Qualifications – something for the CV or a long-term career plan?

Qualifications – something for the CV or a long-term career plan?

Jane NicholsA best practice qualification might be treated like a shiny, new toy. However, it will lose its sparkle unless there’s more to it than just gaining the certificate.

Not that it’s wrong to want qualifications: for example, your employer might have a set methodology that means you need qualifications to handle the more interesting and strategic projects and programmes. Equally, it makes sense if you want to move on in your career. For contractors, certain work types and sectors might need specific qualifications.

However, the ever-present danger is that gaining qualifications becomes more about collecting badges and having an impressive certificate wall than making the best use of the knowledge. Just as a dog is not just for Christmas, a qualification is not just for the CV; it’s for your continuing professional development (CPD) and your career.

The employer view

Enlightened employers see qualifications as part of CPD and long-term career planning and “climbing the ladder” often includes qualifications as just one of the progression criteria that prove whether you’re ready for the next rung or not.

But employers are starting to recognize that qualifications need to deliver a return on investment. That means using career planning and continuing professional development.

So, once you have gained a project/programme management (PPM) qualification and the knowledge that comes with it you need to apply that learning in the workplace. This goes back to my comments on the 70/20/10 principles in a previous AXELOS blog post. A true professional will recognize that enhanced performance comes from the application of learning.

In turn, it’s also about sharing your knowledge in order to improve the performance and capability of other people too; it should be part of the way professionals operate, giving back to your organization and the community. Yes, people will respect your qualification level but – if you share knowledge – they are more likely to approach you for advice.

With this comes a broader understanding and the potential for practical support for your and/or your colleagues’ projects; sharing ideas and knowledge allows you to not only enhance understanding but also to frequently adapt an approach or idea and use it to make your project safer and increase its chances of success.

Qualifications - something for the CV or a long-term plan? - AXELOS Blog Post

Selecting qualifications with a long-term career view

PPM is a career - not just a job. You wouldn’t go into a project or programme without planning, so why should your career be any different?

Once you have developed some wider experience, for example in projects, and think you want to move into programme management this needs planning ahead to understand whether it’s the right decision for you, rather than just taking the qualification and hoping for the best. The “decision tree” graphic featured in another AXELOS blog is a useful way of approaching your career and qualification progression through what’s available in the AXELOS portfolio.

When planning your development, either with a formal career or development pathway in your organization or alone, you need to:

  1. Think about your strengths and weaknesses. Ask yourself what worked well? Did you need support, or struggle, in your latest project/programme? Did you feel ‘out of your depth’ at any time?
  2. Reflect on your past and recent experiences – especially the successes and the aspects you found rewarding.
  3. Reflect on your 1, 3 and 5-year goals, ambitions and beneficial outcomes – don’t forget to include any departmental or organizational aims in the mix.
  4. Consider your preferred learning style, your current skills, knowledge and experiences – look for gaps, especially in experiences and applying your learning. What does your portfolio look like? Does it match the knowledge, skills, attributes, qualifications and experience you will need to achieve your goals?
  5. Sketch out a development plan and a realistic timescale – and don’t forget to include:
    • any relevant qualifications and formal learning
    • opportunities for experiential work-based learning such as seminars, networking, ‘lunch and learns’, developmental assignments, coaching (both being coached and coaching others; the latter also considerably enhances personal and corporate learning)
    • What were the outcomes of your experience? Think through what you’ve learned.

Don’t forget to record everything for your CPD portfolio while encouraging feedback from other professionals and seeking advice and ideas on problems. Then, share your new-found knowledge and experiences with your colleagues!

Above all, make it happen. Remember, we are all Project (and Programme) Managers and successful delivery should be second nature to us.

See our PRINCE2® and Managing Successful Programmes (MSP®) sections for more information about project and programme management.

More AXELOS Blog Posts from Jane Nichols

Making day-to-day use of knowledge gained through your best practice qualifications

Which PPM qualification is right for you? A guide for practitioners and employers

Have you found that any best practice certification you have undertaken has benefited both your career development and the impression your CV has made on employers? Have you undertaken qualifications specifically to boost both? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments box below.

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