Things I wish I knew when I started my project management apprenticeship

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I joined this industry as an 18 year old who had no knowledge of project management or telecommunications. I left school at 16 as I wanted to get into the world of work, so I undertook a level 2 and level 3 apprenticeship in business administration to learn about the working environment. I realised I wanted to continue my learning, but I wanted to get into an industry and job that would keep my interest and allow me to develop multiple skills.

After a lot of research, it was clear that project management and telecommunications would be the industry for me. I applied to Olive Communications, a cloud communications service provider working with small and medium enterprise businesses on a global scale. It wasn’t what I was expecting as I joined at a time of growth and evolution, meaning the apprenticeship turned out to be even more fulfilling. Here are the things I wish I knew before I started: 

  1. There’s often lots to cover and you do learn as you go, but it will really help to stay motivated and be ready to learn constantly. Project management is an industry in which you learn transferable skills for any job, some of which are; time management, organisation, customer relations, how to mitigate risks and adapting to unforeseen circumstances. Telecommunications is a fast-paced industry which also allows you to develop your technical knowledge and learn about the background into how telephone projects are delivered.
  2. Every SME is different but the responsibilities you can expect to have in a larger business will be different. This was made clear to me when attending the training days for my apprenticeship, we had students from large business who had dedicated teams for each part of a project. This could be RAID management, risk management, project delivery, etc. In an SME you’ll chip into every part of the project, it is more of a hands-on job rather than delegating and managing individuals, although this is still a large part of your job. Depending on the industry you join, the basis of your project management skills will follow the framework and knowledge that you learn, but you will have to adapt to your organisations specific methodologies.
  3. Apprenticeships are fast paced, and you need to be able to think on your feet with resolutions for issues whilst also being confident in your skills in delivering a project and managing the customer and their expectations. You’re thrown into the deep end at times, and confidence is key; don’t sell yourself short. The employer will see if you are the right fit for the business but make sure you don’t undermine your own ability too.
  4. Your job is not always nine to five, there will be days where you are working till eight in the evening, working on the weekend or working into the early mornings on a project go live. On the flip side, there are days when you will also finish a lot earlier than you expected. You need to be flexible, so if you are someone who struggles to adapt to changes in their social life or routine, then project management may bring big surprises.
  5. You have to talk about your industry and learn it in detail in order to deliver projects successfully – it’s not something you can hide from. Find an industry which you have a current interest in or something which sparks your curiosity; if you have no interest in the industry you will struggle to fall in love with your job and it will show in the work which you are producing

My knowledge in project management and telecommunications has rocketed in the few years I have been at the company. The way in which I resolve any issues and how I build my customer relationships is completely different as you learn and adapt to present yourself in the best light. My experience has been intense, enjoyable, interesting and testing at times. The last two years have been a rollercoaster of emotions, but the knowledge I now possess and the confidence I feel within my role is increasing every day.

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