Facilities Management is a fascinating and incomparable sector when it comes to careers. Just consider sectors such as Law, Medicine and Teaching which all have defined educational paths that attract people into them. FM doesn’t have such a path, and that makes it fantastically unique and ripe for opportunity. It also brings challenges in terms of formalising career paths and attracting the highest calibre of talent to our industry. This very fact is the main reason so many people within FM identify themselves as ‘falling in to FM’. I myself did choose FM as a sector and entered via a graduate scheme with a facilities services SME when I was 21. I went on to become a Director at 24 and started my own business at 27, which now turns over in excess of £10 million per annum. September 2018 will represent 10 years in the FM sector for me, and I wanted to share some learnings and advice which I would have loved to have read in the first few months of my career.
My advice in five clear steps:
1 Broaden your range.
In FM it’s very easy to get stuck in one service line e.g. cleaning, security, M&E, catering. Make sure your roles start to cover a larger ranger of FM activities. Push for some European responsibility earlier. Take your base management skillset and FM expertise and use it across various service lines and countries. You will continue to learn.
2 Take a risk. Go for it!
To paraphrase Richard Branson “If someone offers you an opportunity, but you don’t think can you do it, say yes, and work out how to do it later.” This step is all about self-belief in your own ability and hard work. If you know you are good, then you CAN do it. Just go for it!
3 Don’t jump around.
I’ve employed well over 150 people in my 10-year career. One of the things I look for is good length of service in role. Minimum two years per role really. Excuses such as “the role wasn’t what I thought it was going to be, so I’m looking to leave after three months” don’t necessarily fly with me. It shows a lack of research, understanding and consideration before jumping for an extra few thousand. That statement is an enormous generalisation, and I’m aware businesses often lie to good candidates to them in the door, but research your roles well before taking them and ask the difficult questions before you join. Remember, the businesses need you considerably more than you need them, so don’t be shy in asking difficult questions.
4 Go Big, Go Small, Go Further.
To create a well-rounded career, I would advise to try and get some experience in smaller and larger business. That could be on contractor side, or client side. There are stark differences in working for smaller or larger providers, and every provider has a different preference for how they operate. Experience it yourself, see which you prefer, and then build your career on this choice.
5 Take responsibility. Become valuable.
The most important piece of advice I can give to anyone is: responsibility leads to value - leads to power - leads to getting what you desire. Ask yourself honestly, and I mean honestly, could the business you currently work for live without you? If the answer is, ‘yes’ then you are not in a position of power. When it comes to pay rise discussion, extra benefits, bonuses or training opportunities you are not in the position of power. If the answer is “no, my business absolutely would be lost without me” then that’s when the power comes back in your direction. The way you build “power” is by taking absolute total ownership for as much as you can. Allow your boss to start passing responsibility for tasks on to you and do them well. In a capitalist society, bosses are inherently lazy and are always striving to complete more “strategic” tasks. If you start taking on duties which they deem to be beneath them, then they won’t want to take them back on, for fear of taking a step backwards in their career. The more you take on, the more “valuable” you become and the more power you hold. Take responsibility. Become valuable. Get what you want!
I’m an outspoken advocate of promoting young people, graduates and apprentices into the sector. But the thing that makes the FM sector unique is simply that if you are hungry, keen, competent, hard-working and driven, you can forge an amazing career within this sector. That is something that more defined, more established sectors, simply cannot offer.
Andrew Hulbert MSc CBIFM
Managing Director – Pareto FM