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What I wish someone had told me when I started working

Written by Elke Vermeir on 27 September 2020 for Graduates

Jamie Collins, one of our UK Exellysts, says he joined us because he wanted a job that would allow him to work in his preferred field of project management, while receiving ongoing training, coaching and support to continue getting his qualifications. When he left university, he found the transition from student life to working life challenging, but with the support of his coach and the training he received from Exellys, he was able to learn a lot of insights that he wishes to share here.

Who is Jamie Collins?

  • Studied psychology at university
  • Took a year off to gain work experience
  • Returned to university to study a Masters in Project Management and Economics
  • Worked as a project manager in the construction industry for 18 months
  • Found the ideal combination of his interests at Exellys in 2022

Hi Jamie, can you tell us a bit about your academic background?

“Although I enjoyed studying psychology at University I realised I wanted to work in another field. I went back to university and started my Masters in Project Management and Economics. That’s when I found my love for project management and knew what I wanted to do with my life. After graduating, I worked as a project manager in the construction industry for about 18 months before moving into project management in the financial services industry.”

How did you start your journey with Exellys?

“I was actively looking for a job in the financial sector where I could use my project management skills. When I found the Exellys job advert on LinkedIn, which offered a position that was a combination of both, I thought it was perfect. After a thorough interview process, I finally got the call that I had got the job and I took it straight away. I was over the moon. And that was 9 months ago – time flies!”

What were the factors that made you choose Exellys?

“The specific role, which was exactly what I was looking for, was definitely a big factor, but it was more than that. As someone who was taking the plunge into a completely different field, a big part of what sold Exellys was the support I’d receive. We get ongoing training and are also given a training budget to spend on getting qualifications and taking courses that help us develop. We also get mentoring and coaching which helps me address personal challenges in my role. Exellys prides itself on not just making you good at your job, but making you a good professional. They want to help you excel in the world of work, which I guess is where the name comes from.”

Can you tell me about the project you’re working on?

“I am currently working for Mitsubishi Finance Group (MUFG). I have joined the Change & Transformation team as a Project Manager. I’m working closely under a more experienced project manager and learning the ropes. Right now I’m doing two big projects: the global rollout of Microsoft Teams and an Office 365 upgrade, where we’re migrating everyone’s mailbox to the cloud.”

Did you have any problems with this project?

“Definitely. I come from a construction background where it’s easy to see when things are going well because you can see the results almost immediately. Now in the technology sector, with things like data migration, it can be quite difficult to understand whether a project is going as it should or not. Also, sometimes imposter syndrome kicks in. It feels strange telling someone who is very skilled and experienced what needs to be done and by when. But, of course, that’s what I do as a project manager.”

How did you find the transition from student to professional?

“It’s definitely hard. I think one of the most obvious things is that when you start working, you’re not just fending for yourself anymore. If you’re a student and you slack off, the only person you’re hurting is yourself. But at work, if you’re not doing a piece of work or you’re feeling a bit sluggish, it affects not just you but the whole project, team, company.

Another thing I’ve struggled with is motivation. When you first start in a role, it’s easy to be motivated because it’s new and you want to impress. But as time goes on, you get more comfortable, you get into a routine and it’s easier to lose your way. For me, I’m highly motivated when I have a goal in sight. But now that I’m working on this huge two-year project, it can feel like I’m not making much progress because the result isn’t quite there yet. It’s like working very hard for very little reward.”

Has your coach helped you with that?

“It is good to know that I have someone to bounce frustrations off. I remember this one conversation I had with Gideon, my Talent Development Manager (what we call coaches at Exellys). He was pushing me to say what I thought because he could tell that I was frustrated. I think it’s easy to get overwhelmed at work when you feel you can’t do something you think you should be able to do. Gideon reminded me that 9 months is a relatively short period of time in the context of a whole career. I don’t have to know everything straight away, it’s a learning curve. It’s good to have a coach to help ground you and put things in perspective.

In general, the combination of working under a mentor at MUFG and having a talent development manager or coach at Exellys has been very helpful. Working with someone at MUFG who is quite experienced really helps in the day-to-day role. Exellys helps us to focus on the skills that you might not think are the most important, but are the most rewarding. Like networking, presentation skills, managing working relationships and so on.”

Finally, what advice would you give to graduates struggling to make the transition to working life?

“First of all, you have to be patient. You’re going to want to go in and learn and soak up as much as you can, immerse yourself in the culture and everything you can get your hands on, and that’s great. But when it comes to opportunities, be patient because they will come. Don’t let the frustration of not getting something right away get to you and make you feel bad about yourself. It’s a learning curve.

Second, take care of your work-life balance. Work is important, but it’s not everything. You need to get away from work too. Do things like go to the gym in the evening or hang out with a mate after work. Don’t let work consume you because before you know it, work will overtake you and you won’t produce anything in top form.”

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About Exellys

Exellys is a Talent Incubator. We match ambitious companies with the finest talent. Are you ready to drive the innovations of tomorrow? Ready to make an impact and become a future-fit digital leader?

Whether you are a graduate or (young) professional, Exellys will unlock your full potential by guiding you to a challenging work environment that perfectly matches your personality, expectations and ambitions.

On top of that, you are enrolled in one of our very own training and coaching programs (based on your personal and professional ambition and experience). This means that, while working as an Exellys consultant, we are helping you to bridge your ambition to excellence.

Through intensive training and coaching, you’ll gain the essential skills, competencies and knowledge necessary to become the highly effective professional you aim to be. Become an Exellyst and get in touch with us today!

Written by Elke Vermeir Talent Development Manager