“Probably some of the best things that have ever happened to you in life, happened because you said 'yes' to something. Otherwise things just sort of stay the same.” – Danny Wallace.
Saying 'yes' often means making the most of an opportunity or encounter. It means taking chances to move out of your comfort zone and to develop personally and professionally.
Saying 'yes' of course isn’t always easy. Maybe you are reluctant to move out of your comfort zone, you don’t have the time for it, or maybe you’re just lazy... in fact saying 'no' is often the easiest thing to do.
Making the most of personal and professional development is important for us all. Saying 'yes' to opportunities that help to develop skills, experience and enable networking is key in making yourself stand out for new job offers, but also ensures you are best equipped to deal with current and future constraints within your job.
Have a think back and consider the various things that you have said 'yes' to... Typically, you will find that there are several moments in your life where saying 'yes' didn’t seem like a big deal, but this soon led to a chain of events that guided you in a valuable new direction. And it all of course started with that initial 'yes'.
This is certainly the case with myself. An initial 'yes' to take on the opportunity to project manage the Programme Management Conference opened the door to a chain of events and opportunities. These included flying out to Belfast for the APM volunteer’s forum, which led to an offer to speak in front of project management students, which led to an offer to attend a key APM conference.
Whenever you say 'yes' to an opportunity you gain experience, whether good or bad, and valuable lessons are learnt that help to develop and build your experience and skills. In my case saying 'yes' to supporting the Programme Management Specific Interest Group (ProgM SIG) has been the most valuable. Leading a small steering group, my role as project manager was to coordinate their activities to deliver the annual conference. These activities included everything from venue selection, defining a theme, marketing, identifying speakers, sponsors and exhibitors, as well as looking to find ways to break the mould with APM events and innovate with new elements such as live broadcasting of the event. Hosted by Rolls-Royce on the 2nd March, the ProgM conference was a massive success with 150 delegates and some fantastic speakers, making this year’s conference the best attended event for the SIG and I'm grateful I could be part of it.
For me this was the most important 'yes', having little experience, this opportunity not only allowed me to build my skills in project management and encourage valuable networking, but as I have already said it has acted as a springboard for other opportunities further building my experience and my career.
Although as a student with little experience I have practically gained a lot from this opportunity, but what’s not to say that even experienced project professionals are still able to get something out of a simple 'yes' - whether that be practical skills, the experience of something new or just the opportunity to meet new people and network.
Without coming across as a 'yes man', one factor that needs to be kept in mind is the fine line between saying yes to opportunities that will move us forward, and not opportunities that will just keep us busy. Say 'no' when it really matters, but say 'yes' more often to help you break any cycles that are keeping you stuck in the present. Unless you say 'yes', you will never really know what might unfold.