Experience but no formal qualifications: ask the expert

I was made redundant from a project manager’s role.  I have no formal project managing qualifications just what I have learnt on the job this past 7 years. I was project manager over a £12million project. However, I have now struggled for over a year to get a similar role or more junior role due to not having the formal certificates etc.  How can I get around this without having to pay thousands to retrain as I am a single parent of 2 children with childcare costs of over £1,200 a month to pay while I am working or re-training.

Your work experience shows that you can obviously do the project manager job effectively (otherwise your previous employers wouldn’t have put you in charge of a £12M project), it’s just that you don’t have the qualifications to back you up.  You suspect the lack of formal certificates may explain why you’ve struggled to gain another project manager role.

Personally, I’m not convinced you’re barred from more than a minority of suitable jobs by the lack of project management qualifications.  A survey I’ve done on project manager jobs shows that quite a few of them don’t ask for these qualifications though they do ask for a range of other attributes (eg relevant experience – which you have – and wider sector, management and interpersonal skills – which you probably have, as well).  However, I think you’d struggle to be taken seriously as a candidate if you didn’t have either a degree or NVQ4, simply because of the complexity of project management jobs.

I’m wondering whether you’re limiting your job search to employers and agencies which only consider applicants who are PRINCE2 (or equivalent) trained?  If so, please search more widely.  Focus your job search efforts on networking and making contact with employers direct – also please remember that fixed term contract jobs and jobs with medium-size employers are often easier to get than permanent jobs with “blue chip” employers.

Your self-confidence is being affected by the lack of project management qualifications and some jobs will be barred to you – so it would be well worth your while removing this barrier to your progress.

If possible, get your next employer to commit (in writing!) to paying for your PRINCE2 training within the first year of your employment with them.  The training doesn’t take long – eg one course provider is offering training based on 25 hours e-learning plus attendance at a 2-day workshop, the cost being £995 +VAT (plus cost of accommodation).  You could always do a deal over your salary (eg “I’ll accept £500 less on my starting salary if you’ll pay the whole costs for me to get my PRINCE2  qualification”).

If the worst comes to the worst, you might be able to finance your own training.  Get yourself a Career Development Loan (hopefully you’ll get a job before you have to pay it back).  Training providers offer weekend and evening courses for those with employers unwilling to offer time off for training.

Good luck!

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