BIFM NW Branch – Key Learning Event – Career Development

Last Thursday 13th March 2014 saw the second of the BIFM North West Branch Key Learning Events which took place at The Centre, Birchwood Park, Warrington. The event, organised by Mark Whitaker, BIFM North Deputy Chair & Business Development Manager at Integral UK Limited, focused on Career Development in the Facilities Management industry. When Mark approached us to get involved, we were of course delighted. Co-sponsoring the event alongside Integral UK afforded us the opportunity to network with an array of FM professionals who are passionate about the industry.

As specialist property recruiters we work across a range of property disciplines. Facilities Management is a fundamental part of our business and we have successfully gained a strong foothold in the UK market. We speak with FM professionals on a daily basis, meaning we are extremely well placed to offer advice on career development and what you need to do in order to ‘stand out from the crowd’. As guest speaker at Thursday’s event, Julian Long (Managing Director – Foundation Recruitment) commented that as an FM professional you need to “be excellent at what you do now, not what you want to do. Don’t pretend to be something you are not. Develop your strengths. Don’t be jack of all trades but rather play to your strengths. The market is still very much demanding square pegs for square holes”. Candidates need to ensure that they are exploring roles that they can actually fulfil based upon existing capabilities and experience to date. With a steady increase in Facilities Management roles and a build up of the candidate pool, some candidates mistakenly feel that the best way to stand out from the crowd is to try to create the impression that they can do a real multitude of things, all to the same impeccable standard. In reality few of us can be both goal keeper and striker.

Echoing Julian’s message, Liz Kentish (BIFM Deputy Chair) held an interactive ‘Who are You?’ session to demonstrate the importance of developing your own career brand in order to be more visible within the industry. Liz went on to discuss that with so much of day to day tasks being increasingly technically focused, how often do we stop and think about our reputations and how we are perceived by others within the industry? Liz advised that “it is important to be aware of this and take little steps to develop your career in the direction you wish to take them. Ask your peers what they think of you? Decide on what reputation you want and build your personal brand from there. Always be consistent in who you are”.

With the constant changing trends and challenges in FM how do the skills we gain along the way fit into future expectations in roles? With workplace environments constantly changing, what will the future of our offices, towns, and cities look like? With technology advancing so rapidly the scary reality is the knowledge and skills that university students are learning today will be outdated by the time they graduate. However despite this, the young generation are still the future of FM. So how do we inspire the young talent of today to follow a career path within FM? These key questions were raised by Gareth Tancred, CEO of BIFM. Gareth’s view is that FM touches every part of the economy. He feels that with 10% of the UK workforce made up by facilities management, it is crucial we inspire and encourage the young generation to get involved. He continued, “the challenges of tomorrow need confronting today. It is crucial to employ people with the right competencies.”

The question then needs to be asked, what is being done to tackle these challenges in FM? Gareth Tancred outlined the initiatives that are being undertaken by the BIFM, with an entire section of their website dedicated to career development in the sector, offering a portal to network, learn, train and gain additional professional qualifications.

Highlighting a particular success story, Debbie Rowland (Head of Facilities Management Policy and Strategy, The Cabinet Office) gave us a personal perspective of how she has developed through her career. Starting out in administration, Debbie later undertook a role as an Assistant Facilities Manager at L’Oreal in 1993. Following TUPE to Symonds, Debbie’s talents were identified by her manager and an opportunity presented itself for her to progress. Deciding that a career in FM was for her Debbie decided to gain qualifications which would allow her to progress her career in Facilities Management. Since then Debbie has had a variety of successful and progressive roles and is now Head of Facilities Management Policy and Strategy at The Cabinet Office and recently won the award for Facilities Manager of the Year at the prestigious BIFM Awards in November 2013.

Debbie’s advice for FM professional is to be “proud, professional and passionate. Love what you do. Look to continually expand your horizons, and drive your own career forward. Get involved with networks and if you can’t find a network create your own. Learn and train through collaboration with others.”

At Foundation Recruitment we understand the importance of the areas that were covered at this key learning event. As experts within this sector we are both incredibly well-connected within the FM industry and highly conversant with the sector’s current challenges and opportunities. If you have any career requirement please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.

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