Sharing some thoughts about work and finding opportunities as student

Madalina Popovici, a good friend of mine, is studying project management (master level) at the National University of Political Sciences and Administration (Bucharest) and she asked me to answer to a series of questions regarding my work. The questions were in English, so the answers are in English as well. We have  tackled subjects regarding my work, employment and opportunities for young people to get a job in the field of project management.

Hope you are going to some at least some good thoughts for your future career. 

Madalina Popovici (MP): You are a communication specialist. What made you get a job in the project management field?

Steliana Moraru (SM): I enjoy changes, challenges and I always aim to develop myself. I see project management as a natural evolution in my career. I started to work at a very young age, and I am always in a continuous search to become better and better. This helped me to have my eyes wide open and to find opportunities, to create a network of valuable people, to learn and challenge myself. When the possibility to do more and to put more on the table in terms of my work experience presented itself, I was ready to take it. It’s not a big change in my career, as I have always stayed close to the communication field, but it is definitely a challenging one.  

MP: How should people break into this field nowadays? (campus recruiting or simply having enough experience in one particular field) and what chances do you think graduates have for being hired as project managers in the first 2 years after graduating?

SM:I believe that when we work, we should create a chain of values in order to make contributions for our development and for the environment (this includes people, society, community, etc). In order to create this chain of values, we need to know the basics of our field, to work hard, to learn constantly, and to pay attention to the world around us. When we do this we grow our chances of gaining access in our desired fields of work. I never believed in taking one lucky shot.
My own experience taught me this actually. So when it comes to breaking into this field, I would rather say that the young person should get proactive: being a project manager requires experience, adaptability, global thinking, communication skills,  the ability  to make decisions, and team spirit. Start by getting involved in volunteer projects, search for people with experience in the field and try to work with them, look for internships, and read a lot. These are places where great opportunities might come for you. The experience in one field is extremely important, and it might grant you access to the desired job, but nowadays it is not enough anymore. We need to build upon this platform and add different skills (as a student, you can learn this across academic disciplines), become up to date with other related fields of work, and build our collaborative skills.
Regarding the second part of the question, is not unusual to see really young managers these days. On the other hand, thinking of the amount of work and the skills required by this position, I would say that a project manager job is more likely to be obtained after 2 years or so. We are all eager to achieve more and prove ourselves, myself included, but at the end of the day it is important that what we leave behind, that chain I spoke about earlier, that set of values we bring, how good or great our work is and how it impacts the projects we are working on. Sometimes, no matter how good we think we are, it is important to give yourself time to be an apprentice.

MP: What does an employer look for in a candidate (skills, personal qualities)?
SM:Besides being a good professional in your field, an employer will seek some universal skill - team spirit, IT skills, the ability to plan, organize and prioritize work, and communications skills.  I saw the other days a slideshow presentation where  20 jobs of the future were mentioned. I found it interesting in this context the quote, “careers are now more complex, fragmented, specialised, collaborative and ever evolving, made up of a portfolio of micro-careers. So, when it comes to the question of what an employer looking for, maybe it’s good to take a look at the future.” We live interesting times, and we need to adapt, or perhaps I should say, to be able to adapt.

MP: Do you think a project manager should also be a good leader? What qualities make him/her a good leader?
SM: It is a truism that leadership focuses on doing "the right things", while managers focus on doing "the things right". I believe both of them play important roles in the organisation, but a manager can lead without necessarily being a leader. In my opinion, leadership is a soft skill that can be developed and taught, being more responsive and proactive than simple management. A leader is more focused on people, on creating a vision, enhancing productivity and the quality of work by his/her team through personal examples of commitment and excellence. On the other hand, when we talk about management, a hard skill, he/she is looking for resources, managing them, employing procedures, and is basically more task oriented. I believe a manager can become a good leader if he/she manages to find the right balance in using soft and hard skills.

MP:Communication is the key to everything. What do you think are the principles of a good communication within the project?
SM: Communication is essential in any type of relationship, from professional to the personal ones. When we talk about the skills a project manager should have, I would say that the ability to communicate with the others is one of the most important skills in this regard. Practically, this means communicating in a clear manner about goals, responsibilities, performance, expectations, feedback and then actively listening in return.
MP: At the end of the day what matters is doing what you like most. What do you like best about your job? What’s your typical day like?
SM: My job is very challenging. It offers me the possibility of making a contribution to the nongovernmental community in Romania and to work with a great international team. The program I am managing, the Donation Program,  affords a unique possibility for NGOs to access technology  and to fulfill their missions more efficiently. This means we provide both products from partners such as Bitdefender, Microsoft, Cisco and Adobe, but also provide learning resources such as webinars, newsletters, and articles. We promote their success stories in our global network.  During the last two years, I have had the opportunity to see our NGO community grow, learn and becoming  better and better. It’s a great reward for me when I talk with people from different corners of the country and they offer me feedback, when they say they really did something good for their organisation thanks to the Program. Seeing people and their respective organisations develop and striving to be the better is what I like most.

MP: A piece of advice for students aspiring to be project managers would be
SM: Work hard, learn, find people who can can become your models, ask questions, always remain curious, and play.


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