Should I persist with personnel exams? And will redundancies put off future employers?

Development deflation

Q. I studied the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) Professional Development Scheme in 2002/03 but failed the final exams twice. This left me very deflated and uninspired to sign up to do the second year again because the syllabus was changing - not to mention the cost. What can I do to progress? Will the areas I have completed so far be taken into account? It is hard to study as I work full time.

A. First of all, don't be discouraged. It's possible you tried to take these exams too early before you had the necessary experience; two re-takes are not uncommon, and there are other options. It might be worth speaking to your tutor, if you can still get in touch, to get some feedback. If you have completed one or more full fields of the scheme you should be able to take up your studies where you left off - in some circumstances up to five years later.

Check on to see if your course was accredited. If not, and you want to transfer to one that is, call the CIPD on 020 8612 6208 or e-mail to see if your centre is approved for the transfer of modules. But there is another route altogether which might be preferable if you find it difficult to study while holding down a full time job - you can be assessed at work.

The Professional Assessment of Competence (PAC) route enables those with five years' relevant managerial level experience to apply for Chartered Membership. Depending on what level you are at in your career, it might be worth topping up your managerial skills and knowledge so that you are eligible for this assessment. If you are not eligible, and are unable to re-take your exam, don't give up without checking out flexible learning options. You are promised support for this kind of study - there are workshops and group tutorials every four to six weeks. Tutors are on hand to help by phone or e-mail.

Draw on experience

Q. I have been temping for four years and am looking for permanent work. I have been made redundant twice in the past, and am not sure whether companies will want to select me for interview.

A. Don't let the redundancies dent your confidence - in today's changeable circumstances they can be quite common, and employers are likely to understand this. Your CV covers more than 20 years of valuable experience in a variety of settings, and it appears one redundancy was voluntary and the other was as a result of a position being made redundant in a large company. Now is the time to try to focus on the range of skills you've acquired and consider how you might emphasise those useful to employers you want to target.

Your CV says you enjoy working in IT environments - research companies in this area so that you understand their business and can describe how you can contribute. Always focus on the positive aspects of your career. One way of demonstrating commitment is to study for a relevant qualification or look for training. When you talk on your CV about "enhancing skills" make it clear what these skills are, and how you might develop them. If you show employers you are professional, competent and committed, they are unlikely to dwell on your past circumstances.

Careers adviser: Jo Causon, director of corporate affairs, Chartered Management Institute.

Send your queries to Caroline Haydon at 'The Independent', Education Desk, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, fax 020 7005 2143 or e-mail