Our 26-year old blogger gives an honest opinion of what he's learnt in the first few years of his career in project management
You might think my photocopying skills are well honed and that I’m on first name terms with the staff at Starbucks. It might surprise you to learn that as a young PM I am actually managing projects!
Other disciplines have always been accessible to a full range of ages and abilities, however young PMs are relatively new on the consultant scene. Traditionally the role required experience – buckets of the stuff, before you were considered ready for the jump into project management, with candidates often coming from quantity surveying, building surveying or engineering background.
I joined project management as one of the first wave of graduates able to enter the profession straight from university in 2003. Last May I achieved MRICS status to add to an MSc and BA (hons) - both in project management. Academically, this might be all the letters after my name I could ever need.
However, the high barriers to entry remain in place for project management. Clients have not become any less demanding and expect their PM’s to know their stuff. But there are other ways to bridge the gap, dare I say it, a ‘short cut’ to becoming a successful PM at a young age.
It’s good to talk
Without stating the obvious, communication is king – both ‘what’ and ‘how’ you do it.
When communicating I need to make use of my strengths to bridge gaps not yet filled by experience. Perhaps this is best explained by the following three values at Davis Langdon:
• Draw on the experience of those around you – internally at work and from your project team.
• Talk openly with your team members.
• Explain why you made a decision.
• Access to knowledge – from within the firm and outside.
• Embrace new technologies (blackberries don’t count though!).
• Embrace 3D models, File Transfer Protocol sites and project extranets.
• Don’t be held back by ‘what should normally be done’.
• Keep up to speed, attend events, lectures, read up on new legislation, technology, and so on.
• Do what you say you are going to do.
• If it is bad news you have got to deliver, come clean and start to work on solving the problem.
• Do not be afraid to say you don’t know.
While the above behaviours are not specific to young PMs, it is important to focus on the activities in which you can make a real impact and not worry about those you can’t.
What about me?
I’ve discussed the ‘what’ but the ‘how’ is up to you. I’d like to think I have developed my own style which I adjust to the situation, both in conversation and written form.
What experience I have comes from a mixture of projects and individuals, learning something different from each one. Of late I’ve been working on a large commercial office development in the City and there are more third parties involved in this project than I’ve come across – I haven’t mentioned patience above, but that’s probably a given.
Your firm should support you as you grow and for me this is what marks the good firms. Davis Langdon gives me plenty of rope to play with but not enough to hang myself.
Outside of work you will find me involved with RICS matrics and this is allows me to build contacts – I find I’m a more rounded professional as a result.
It has occurred to me that perhaps this author should not overlook his own bias on the subject. However, the opening up of project management to graduate level is made possible as young PM’s can find themselves at the centre of projects and hence the process of experience can be greatly increased. While the number of projects I have under my belt are relatively few, I have always been in the thick of it and would argue my experience has been fast-tracked as a result.
Before I get carried away though, I should make it clear I am not expecting to be a partner just yet. In reality there is no magic short cut. But by making the most of my strengths, of which communication is one, I can be an effective PM at an age when you might have expected me to still be making the drinks.