How to get into project management without a degree

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Very often we feel like university is the next step after school or college – it’s what everyone does. I initially left college and started studying for my law degree; after completing my first year I realised that university was not right for me. Although I enjoyed the challenging aspect of university I knew deep down that the academic route was not suited for my personality.

This feeling grew, and I spent the summer before my second year of university researching what I could do that was suited to me. Now I’m a qualified project manager at Lloyds Banking Group (LBG), something I didn’t think would be possible.

Here’s what I learned:

  1. Have courage to go against the status quo. Everyone else was going to university; it’s what most people do after school – it’s how you get a job, it’s the right next step. We were never informed much about apprenticeships at school especially ones within a bank. I personally could not be happier my choice of becoming an apprentice instead of going to university, I have a professional qualification in a profession I have gained experience in all whilst earning a competitive salary, it was a no brainer for me.

  2. Trust your gut. You know you best. When I first started university I tried to make it work for my lifestyle, but the feeling that ‘this isn’t right’ kept growing. I realised working would suit me better, something away from pure academics so I started seeking out full time employment within a company I felt I could progress and develop within. In October 2017, just before I started my second year, I secured full time employment within LBG as a customer service adviser and decided to drop out of university to work full-time. This was a huge decision within my life and at the time it felt scary, looking back now I’m so happy I trusted my gut as it has led me to where I am today.

  3. Understand you have options. After 12 months as a customer services adviser, I knew I was ready for a new challenge. Management is something that always excited me throughout my life, I am passionate about working with people and creating an environment in which individuals and teams can reach their full potential. I came across the apprenticeship programme at LBG; the ability to work and learn appealed to me so I pursued my options and realised that the project management apprenticeship was perfect for me. At first, it was daunting choosing an apprenticeship. There were so many options and I wanted to be sure I chose one that was suited to my capabilities, I felt I had wasted enough time jumping from post to post. I took my time, thought about my options and made the application.

  4. Push yourself to continuously improve. I have always lived by the motto of continuously improving, even if you are making small steps as opposed to big strides. Once I had spent 12 months working I felt ready for a new challenge and wanted to push myself. I’m a big believer in remaining out of your comfort zone as I feel this is where you develop the most. The idea of taking a leap into a brand-new industry all whilst studying for the APM Project Management Qualification (PMQ) certainly appealed to me as I knew this would be a challenge in which I would be well out of my comfort zone, and I’d be getting a qualification that’s recognised. Following an extensive selection and assessment process I secured a role on the programme in 2018. I went on to complete the programme this year, eight months early and I achieved a distinction overall.

  5. Don’t worry. It all falls together eventually and it’s okay not to have a plan for a career. I wasn’t sure of what to do, but now? I’m happier than ever. Since those summer days lost about whether to stay in university or not, I've worked as a project assistant supporting the successful implementation of a high profile project within LBG. I have been involved in a multi-million pound programme which was a complex implementation impacting over 75,000 colleagues with multiple platforms. I completed the scheme in 2019 before moving to my current role.

After school or college, you can start an apprenticeship to become a project manager – you don’t have to go to university to be successful in the workplace. You can also work and figure out what suits you. Take a year out to explore your options. I have found the last 18 months challenging but equally rewarding. Having started the programme with no knowledge of project management I have seen continuous progress as the days have gone by. To be able to say I am now qualified as a project manager is a fantastic feeling but I also know the hard work now begins as I build upon my accreditation with experience.

Have you just finished school or college? What are you planning to do?

Sohail Khan

Posted by Sohail Khan on 19th Aug 2019

About the Author

I am currently a Project Manager for Lloyd's Banking Group.

I initially joined the Group in October 2016 as a Customer Service Advisor in Connect after deciding that University wasn’t for me. 

In 2017 I progressed on to the Project Management Apprenticeship scheme. I completed the scheme in 2019 before moving to my current role.
 

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