The benefits of mentoring
Our virtual festival had a key focus on how to kick off an exciting project career, so we investigated how helpful mentoring has been for Ewelina Kruk (mentor) and Elaine Pony (mentee). Elaine Pony received great support, knowledge and advice because Ewelina Kruk was able to share resources which helped point her mentee in the right direction. Having a mentor helps build your confidence as you can rely on their past experiences which allows you to make smarter decisions - making your project journey more efficient. When choosing a mentor, decide what format will work for you and discuss your approach with them. There are many different ways to find a mentor, and if you’re unable to find someone in your organisation, look externally for someone who can offer a fresh perspective. Visit the APM mentoring programme if you’re looking to connect with someone.
The journey to becoming a project professional is different for all of us
Rochelle Sampson-Clarke, estates project officer at Solent NHS Trust, and Daniel Pollitt, associate at Mott MacDonald, shared what they’ve learnt during their journeys as project professionals. This session highlighted that having a growth mindset is vital so that you can challenge and push yourself to adopt an attitude that will get you to where you want to be in your career. They also stressed that as a project manager, you’ll never be the expert but you should be willing to learn, especially when dealing with stakeholders – you can make each day a learning opportunity. Finally, don’t be afraid to go the extra mile to upskill yourself with qualifications and let your employers know the benefits of it.
The day concluded with the winners of our Education and Research Awards who were celebrated and honoured during the awards ceremony. We'd like to extend a huge congratulations to all our winners and finalists and a big thank you to our sponsors. If you missed out or want to watch some of the sessions, you can access the content on demand.