The United Nations General Assembly has declared 15 July as World Youth Skills Day. It's an opportunity to celebrate the importance of equipping young people everywhere with skills for employment and entrepreneurship. We spoke with a selection of young, talented project professionals about what advice they'd share with the next generation when it comes to establishing careers in project, programme and portfolio management.
Nadia Krasteva, Legal Project Manager, Sackers
What skills would you say are most important for anyone considering becoming a project professional?
“For me, the key skills that emerging project professionals need are effective communication; being able to listen and understand, rather than listening to respond. Only by actively listening can you provide really good service.
“Project professionals need to be self-organised and have people management skills. They need to understand how people work and how they think.”
What are some of the challenges facing young professionals when it comes to developing their skills?
“Younger people need to get involved in volunteering with organisations. That will give you experience of project management fundamentals, so that when you go to interviews you’ll be able to talk about things in practical terms. You’ll be able to demonstrate your experience. If you’re struggling to get work experience, get involved with student organisations, charities or NGOs.”
Craig Scott ChPP, FAPM, Qatar Project Manager, Eurofighter
What skill should someone who's starting out in project management focus most on developing, and why?
“If I gave advice to my younger self when starting out in project management, it would be to ask more questions and actively question ‘why’. It becomes very easy to shy away and struggle when trying to perform a project role which leads to friction and delay. Asking ‘why’ demonstrates your interest in trying to achieve the best possible outcome.”
Are there any barriers for young people when it comes to getting into project or programme management (either real or perceived)? If so, how can they overcome these?
“Age discrimination unfortunately is present in business. However, there are many ways to overcome this. The most effective way (although this may sound simple) is ‘be confident’. I fully believe confidence is built through experience and cannot be taught. Don’t be afraid to dive into the deep end and learn from mistakes. Act with diligence and integrity and you’ll soon begin to earn the respect of your peers.”
Are there any resources you’d recommend (e.g. books to read, people to speak to, etc?) to someone seeking to develop their skills?
“There’s a wealth of resources such as ‘Starting Out in Project Management’ offered by APM as a low cost investment. This can really bolster your technical understanding of project management. Further building on this is the APM Competence Framework which assists you as a development plan to work towards Chartered Project Professional (ChPP) status.”
Bel French ChPP, Infrastructure Manager, Gleeds
What advice would you give to someone who is still deciding what career they might want to go into?
“It’s really important to understand what you enjoy and what you’re passionate about, and to know what your strengths and weaknesses are. I’ve always enjoyed projects since I was at school, and thinking about project management as a career was something I was really interested in. Having the opportunity to do an apprenticeship was the right thing for me to do, as I wanted to prove my ability through my work and experience rather than going down the academic route, and that has really paid off.”
What about people already in the early stages of a career in project management?
“I would say to get as many different experiences as you can when you’re at an early stage of your career, such as trainee or assistant project manager level. I was lucky to have a supportive team when doing my apprenticeship where I could do rotations and so that really helped me as I progressed through my career and onto chartership.”
How can young professionals prepare for job interviews?
“Do your interview practice and revision to ensure you can talk about your technical knowledge and experience in depth. I would encourage further reading and to practise your interview out loud so that you sound confident when talking about your experience and knowledge to the interviewers!”
APM offers free Student membership to full and part-time students as well as apprentices aged 16 and over. For project professionals who are already progressing in their career and want to invest in themselves, we offer Associate membership.